Tag Archives: pickles

Kirsty’s cooking blog: making red onion & raisin chutney

Kirsty, Riverford Cook

Kirsty, Riverford Cook

Before I had my first vegbox, about 12 years ago now, I’d always made a few chutneys, because I love the mix of sweet and sour flavours, and their versatility. With my vegbox, I started making more chutneys and pickles to use up any gluts. Now they’ve become a staple in my kitchen cupboard.

Chutneys are one of the simplest of all the preserving kits we’re selling alongside the vegboxes. A bit of peeling and chopping, then let it all simmer gently away until you have a sticky, aromatic concoction. With our ready-weighed spice bags there’s no risk of over or under-spicing, so they’re great for beginners, or for those who don’t like to buy jars of spices and then find them a year later, languishing and stale in the back of the cupboard.

With its warm spices, you might think our new red onion and raisin chutney is more suited to wintry suppers, but if you make it now, it’ll mature in time to be a great addition to a summer spread. Take it on picnics; it’s good with pork pie or cheeses, or serve alongside barbecued meats. For veggies, try one of our giant portobello mushrooms, char-grilled and served on a griddled warm bun with a slick of mayo, preferably a garlic one, topped with a good dollop of chutney.

I’m making my jars now, while the days are still promising much, and squirreling them away for summer feasts on the river Dart and balmy seaside barbecues. Or, if the weather’s like last year, I’ll brave the beach in a mac, shovel in a quick cheese and chutney doorstop, head to the nearest pub to dry off and save most of the jars for bonfire night sausages.

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Riverford red onion & raisin chutney kit

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.

Riverford pickles + preserve blog from Anna Colquhoun

My name is Anna and I am a preserver.  Yes, it is an addiction, a bug which I hope you catch too.  If you do, you’ll understand why my shelves are five-deep with jars of translucent orange, yellow and purple jellies, assorted jams and pickles, maturing chutneys, berry vinegars, cordials, bottled stone fruits and slabs of quince ‘cheese’.  Through this blog and our new preserving kits we hope to inspire you to get preserving too.

Our first kit is the famous Watson cucumber pickle – something of a family heirloom.  Get it here, complete with everything you need including step-by-step instructions.  If you’re from America you might know it as ‘bread and butter pickles’.  Whatever you call it, it’s important to salt the veg first to draw out excess water which would otherwise dilute the vinegar.  Look out for the green tomato chutney kit next month, and check out my preserving guidance notes for the do’s and don’ts of sterilising and sealing jars and more.

A bit about me – I trained as a chef in San Francisco and now teach cooking classes and run a supper club in London, under the name Culinary Anthropologist.  I love making things from scratch – be it bread, pasta, ham or jam – and investigating the origins of ingredients and dishes and their journeys across the globe.  I’ve been a Riverford customer for years and I’m also part of the network of Riverford Cooks.  You’ll find us dotted across the country, running cooking classes, demonstrations, supper clubs and more.

Over the coming months I’ll be sharing some of my preserving tips and recipes and answering your queries.  If you’ve ever pondered turning your hand to preserving, now is the time.  Plums can be relied upon to make a delicious jam which sets easily.  Almost anything can be thrown into a slow-cooked chutney as long as there is enough vinegar and sugar to preserve it.  And now is the perfect time for piccalilli, one of my favourites.

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.  I do hope you catch my bug….