It feels a bit early to be making chutney- it’s usually more of an autumnal activity. However, I was visiting my dad recently and couldn’t resist scrumping a basket of apples from the two trees in his garden, which are already laden with fruit. The apples aren’t sweet enough to eat as they are, so I thought I’d make a batch of chutney.
If you’re just beginning to dabble in the world of preserving, chutney is a good place to start as there’s not much exact science involved- you just chuck everything in a pan and cook it until it looks ready. You don’t need to worry about jam thermometers and checking for setting points or straining jellies through bags for days on end. It has what an ex-colleague of mine would call “A very low fuck up potential”. The most faff that’s involved is preparing the jars- scrubbing labels off and sterilizing them (more on which later). The preparation of the apples admittedly did also take a bit of time, as I had to peel, core and chop lots of very small apples. However, you could always rope in an extra person to help out with this or get one of those gadgets that peels and cores apples (which, as I was preparing these apples, I did consider scurrying off to Amazon to purchase). Having your headphones in also helps- incidentally it turns out that ‘Blue Monday’ by New Order is an excellent accompaniment to chutney making.
This recipe was mostly made up as I went along- I had a basic idea of what I was going for and just sort of added ingredients and spices as I went, tasting it and adjusting accordingly. As I was adding the spices, I realised the chutney had taken a slightly festive direction, which inspired me to add a dash of rum in a moment of Christmassy cheer. It probably wasn’t necessary though. In my enthusiasm, I also forgot to weigh the apples before I prepared them, so the weight is an approximation. To give you an idea, I used all the apples in the basket pictured above. I guess all this further illustrates my point that chutney isn’t an exact science and is very difficult to balls up.
(This made five and a half jars)
- About 2kg apples- peeled, cored and chopped into 1cm ish cubes
- 3 onions, chopped
- 3 or 4 handfuls of sultanas
- 120g fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 400g sugar (I used caster sugar but you could substitute some of the sugar with dark muscovado for an extra hint of Christmas)
- 400ml cider vinegar
- A tablespoon of ground ginger
- A tablespoon of ground cinnamon
- A tablespoon of mixed spice
- A teaspoon of grated nutmeg
- A dash of dark rum (optional)
Add all the ingredients to a large pan. Bring to the boil and then simmer (stirring regularly) for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the chutney is thick and syrupy. Turn off the heat and ladle into hot, sterilized jars using a jam funnel* and seal (I use cellophane held in place with an elastic band and then put the lid of the jar on over the top).
Leave to mature for a few weeks before using/ palming off on friends, relatives and colleagues.
*Which in this case I had to wrestle off my boyfriend, who was wearing it on his head in an attempt to impersonate the tin man from The Wizard of Oz. Very helpful.
A note about preparing jars and sterilizing equipment
Preparing jars is my least favourite part of making preserves, especially getting the old labels off. Sometimes, soaking the jars in hot soapy water is enough and the labels easily slide off. Failing this, a good scrub with a nail brush used specifically for this job often works. However, you inevitably end up with a few jars still covered in infuriating sticky label residue. I’ve used both Goo Gone and Sticky Stuff Remover, and I have to say that Goo Gone is the most effective of the two in getting rid of even the most stubborn residues. It’s a good idea to have a stash of jars which have already been de-labelled to save messing about when you’ve got a cauldron of jam/ chutney/ jelly on the go.
Once you’ve got your labels off, you need to give the jars a good thorough scrub in hot, soapy water. To sterilize them, I immerse them in Milton for 20 minutes, then put them in the oven on the lowest possible setting for at least 30 minutes. Don’t forget to sterilize the lids as well.
Most decent books about preserving will give a variety of methods for sterilizing jars, so it’s just a case of finding out what is easiest for you. Apparently you can use a microwave to sterilize jars as well, but I don’t have one so this isn’t an option for me. It’s also important to sterilize your ladles and jam funnel, which I do using boiling water.