Thursday, 3 December 2009

Fruitful labour

My presents are preserved this year... Or at least some of them are. In an effort to sidestep the high street, I've decided to give chutney and other home-made goodies to my nearest and dearest this Christmas.

I've made variations on this recipe for a few years now. I think it's based on one from Delia Smith's Complete Cookery book - obviously before she decided that life was too short to chop an onion. It actually doesn't take that long anyway, and besides, whilst it slowly splutters on the hob, you get to enjoy the warming scents of autumn fruits and Christmas spices that fill the house.

This chutney is quite rich, so if you can, it's best to leave it a couple of weeks - or even more - before opening so the flavours mellow and muddle together. After that, it's perfect on toast, sitting atop melted mature cheddar, as an accompaniment to a terrine or pork pies, or dabbed on a slice of roast ham as you laze around on boxing day.

Spiced Christmas Chutney

Makes 4 or 5 jars

a tbsp olive oil
two onions, peeled and finely chopped
two cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
a cinnamon stick
a thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
a bay leaf
four tbsp balsamic vinegar
a handful (say 100g) dark muscavado sugar
an orange or clementine, studded with half a dozen cloves
a dozen or more plums, stoned and quartered
two apples, cored and cut into chunks
a good handful sultanas or raisins
a handful cranberries
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan, and add the onions, garlic, ginger, cinnamon stick and bay. Cook on a moderate heat for five minutes until the onions begin to soften. Keep stirring so they don't catch. Add the balsamic and the sugar and stir so it dissolves. The onions should begin to caramelise. After a couple of minutes, add the plums, apples, orange, sultanas and cranberries, plus a pinch of salt and a few twists of pepper. Stir well to combine.

Turn the heat down and cook for another 20 minutes, stirring regularly until the fruit pieces are beginning to break down. If the mixture ever looks too dry, add a splash of water, or orange juice.

Clean your jars thoroughly, and allow to drain. Boil the kettle and as soon as it's boiled, fill the jars with boiling water. After a moment, pour the water out, and allow the remaining water to evaporate for a minute before filling with the hot chutney. Seal the jars with a lid to form a vacuum - this will allow the chutney to stay fresh in the cupboard for a good six months or so if it remains unopened.

1 comment: