Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Apple & Tomato Chutney

Hi guys! I know I've been gone a while but my first week back at work was a bit nuts, as is usually the case, and instead of putting some time into my blog that it probably needs, my brain just bombed out and I ended up spending the entire weekend doing things that don't require much brainpower, like getting lost in a book, and gardening. And apparently I didn't spend time addressing my tendency towards run-on sentences, which I also should have done. Excuses, excuses. I plan to gain enough motivation to have a line of posts waiting, but for now, here's a recipe that I made before Christmas to give to my friends (some of you missed out - sorry!).
As I am wont to do, I chose one of the hottest days of the summer thus far to stand over the stove (in a house that only has air conditioning in the lounge room), wearing not much more than a bikini, apron and thongs, stirring a bubbling pot. It's just a talent I have. Usually I manage to do my Christmas baking on the hottest day, but this year it was my Christmas chutney that took that place of pride!
This is one – to make chutney - that was on my 101 Things list and I thought the most sensible course of action would be to consult my Weekly Times CWA Classics cook book. For those readers not from Australia, the Weekly Times is a newspaper with a rural focus, and the CWA is the Country Women’s Association, so you can probably imagine that I chose a recipe from that particular book as it had no doubt been tried and tested by families (possibly several generations), neighbours and possibly even several seasons' worth of shearers!
1.4kg apples, minced/grated/finely chopped
1.4kg onions, minced/grated/finely chopped
1.4kg tomatoes, peeled and sliced
3dsp salt
1 ½ dsp black pepper powder
1.8kg sugar
 
Place all ingredients in a saucepan of the appropriate size (a standard large saucepan with two handles that comes with most saucepan sets nowadays is too small, I’m afraid, so either reduce your quantities or use a large stock pot – or something bigger! I used a massive saucepan from my mum’s catering days but not everyone has one).
Boil for around 2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. And I’m serious about that – there’s a burnt sugar mark on the bottom of the saucepan that I just can’t get off! Good thing it’s black enamel ;)
 
It’s done when… hah. I hate when people say this, but it’s done when it looks right. I didn’t want mine to “gel” completely, but I waited until it was somewhat less watery to take it off the heat.
 
Meanwhile, sterilize about 16 jars (I filled 11 or 12 but some were huge pasta sauce jars and some were tiny curry paste ones). You can find instructions here which are a little different to how I was taught – my lesson involved sitting the jars in a roasting pan with about 1” of water in it (i.e. enough so that there’s liquid but doesn’t make them float) and then turning the oven on, bringing it up to 110oCish and keeping it there for ten minutes or more. And boiling the lids in a saucepan for about the same time. It also helps if you’ve put them through the dishwasher, because as far as I understand it, that more or less sterilizes things anyway.
If you’re using your super-hot jars then ladle super-hot chutney into them. If you have let your glass cool, then let your chutney cool, but bear in mind you won’t get a perfectly sealed jar if you do that (not a big deal if you plan on eating the chutney soon. Acid (vinegar) and sugar don’t spoil easily). Basically, you just don’t want to crack your glass. Loosely screw the lids on immediately that you have filled them – you want there to be little enough seal on it so that the heat can escape from the chutney, but enough that as the jar cools and the air contracts, it sucks the lids on and creates a (theoretically) sterile vacuum.
And that’s it! I found that when the chutney was fresh it was like being punched in the face with the vinegar (in a good way!), and then the sweetness hit. As it has matured it still has a little bite, but it was pleasant with a more consistent flavour throught. A friend of mine came back for a second jar, and I have to say I’m quite partial to spreading it on a cheddar cheese sandwich. One day I actually treated it as a dip and just spooned it onto water crackers!
If you’re struggling, a dsp is a dessert spoon – probably slightly over halfway in size between a teaspoon and a tablespoon. Just use a spoon from your cutlery drawer.
If you have no idea how to peel a tomato, it’s quite easy. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Drop tomatoes, with a small, shallow cross scored into their base, into the water. After about 30 seconds to a minute you will start seeing the skin splitting away from the cross. When this happens, pull the tomatoes out with a slotted spoon or tongs and submerge in cold water to arrest cooking and also make it cool enough to handle.
Note that I have the very vaguest of recollections of adding a few other spices to my liking to the mix – I think at the least I put a bit of a sprinkle of ground cloves in (because I couldn’t be stuffed fishing whole ones out at the end), but I can’t promise that I did.
 
Great way to use old onions/tomatoes/apples, and excellent use for old jars. Enjoy!

2 comments:

  1. That chutney sounds good! For some reason, the simplicity of the ingredients in preserves always comes as a surprise to me. I guess they *look* like they are made from complex things??

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    Replies
    1. Well that's just annoying - I replied to your comment about a week ago, and it appears to have eaten it. Grr.

      My vague recollection of what I wrote is that I think I've been standoffish with preserving, not because the **ingredients** seem complex but because the method does - it essentially involves boiling sugar, and it has been drilled into me that boiling sugar is not only dangerous but also something that's really easy to stuff up. Case in point - the burnt saucepan. But it's really not that easy to stuff up, as long as you give it your undivided attention.

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