Time for chutney

It’s been a funny year; a warm spring, wet summer then a chilly early Autumn which I, for one, didn’t seem ready for. These conditions have meant that food is growing and maturing at different times than we’re used to. It can make designing seasonal menus in advance a bit tricky but I have learnt to just look out the window at my modest vegetable plot, or browse the many grocers’ shops in my neighbourhood, to judge for myself what is at its best. Of course, after a year of being ‘resting chef’; leaving full-time employment to go back to basics and discover real food all around me, I am still learning.

Whatever the weather, this is certainly the time for chutney. Some fruits and vegetables may have flourished and matured early due to the hot spring, while some may be struggling to ripen due to the lack of late summer sunshine. Some of you may well have a glut of beetroot, apples, marrows, squashes, onions and green tomatoes by now that you’re not sure what to do with. What better way to preserve those flavours, and your hard work, than to make a batch of chutney that you’ll be able to enjoy for months to come. You may be sick of marrows or apples now but come January, a thick smear of homemade chutney in a ham and cheese sandwich would be a welcome treat.

Here is a rough chutney recipe, feel free to adapt to suit your own chutney needs as long as the fruit/veg to sugar/vinegar ratio is about the same otherwise the chutney won’t keep for as long.

Makes 2-3 jars. Multiply as necessary.

625g Fresh fruit/veg – Whatever you have to hand, I use a combination of marrow, tomatoes and apples for a basic recipe. Beetroot, pumpkin, squashes, pears, figs, plums, quince, apricots are all good too, use a combination of fruit/veg that work well together.

125g Onions, any type you like

60g Dry fruit; ie. sultanas, prunes, dried apricots (optional)

125g Brown sugar

150ml Cider vinegar (I add a good glug of farmhouse style cider too)

12g root ginger

1 clove of garlic

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp thyme leaves

a little mild olive oil

Salt and pepper

You could add spices such as coriander and/or cumin seeds, chilli flakes, fennel seeds etc. and a blob of redcurrant or elderberry jelly adds a nice rich sweetness (optional).

Peel and dice the onions, garlic and ginger finely. Peel and chop the fruit/veg/dried fruit. Heat a little olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan and fry the mustard seeds, and other spices if using, until they sizzle and pop in the pan. Add the onions, garlic and ginger and soften for a few minutes. Add the chopped vegetables, fresh fruit and dried fruit, and stir in the sugar, cider vinegar and cider. Add the thyme leaves and a blob of redcurrant or elderberry jelly. Let the mixture simmer, uncovered, until it is thick and glossy, with most of the liquid reduced. Stir periodically to prevent the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan. Season to taste.

Wash the jars thoroughly, place in the oven and sterilise at 100c for at least 10 minutes. Pot the chutney while it and the jars are still warm.

The chutney will last 2 years unopened in a cool, dark place. The chutney will benefit from a maturing period of at least a month. Once opened, keep in the fridge and use within 6 weeks.

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