Anna’s preserving blog – now is the time for chutney

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It’s remarkably satisfying to capture the season’s fruits and vegetables in jars. And it makes sense to use up what’s growing now while it’s plentiful and at its best. In winter I’d much rather cook with a jar of the tomato passata I made in summer than buy tasteless, pallid specimens grown in gas-guzzling hothouses. Who wants strawberries at Christmas? Not me. But some fruity jam on my morning toast – yes please.

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Now is the best time of year for making chutney, whether you’re using up the windfalls from the garden or trying out Riverford’s new green tomato chutney kit – a genius solution for the end of the crop that missed out on the summer sun. Squash also makes a delicious chutney, especially when combined with pears and dates, so I intend to snap up one of Riverford’s squash boxes before they go. Chutneys can be made with all manner of fruits and vegetables and usually also contain onions, cooking apples, dried fruit and spices. Follow a trusted recipe to get an idea for the quantities of sugar and vinegar in relation to fruit and veg, as these are essential for preserving the chutney.

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For the best flavour, use whole spices tied up in a muslin bag and submerged in the chutney as it cooks. You can yank it out when the mix tastes spicy enough. Peppercorns, cloves, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon sticks, orange zest, fresh ginger and mace all work well. Chutneys benefit from long, slow cooking in a heavy-based pot. It’s ready when a wooden spoon dragged across the bottom momentarily reveals a streak of pan. Chutneys also taste better given time, so try to resist the urge to eat them immediately. After a few months the flavours will have magically combined and deepened.

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One of my earliest culinary memories is of raiding trees and hedges on my street for crab apples, rosehips, hawthorn berries, rowans, elderberries and blackberries and cooking them up together to see what I could make. I must have been about 7, and it must have been about this time of year. Recently I’ve been making lots more hedgerow jelly, which I now do in classes for those keen to master the craft. It’s deep purple, full of flavour and tastes fantastic with roast lamb, venison or duck, or cheese.

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It’s easy too: Roughly chop 1kg of Riverford’s cooking apples (skin, cores and all), place in a big pot with 1kg of berries and barely cover with water. Cover and boil for an hour until the fruits burst, then strain through a jelly bag. Heat the resulting juice in a large pan, add 1lb granulated sugar for every pint of juice, stir gently to dissolve and then boil to setting point.

See my preserving guidelines for reaching setting point and filling sterilised jars. And don’t pick any berries you can’t identify!

Whether you’re an experienced or novice preserver, please let me know how it goes, ask me any questions and share your own tips by commenting on this blog below, writing on our Facebook page or sending a tweet to @Riverford with the hashtag #cooksquestion.

6 responses to “Anna’s preserving blog – now is the time for chutney

  1. I’ve just heard there is an EU directive that bans using re-used jars for jams and pickles. Is it true, do you know?

  2. Great advice just starting my balsamic pickled onions done spiced apple chutney and strawberry jam all for xmass pressies. Keep the info flowing will try the hedge row jelly fingers crossed all tastes ok first timer at this thanks for you good tips.

  3. Neil, sorry for belated reply! If there is such a directive it’s ridiculous, since glass jars can be easily washed and then sterilised well beyond 100C in the oven. They are safe to re-use and I am not aware of anything preventing domestic cooks reusing jars for their own preserving. However, using old lids is not advisable since you can’t always tell if they are chipped or warped or contaminated under their rubber seals. I usually buy new lids and advise my class guests to do the same. If you must re-use lids, definitely boil them for 10+ minutes then let them steam dry before using. Hope that helps!

  4. Eileen, thank you for your comment and again sorry for not replying sooner. Your preserving projects sound fantastic and I hope you keep it up. It can be addictive…

  5. I make relishes and chutneys using whey (from my homemade yogurt) and a little salt – (no sugar or vinegar added so it tastes only of the ingredients used) and its last for months. Also the whey doubles the mineral and vitamin content and makes it all easier to digest BONUS.
    A book by SALLY FALLON called NOURISHING TRADITIONS has transformed the way I buy food (mainly from riverford now-meat and veg) and prepare it in order to get the very best nutrition out of it. She explains how foods can make you healthy and cure many diseases.
    BEST BOOK I HAVE READ FOR YEARS…..

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