My family has a long tradition of preserving. We’ve got jars of jams, marmalade and chutney from practically every branch of the clan. When we were kids, we would return from my grandmother’s house with bags of plums or gooseberries and my dad would get to making jam. Right now I have my aunt’s blackcurrant jam and my grandmother’s marmalade in the cupboard. It’s just what we do. However, to date my generation has not really got on board the preserving train. This weekend, that changed. For good.
As I mentioned in my last post my sister came down to Brighton this Easter for a weekend of foodie fun, so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to bring preserving to the next generation. Perhaps we could get two of the three Waldron juniors hooked in one fell swoop.
Having never preserved before, I spent a lot of time thinking about what we should make. There was talk of Seville marmalade, but we missed the boat on that as the Seville orange season ends in February. Then I thought about onion marmalade, but was chastised by Sven for being too obvious. Ditto for caramalised red onion and balsamic chutney. Being challenged by my non-cooking-husband to be more imaginative certainly gave me a jolt and I was forced to think a bit more creatively about my virgin preserve. The result was chilli chutney. Ok, so it’s not revolutionary, but this was my first time!
For some reason I imagined that making chutney would be a real ball-ache; that it would take forever and require lots of processes, equipment, or at least energy. In reality nothing could be further from the truth. All you really need is some jars, a big pot and a couple of hours to spare. And by the way, those couple-of-hours are mostly taken up with the chutney stewing away rather than any all-consuming and energetic call on you to cook.
The method is more of less thus: prepare your ingredients, choose your spices (or like me, throw in a-little-of-this-and-a-little-of-that), chuck everything in a pot and let it splutter away lazily for an hour or so. Once it hits the right consistency, voila! you got yourself your very own chutney. And by gad, how completely worth it the chutney will be. This chutney (though I say it myself) is the best chutney I have ever tasted. It is the thing that I am most proud of so far on this blog, that’s for sure. The intense spices and the subtle heat will blow your mind and take your cheeseboard into the stratosphere. Hannah and I immediately ate a whole block of cheese practically before the chutney had cooled. And then when Sven was back (from stag-weekend in Prague) I did it again. But don’t let that hold you back (I’ve been to the gym four times this week, so it’s ok, right?); bung the chutney in some jars and give them out as presents. The giftees will be eternally grateful. They’ll bear your children for you…. I would!
So. Mission accomplished. The legacy of our preserving clan has been ensured. I’m off out to buy more jars so that at a moment’s notice I can satisfy what will surely and quickly become an obsession. Jam, jelly, marmalade and chutney on me.
Aside: it’s literally taking every ounce of will-power to stop me from going to the fridge right now and eat yet another block of cheese with this chutney. Now, if that ain’t saying something…
To make around 3 jars (next time I’ll be doubling, methinks)
- 4 red onions (2 chopped, 2 sliced)
- 6 red peppers
- 3 romano peppers
- 12-15 red chillies
- 170g raisins
- 70g chopped dried apricots
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 3 fresh bay leaves
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tbsp juniper berries
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 200ml balsamic vinegar
- 150g dark brown sugar
- Zest and juice of 2 limes
- Salt and pepper
First things first, sterilise your jars by whichever method you prefer. I washed mine in hot water then put them upside-down in a cold oven before turning said oven up to 140°c. Once it hit temperature I turned the oven off. I also put the lids in a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes.
Using a mini-blowtorch or your gas hob (or, if all else fails, a griddle pan) chargrill your peppers and chillies one-by-one until they are blackened and blistered, popping them in a bowl covered with cling-film as you go along (you’ll probably need a couple of bowls unless you have a mammoth one!). Once they are all completely blackened and have sat in their bowls for a few minutes, wait until they’re cool enough to handle and then peel off the skins (which should come away really easily).
Chop off the tops of all the peppers and chillies and spoon out the seeds. Remember to be careful touching your eyes (or other things ;-P) after handling all those chillies. Then roughly chop (or if you’re lazy like me blitz them in a food processor) until you have small chunks. Put aside for a minute.
Heat a few glugs of olive oil in a big saucepan and add your onions, cinnamon stick, chopped rosemary, bay leaves, mustard seeds, juniper berries, all spice, and a little salt and pepper and cook over a very low heat for 15 minutes or so. Then add the raisins and apricots and cook for a further few minutes.
Stir in the chillies and peppers along with the balsamic vinegar and the sugar. Add the zest and juice of 2 limes, which will add a bit of zing to the chutney. Continue cooking over a very low heat for about an hour, stirring every now again. If it looks like the liquid is reducing too quickly then put the lid on; you want the flavours to stew and marinate as long as possible. Don’t let the chutney dry out.
When the mixture is at the right consistency (dark and sticky), turn off the heat and remove the bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Spoon it immediately into the sterilised jars, put the lids on and leave to cool.
If you have Kilner jars then hopefully something clever will happen (don’t ask me to explain the science) as the chutney cools and you will get a good vacuum seal in your jar. The chutney will last a good few months… though I’d be willing to bet it’s all eaten up within the week.