Late October is when I start to crave the warmth of the kitchen: spices, applesauce, cinnamon, hotwater bottles, endless cups of Lapsang Souchong…
Happily, I’ve been given a couple of bags of windfall cooking apples. And, when life hands you windfalls, what better to make than chutney? Even more happily, yesterday I realised (when autumn-cleaning my kitchen cupboard: a task long overdue) that I had all the necessary ingredients.
I followed a slightly haphazard recipe from Feast Days by Jennifer Paterson, one half of the 1990s Two Fat Ladies TV cook combo (remember them from the pre-Jamie Oliver era?) and food writer for the Spectator. The recipe, actually called ‘Patricius’s Pickle’ (on page 69, if you’re inspired to investigate) was a little light on particulars, not really giving an idea of how long to cook or quite how to know when it was done, but I occasionally find an absence of detail in cookbooks strangely liberating.
And chutney does seem to be a fairly forgiving concoction, embracing all sorts of fruit, vegetable and spice combinations, depending on your particular glut, the contents of your store cupboard, and the limits of your personal taste. The key seems to be not to stint on sugar and vinegar, the essential preserving elements; that said, you could freeze a low-vinegar, low-sugar chutney, so long as you remember to remove it from the cold a day or so before it’s to be consumed in order to mature the flavours.
I rejigged Jennifer’s ingredients a little, and here’s what went into mine:
- 3lbs cooking apples, peeled cored and chopped. The original recipe didn’t specify if this was the weight before or after peeling etc. I went heavy on the apples and opted for 3lbs finished weight.
- 1lb 6 ozs onions which was less than the original recipe (which called for 2lbs) but this was all I had, and mine were mostly red, which has no advantage but looking pretty in the “before” pictures, so use whatever you like.
- 1 quart cider vinegar instead of the white malt variety called for by the original recipe. Again, it’s just what I happened to have in the cupboard.
- 1 lb raisins
- 7 ozs haphazard mix of forgotten, back-of-cupboard dried fruit, including sultanas and bing cherries, but the recipe called for 1 lb of dates.
- 1 lb soft brown sugar
- 1 tspn cayenne pepper
- 1 dessertspoon of rock salt
- remaining spices tied in a muslin bag… 1/4 oz each peppercorns, cinnamon (I took this to be sticks of cinnamon, broken up), whole cloves.
In it all went.
And quite a lot of frequent stirring (so it didn’t burn), and an hour or so later, out it came thus…
I’ve tasted it (someone had to!) and am happy to declare that it is stonkingly good on cheddar.
A note on when to stop cooking it: Jennifer’s advice is not to let it become too dry as it will dry out further in the jar. She also advises letting it cool completely before potting up. I gather that you can also bottle it when piping hot, but avoid doing so when somewhere in the middle (warm is bad). Mine went hot into rather utilitarian jars (scrupulously clean, of course) which Little Scraplet helpfully slapped my hastily scribbled labels onto.
But, nicely presented, these would make lovely Christmas gifts. Who could resist?