Green Tomato Chutney
We all love chutney in a cheese sandwich or with a slice of cold meat, and home made is of course nicest. You can adjust to your own tastes. I like a chutney with small pieces, nothing big that feels like a mouthful, and I like a dark sweet deep tasting mixture rather than a light fruity jammy product. But that’s my preference and you might love a light spreadable apple chutney best. I also like a textural contrast, the sweet softness of the courgette pieces against the popping crunch of tiny green tomatoes.
This year, my tomatoes got blight quite early, so I had to take the plants down and remove all the fruit, so I had a good harvest of unripe small tomatoes. Last year, the blight arrived late, so I’d eaten all my own tomatoes ripe off the plants and had to buy green tomatoes from my friendly grocer (thanks, FreshSave of Didsbury!). You never know, and that’s the wonderful thing about chutney. Not only is it seasonal, it’s very much of THIS season, the way that things have grown this year. One batch is never quite the same as the next. You have to be a bit nimble about your ingredients and be prepared to change around – adding some sliced green beans if you haven’t got enough green tomatoes for instance.
This is the basic recipe, found in many books and on scraps of paper in your grandmother’s recipe drawer. I’ve again used Pam Corbin’s River Cottage Handbook No 2 for the basic inspiration and great advice on making all sort of preserves, but I’ve changed to suit my own harvest and preferences, and you should do the same. I like a malt vinegar/cider vinegar mix because I like the malt vinegar’s dark muscularity, but again, if you prefer a lighter gentler chutney, use all lighter vinegar.
The main thing about this sort of chutney (which is quite like the famous brown pickle you buy) is that all the ingredients are chopped up to about the same size little pieces. It does take time, but it give you a very consistent result, so it’s worth the trouble. That means tiny tiny green tomatoes can stay whole, little ones get halved or quartered, and bigger ones (larger than your thumbnail) might go into 6.
Make it on an afternoon where you can be in the kitchen. You don’t need to keep an eagle eye on it constantly but don’t leave it for more than 10 minutes at a time. Everyone in your family will come in now and then, have a sniff and say “vinegar”. It’s one of the joys of the season.
Makes about 6 x jam jars Timings: 1 hour to prepare, 3-4 hours simmering
A little bag of muslin (can be the corner of an old teatowel, or the piece of old muslin nappy you keep for such things, surely we all do that?) tied up tightly with string, containing a 2cm piece of fresh ginger, 2 teaspoons coriander seed, 1 teaspoon black pepper corns, 1 teaspoon cloves.
Put a podcast on and cut up all your fruit. Place in a large deep saucepan with the other ingredients and bring to a simmer.
Simmer over a low heat and stir every now and then to stop anything catching on the bottom of the pan; burned bits you don’t want.
Stir and simmer for 3 hours with the lid on the pan and then take the lid off and simmer another hour or so to reduce the liquid. You will have a brown sticky fruity vinegary gloop. It’s ready when you can draw a wooden spoon through it and still see the bottom of the pan in the trail of the spoon for a few seconds. You can cook it until you reach the consistency you like.
Spoon carefully into sterilised jars (I fill them with boiling water, empty out and leave them upside down in a coolish over to dry out so they’re ready when the chutney is), cover with jam pot covers, put the lids on and label the jars.
The chutney is better if you leave it a few weeks to mature, so it’s an ideal Christmas gift.
It will keep at least a year, more like two years, on a cool dark shelf.
A Hug from the Kitchen
Healthy, hearty, happy food, for good times and bad. Cheer yourself up, or spread the cheer around your family and friends.