Wednesday 24 September 2014

Christmas Chutney ...

Now I know that I’m liable to court your wrath by mentioning the dreaded C-word in September … and I’m really not the sort of person who starts her festive countdown months in advance. Quite the contrary: I’m the demented woman who shops-against-the-clock on Christmas Eve. The thing is we had a surplus of apples from an old heritage-variety apple-tree - with a name that I just can’t remember. 

These apples look fabulous: all red and glossy.

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And when you cut them in two the lovely blush of the skin goes all the way into the white of the apple’s flesh. 

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They look divine - both inside and out, but they have a really strange texture: kind of spongey, and a slightly tart aftertaste, which means that they are less than fabulous to eat.

Now over here at Talk-a-Lot Towers we are idealistically opposed to wasting stuff, so, rather than composting them, I decided to use them to make chutney. Now here’s the thing: with any good chutney it only really comes into its own if it’s left for at least a couple of months to mature in the jar. So, doing the maths, if you want to make some chutney for Christmas ... now would be a really good time to get going.

This recipe of mine is very simple to make; it tastes divine: not too sweet, and beautifully aromatic; and when it’s cooking your kitchen smells like heaven. Want to give it a go? Well here’s what you’ll need:


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500 g/ 1lb 2oz red onions
1.5 kg./ 3lb 5oz eating apples
600 ml/ 1 pint malt vinegar
400 g/ 14oz unrefined Demerara sugar
20 g/ 3/4oz salt
160 g/ 5 1/2oz  dried white mulberries
160 g/ 5 1/2oz dried barberries
160 g/ 5 1/2oz  golden raisins
160 g/ 5 1/2oz  chopped dried apricots
20 g/ 3/4oz  cumin
20 g/ 3/4oz cinnamon
20 g/  3/4oz mixed spice

And here’s what you need to do:


1. Peel the onions and chop them very finely.

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2. Wash the apples, removing any stems and leaves. Core and coarsely chop them, leaving their skins intact. Take care to cut out any damaged parts.

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3. Place the chopped apples, onions and all the other ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir carefully so that they don’t stick on the bottom, but be careful not to mush the apples up while you’re stirring. And, yes, mush is a technical, culinary term. When they start to bubble, turn the heat down and keep on a gentle simmer for an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half - until the mixture reaches the right consistency for chutney. You should be able to drag your spoon across the bottom of the pan and leave a furrow in its wake when the chutney has reached a perfect chutney-consistency. Be careful to keep stirring all the while so that you don’t get a burnt layer on the bottom of the pan.

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4. In the meantime, whilst the chutney is cooking wash and sterilise your jam pots. Depending on how things boil down you'll need 6 to 7 medium sized jam pots. You need to wash them thoroughly in hot soapy water. Rinse them well with fresh, clean water and dry the outsides only. Heat an oven to 150 degrees C, and place the washed jam pots inside on a baking tray - open side up. Place the washed lids on another tray, facing up. Bake in the oven in this way for at least 15 minutes to sterilise.

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5. When your chutney is ready, take it off the heat and leave it to stand for a few minutes so that it cools down a little. This will help with the distribution of the various ingredients i.e. you’re less likely to get all the heavier stuff at the bottom.

6. Stir gently to ensure an even consistency and then spoon the mixture into the jam pots, place a wax paper disk in the mouth of each pot and close the lid.

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7. Leave to cool and then apply the labels and any decorative paper tops.

I ended up with seven medium-sized pots of chutney in all - about 2.1 Kg/ 4 1/2 lb. of chutney.

Now, as these little mammas are not all going to be consumed here, I’ve prettied a few of them up to go as gifts to friends and family. You can buy all the bits and pieces ready-made to jolly them up, but where's the fun in that?

I find that a few hand-written labels announcing that the jars contain “Christmas Chutney” and circles cut out of festive wrapping paper trimmed with contrasting ribbon or ric-rac work quite well. If you have some wrapping paper that’s a reasonably weight, it should make first class jar-topping prettifiers. All you need to do is turn it face-side down on the kitchen table. Using a saucer or plate of a size that will work with the height of the jam pot being decorated, draw a pencil circle on the back of the paper and carefully cut it out. Place this over the top of the jam pot, and hold in place with a transparent elastic band. If the paper is beautiful but a bit too light and flimsy you can add a bit more body with some sticky-back plastic. Apply the plastic to the wrong-side, and cut out to fit. 

Sometimes a bit of brown paper with a contrasting paper doily makes for a good look.

Whatever you go for, top it off with a bit of ribbon or ric-rac and you’ll have a good-looking, super-tasty present all ready to go when the time comes. Job done!

As I've explained, the chutney works best when it’s left to rest and mature for a few months. Then, when you open a pot, it will be all rich, and unctuous and delicious.

Enjoy with your Chrimbo dinner!

All the best,

Bonny x


  1. I do not like spongey apples so the chutney sounds like a wise idea for Christmas presents.

    1. Yes, it was certainly better than throwing the apples away. All the best, Bonny

  2. Your post was a joy to read. I love that you found a creative use for those unique apples. Thank you for sharing the recipe and the show and tell with pictures. Your family and friends will undoubtedly prefer this homemade gift to any other. I love chutney and yours looks delicious!

    1. Thank you for your very kind words, Donna. I hope they all enjoy the chutney when it reaches them. All the best and thanks for stopping by, Bonny

  3. Oh yumm! You and I are kindred souls ... I love to make preserves and give them as gifts! Have a wonderful weekend!

    1. Thank you, Barb. Yes, there's a special magic to be found in the preserving pan. Have a wonderful weekend too. All the best and thanks for stopping by, Bonny

  4. Your chutney looks delicious, Bonny! Homemade gifts like chutney or jam are the best, in my opinion. :)

    1. Thank you, Kia. Yes, you're right: I think homemade is best too. At least that way we know exactly what we've got in the pot. All the best and thanks for stopping by, Bonny

  5. The apples look beautiful and I like that the color actually goes into the apple itself. I'll probably pass on the chutney as I am not a big fan of chutneys, but I like all your pictures here.

    1. Thank you, Carola. You are right: the apples were really pretty ... until you tried to eat them. All the best and thanks for stopping by, Bonny

  6. This recipe sounds lovely, we also have a lot of apples on our trees right now, I might give it a try if I find a moment, busy making jars with tomato sauce right now :)

    1. Thank you, Helena. It's an easy recipe and a great way to use up surplus apples that won't keep. All the best and thanks for stopping by, Bonny

  7. MMM sounds good nothing like chutney with some mature cheddar and tasty bread. Ploughman's are top of my eating list.

    1. You are so right, Viv. There's nothing to beat a nice mature cheddar with a generous dollop of chutney. All the best and thanks for stopping by, Bonny

  8. Chutney looks delish. Visiting from Friday Finds.

    1. Thank you, Diana. It's shaping up nicely. All the best and thanks for stopping by, Bonny

  9. I do want to try this. I am a little concerned about where I would get the dried white mulberries and dried barberries. Not something one finds on the shelf here. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Don't worry about them Diane. If you can't find them just substitute some sultanas and/or dried dates. I buy the mulberries and the barbarries in a Turkish grocery shop. If you've got a middle-eastern community anywhere close you'll find them in one of their traditional food stores. All the best and thanks for stopping by, Bonny