Mrs Balls chutney: The charming true story has never fully been told, until now

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419 days ago
Mrs Balls chutney: The charming true story has never fully been told, until now

Nobody eats any other kind of chutney in South Africa!

Lester Kiewit, presenter - CapeTalk

Mrs HS Balls chutney – found in most South African homes since forever – has stronger links to Cape Town than the history books show.

The story of how Mrs Balls grew from being made at home for church bazaars to what we know today has been documented over and over again.

Some details have been added to romanticise the story while others have been omitted altogether.

The "missing link" in the story is that of Fred Metter, who helped Mrs Balls commercialise her product.

Metter helped the Balls’ set up a factory in Retreat, where they would start making huge volumes of the world-famous-in-South Africa chutney.

Lester Kiewit – the second-best thing from Retreat - interviewed Shelley Garb, Metter's granddaughter.

He asked her about her quest to get her grandfather credited for his vital role in delighting South Africans over many years.

Mrs Balls was selling the chutney for subsistence… it was popular… My grandfather was a manufacturer’s representative… They approached him, and he took a chance with it…

Shelley Garb, granddaughter of Fred Metter

I never met Mrs Balls… she lived to be 97.

Shelley Garb, granddaughter of Fred Metter

My grandfather chose the [octagonal] design of the bottle and the label. He insisted on it always being in glass. He was approached to put it in plastic and all the years, he steadfastly refused… When Brooke Bond Oxo bought the factory, they put it in plastic. Sales plummeted and they put it back into glass.

Shelley Garb, granddaughter of Fred Metter

The recipe hasn’t changed… It’s the same.

Shelley Garb, granddaughter of Fred Metter

We’re very proud! We grew up with that brand. We played on the boxes in the factory. The smell of vinegar and fruit was pungent, as children, we didn’t enjoy that. We love that it’s now international. We will eat no other chutney!

Shelley Garb, granddaughter of Fred Metter

In the 1970s, they had to sell… They got a fair price… My grandfather’s share was R250 000 – it was a lot.

Shelley Garb, granddaughter of Fred Metter

Listen to the interview in the audio below.

This article first appeared on CapeTalk : Mrs Balls chutney: The charming true story has never fully been told, until now

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