“Mothers ruin” chutney

chutney2_2018Tapping fingernails on the table and looking wistfully through the window: I wondered what can I do with all those stubbornly-still-green tomatoes left on the vine in the greenhouse (or in the greengrocer’s) at this time of year?

They’re plump, juicy with a shiny skin but are just totally colour-change refuseniks. No matter how sunny your windowsill they just won’t budge their coloration now. You could fry them off or add to casseroles, but they’re a little too tart to eat like a fully scarlet tomato so I’ve turned my glut of green goodies into a gin-soaked unctuous and fruity chutney. Hence the mothers ruin title, and the gin does make it a rather delish yet not-so-ordinary relish.

So, here’s praise to autumn and the excuse for bottling and preserving all of nature’s generosity and a hearty Cheers! to green tomatoes. And that toast is not something you hear everyday when applying a dollop of chutney to a cracker!

Notes

  • You need to prep the fruits the day before and leave to soak overnight
  • Makes four full sized jam jars (typically these are between 330mml – 390ml)
  • I’ve stopped wanting to make huge volumes of chutneys, pickles, jellies and jams as I don’t sell them on. I think three to four jars of something is enough for us. This is one to open now, a couple to keep me going and one to give away. But then I don’t have an allotment so I’ve not got kilos and kilos of produce to use up, just a greenhouse and a few planters’ worth. This recipe does multiply up easily, so if you have that enormous allotment glut of tomatoes (and an outlet for the many jars you’ll produce) then do double, triple (or more) the quantities
  • You can use red tomatoes for this recipe, no problem at all
  • You can use any gin – but a fruity one is most suitable. I’ve used Brockman’s which has a considerable taste of blackberry to it

Sterilising glass jars

Put pre-washed clean glass jars in the oven at about 130˚C for 20 minutes or put them through a dishwasher cycle on your hottest setting

Be careful handling the hot jars out when done

NB:  don’t put any rubber seal in the oven; it’ll just melt. Wash these in hand-hot water and leave to dry on a kitchen towel or clean tea towel

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Equipment

  • Large, heavy bottomed saucepan or pickling pan
  • Large wooden spoon
  • Knife, cutting board
  • Small bowl
  • Cling film or plastic bag
  • Four clean, sterilised jam jars (see notes above)
  • Shallow, large container or dish

Ingredients

  • Green tomatoes – 600 – 630g
  • Fine salt – 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon
  • Red onion, large – 1
  • Celery – 1 stick
  • Sultanas or golden raisins – 100g
  • Dates, chopped – 70g
  • Sharp eating apples, 2 (such as Granny Smith or use 1 x cooking apple)
  • Brown sugar – 150g
  • Ground ginger – 1 teaspoon
  • Allspice – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Chilli flakes – 1 teaspoon
  • Black onion seeds – 1 teaspoon
  • Cider vinegar – 225ml
  • Gin – about 60ml

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Method

  1. Douse the sultanas and dates with the gin in a small bowl the day before making the chutney. Cover with cling film and leave to soak up the gin overnight
  2. Wash and chop the tomatoes, place them in a shallow container and scatter over the tablespoon of salt and mix in lightly. Leave to one side for at least an hour
  3. After an hour or so, rinse the tomatoes of the salt and pat dry in a clean tea towel
  4. Chop all the ingredients into little cubes/pieces (or use a food processor if you have one but chop the ingredients in batches or you’ll process them too finely).
  5. Do not throw away any gin that was not soaked up by the fruit – you can pour this straight into the large saucepan for the next stage while you chop the ingredients
  6. Put everything in the large saucepan, give it a good stir and bring to a boil
  7. Boil for a couple of minutes and strain off any scum
  8. Turn down to a simmer and let it simmer away for 90 minutes, stirring and checking on it regularly (though you don’t need to stand guard for the whole 90 minutes, please don’t leave it for more than a few minutes at a time as it will catch on the bottom of the pan)
  9. It should reduce to a moist but not soggy chutney. If the ingredient pieces are too big for your liking, you can use a stick blender to chop them further, but do use this by pulsing it rather than having it on constantly or you’ll have a pulpy preserve, rather than one with nice chunks of fruit and veggies in
  10. While still hot, carefully decant into the pre-sterilised jars
  11. Leave until fully cold

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Unctuous plum chutney

chutneyFullNot sure about you, but I love a good chutney. I can quite easily leave dressings off my salads – in fact I prefer them ‘naked’ – but I have to have a chutney, pickle or a decent sauce with my cold meats and cheeses. It’s just not right to have a quality slice of ham or a good cheese without them being paired with a preserve that makes them really shine.

This is one of my favourite preserve recipes to keep stocked up. It’s also a really lovely coloured chutney, with a warm red hue. I only mention this because many chutneys are necessarily just ‘brown’ because of their ingredients – not that there’s anything wrong with a brown chutney – but it’s nice to have a jar of something a bit more colourful!

The recipe is best when made with British in-season damsons in autumn, but any plums will do at any other time of year. This a great use for any hard plums you’ve purchased that require further ripening at home. In late spring, foreign imports of very hard plums start to appear so it’s a great time to make a chutney, a jam or a compote.

I really think the nigella seeds add to this, so I would urge you not to omit them. However, if you are finding it difficult to obtain them, then black onion seeds could be substituted but they do impart a slightly different flavour. In this case I would only chop up one of the onions to balance the flavour of the chutney out better and crush up a quarter teaspoon of fennel seeds and add those in too.

Equipment
  • Large heavy saucepan
  • Three empty, clean and sterilised 180-200g glass jars with lids
  • Cutting board, knife, spatula
Ingredients
  • Plums, stoned and diced – 300g (weigh after the stones are taken out)
  • Carrots, peeled and very finely diced – 60g
  • Red onions, two small onions, finely diced – 2 whole
  • White wine vinegar – 100ml
  • Red win vinegar – 90ml
  • Chilli, a red mild-ish chilli, finely chopped (seeds and all!) – 1 long or 2 smaller chillies
  • Fresh ginger, grated – about a 1 cm piece
  • Dried chopped apricots – 80g
  • Nigella seeds – 1 teaspoon
  • Tomatoes, chopped – 60g (I used baby plum tomatoes)
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon/5g
  • Soft brown sugar – 300g
Method
  1. Put the pre-diced/chopped plums, carrots, onions and both amounts of vinegar in your saucepan and bring up to a simmer
  2. Cook at this level (please no heavy boiling) until the vegetables and fruits start to soften a little – about 12 minutes
  3. Now add in all the rest of the ingredients and stir until combined
  4. Let it all simmer, stirring regularly (to ensure nothing catches on the bottom of the pan) until the chutney becomes sticky and unctuous
  5. While it is simmering, keep an eye on it to turn the heat down as the liquid evaporates to keep it at a gentle simmer – you don’t want it to boil
  6. This simmering stages takes one hour to get to the right consistency (providing you are simmering and not boiling the hell out of it!)
  7. Arrange your sterilised jars (see my recipe post for lemon curd about notes on how to sterilise jars at home) so they are close to hand and uncluttered  by anything else (clearing a space and having them close minimises your chances of fumbling and burning yourself)
  8. Carefully tip the chutney into the jars, using a jam funnel if you have one. Please be careful not to burn yourself, although chutneys are not quite as lethal as jams and marmalades
  9. Gorgeous with cured meats or cold chicken, this chutney also is a good marriage for a strong cheese and can be stirred into sauces to make a rich accompaniment for game

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