Making your own chutney is right up there with jam and breadmaking as a very satisfying and smug way to spend an autumn afternoon. There is no mystery to be unravelled; it’s a simple process of cooking chopped autumn fruit with flavourings and spices, sugar and vinegar to make a rich chutney that will see you through for months.
And it’s the perfect recipe for using up windfalls – just don’t use bruised fruit. This recipe is quite forgiving and once you’ve got to grips with the formula, you can start to ‘play’ with the flavours. An all-apple chutney will work just as well, as will walnuts in place of pecans. In fact, pretty much any combination of vegetables or fruit will work. Spices, too, can be switched, as can the vinegar – a cider vinegar would complement an all-apple chutney beautifully.
But stick to the given weights and method. The sugar and vinegar are essential, too, for that quintessential sharp-sweet flavour and to preserve the chutney. If the jars have been sterilised correctly, they will keep in a cool dark space for more than a year.
Apple, pear and pecan chutney
750g Bramley apples
500g ripe pears
Grated zest and juice of 1 large orange
Juice of 1 lemon
3 large onions, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Piece of fresh ginger (about 30g), grated
150g pecans, toasted and chopped
500ml white wine vinegar
100ml balsamic vinegar
400g unrefined molasses sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground turmeric
1. Peel, core and coarsely chop the apples and pears, and place in a large saucepan or preserving pan. Add the orange zest and juice and the lemon juice and stir well (this helps to stop the fruit browning before you begin to cook). Add the onions, garlic, ginger and raisins and stir again.
2. Add the pecans to the pan and stir in both vinegars. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook gently for 15-20 minutes, until the fruit is soft but holding its shape. Stir in the molasses sugar until dissolved. Bring to a bare simmer and cook for 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Meanwhile, sterilise 5 x 500ml jars. Preheat the oven to 120°C/fan100°C/gas 1/2. Wash the jars in warm, clean soapy water, then rinse in clean water. Put upside down on a clean baking tray and dry in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove the tray of jars from the oven. Handle the jars with a clean cloth.
4. The chutney is ready when most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is quite thick. Remove from the heat and stir in the cinnamon, turmeric and season with salt. Leave to settle and cool for about 10 minutes, then ladle into the sterilised jars. Close the lids to seal, label and date.
Quick mango and apple chutney
Quick chutneys and relishes are derived from Indian cuisine, in which fresh ingredients are assembled in minutes, spiked with herbs and spices and mixed with just enough liquid to flavour and moisten. Variations are endless, but restraint gives character – pick a single main ingredient and make a few additions to provide flavour and texture. Serve and enjoy a relish or quick chutney the same day. This one is particularly good with a hot chicken or prawn curry.
Put the flesh from 1 under-ripe mango into a food processor with 1 small apple, peeled, cored and chopped, a small handful of fresh mint leaves, 1 teaspoon mild chilli powder, 1 teaspoon soft brown sugar and 100ml water. Whizz until very finely chopped.