Chutney: The ideal Condiment.
Chutney is super. You cannot deny it. We all eat it in some form or another. The most common I suppose being mango chutney or Branston pickle, as well as other forms like lime pickle and piccalilli, we are all over it. Chutney has been around for hundreds of years, making its way to Europe in the 1600’s as a luxury product from East Asia. It is the Asia’s answer to the South American salsa in the way it is used.
Chutney is essentially made from fruit or vegetables reduced down with vinegar, sugar and spices. Naturally the vinegar acts as a preservative, often lemon/lime juice is also used. So this blend of sweet, sour and spice makes chutney an incredibly versatile addition to any kitchen and can be used with meats, cheese, fish, curries…the list is endless!
Traditionally, chutney is laid down at the end of summer when your garden should be jam packed with produce. I had planned to use the remainder of my toms and courgettes but had a brief sojourn in the Cooks islands for 3 months hence, my chutney making is a little late! Making a chutney is very much a labour of love and you really can use whatever you fancy in the veg and spice department, as long as you have a form of vinegar and sugar. I would say it is probably a good idea to make your first batch based on a recipe. For that there is a superb little book I would highly recommend, made by the infamous Mrs B; Mrs Beeton’s jams, pickles and preserves. Once you have mastered your first batch you can mix & match your own ingredients.
This recipe below is one I concocted as a perfect partner to cheese. I love chutney with a nice chunk of cheddar and a couple of good friends of cheddar are celery and apple, so in they went. As far as the spices went I know that apple and cinnamon are also pretty good mates. Chilli is a must to pack a little punch and a little smoked paprika to give it a more mature finish. To give it more of a country appeal and to maximise the apple hit I used cider vinegar. That was the basic train of thought when I was writing my list of ingredients!
• 1kg courgettes
• 1kg tomatoes
• 500gs apples (Coxs! Peeled, cored & diced)
• 500gs onions
• ½ packet of celery
• ½ packet of radishes
• 1 green chilli
• ½ red chilli
• 500gs sultanas (leave whole)
• 500g of light brown soft sugar
• 650ml of cider vinegar
• ½ tsp of smoked paprika (la Chinata)
• 1 tsp of salt
The spice bag:
• 30g of ginger, chopped into pieces
• 2 tsp black peppercorns
• 1 tsp coriander seeds
• 1 cinnamon stick
To begin with, which is a bit of a bugger, finely chop all the ingredients. This will take a while, so put on your favourite tunes and chop away! You could put it in the food processor but I feel you have more control over the size of the bits if done by hand, it looks better when potted and its much more satisfying.
You will need a big saucepan for this (something I should have thought about!), ideally stainless steel to prevent it sticking and burning. Put all the ingredients in the pan and add the vinegar and sugar, give a good stir.
The spice bag can be made from a bit of muslin or dish cloth with all the ingredients tied up inside, chop the ginger into small chunks and break the cinnamon stick up a little, once made drop it in the pan.
Slowly bring to the boil and gently simmer for 2-3 hours. Keep an eye on the pan and stir every 10-15mins. After 2 hours give it a taste to see if it needs any seasoning or a little more heat, Tabasco is a great way of cheating in a little extra kick. A good chutney should have reduced to a thick, dark finish. A good rule of thumb to see if it is ready comes from Hugh F-W; run a wooden spoon through the chutney and if it parts to show the base of the pan, the chutney is ready. Quite. My batch took about 3 hours till it was ready. Allow it to cool then you are ready to bottle it up.
When it comes to bottling up make sure you have already sterilised the jars you wish to use. Do this by placing them in a pan of water, bring to the boil and allow to cool. Place the jars upside down on a clean towel to dry out.
Spoon your chutney into the jars and seal immediately. The chutney should be left for a minimum of two weeks to give it a bit of time to mature and let the flavours to marry and mingle. You could eat it straight away but if you can bear it, leave it for a few months. Good things come to those who wait!
If you find yourself with a bit of spare time give this recipe a go. The results are incredible and to me it is the best chutney I have ever tried, not just because I made it, it is really good. Branston can kiss my backside, they can also kiss yours if you take the time to make it! You will find it hard to buy chutney again…I know I will. Feel free to share the wealth if you can with family and friends as great presents, after all it is Christmas. Chutney…done.