It’s that time of the year when thoughts turn to sterilising jars, cutting out circles of fabric with pinking shears, and the sickly sweet smell of cooking sugar and vinegar starts to permeate the flat. Well, if you’re me anyway. Yes, it’s time to dig out the kilner jars, and start making chutney.
I’m not in the country for Christmas this year, and I’m very busy with house things, and practising the ukulele for a cabaret I’m in (sorry to my new neighbours, it’s not the best sound to hear coming through your walls on an evening), so I thought I wouldn’t try anything different this year, and instead make my life a bit easier by revisiting an old favourite – Mary Berry’s Christmas Chutney. This also has the benefit of needing to be made in advance, then left in a cool dark place to mature for a month or so before eating. As I most likely won’t be handing out presents until as while after Christmas day, this suited me fine.
“What could go wrong?” I thought to myself. “I know this recipe like the back of my hand.”
In a genius time saving flash of inspiration, I decided to chop all the vegetables the night before, ready for me to chuck them in a pan as soon as I got home from work the next day (there is a lot of chopping involved in this recipe. I recommend using a) a food processor or b) a gas mask, in order to save your eyes when finely chopping 7 onions. I used neither, as I thought it would be a lovely relaxing thing to do in front of the TV. Relaxing, if running away from the chopping board every five minutes screaming “My eyes! My eyes!” is how you like to chill out of an evening.)
Look! at all the lovely chopping I did… Glance! at the recipe below… Gasp! as you slowly realised you forgot to read the section where it instructs you to peel the tomatoes before chopping… Weep! at the acceptance that you will be having tomato soup for dinner every day for the rest of the week…
If ever there was a lesson to be learned about reading the recipe in full before embarking on a project, this would be it.
The recipe makes about 2.5kg worth of chutney. This is a lot of chutney. A lot of chutney. It will fill a lot of those fancy schmancy “presentation jars” you fell in love with at Lakeland. So you need to get sterilising those jars.
I don’t have a dishwasher (although I’m hoping this will change soon – hello, January sales), so my preferred method is to wash the jars in hot soapy water, before placing them upside down on a couple of sheets of newspaper on the oven shelves and putting them in a pre-heated oven (275°F/130°C/Gas 1) for about 15-20 mins.
To stop the glass jars shattering, remember that hot food goes in hot jars, cold food goes in cold jars.
The recipe is below, from the BBC Good Food website.
3 red peppers, 1 large aubergine and 1 green pepper (total weight of about 900g/2lb)
6/7 small/medium sized onions (about 700g), peeled and fairly finely chopped, by hand or in a food processor
4 fat cloves garlic, crushed
350g granulated sugar
300ml/½ pint white wine vinegar or distilled malt vinegar
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 tbsp paprika
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1. Peel the tomatoes. I repeat. PEEL THE TOMATOES. To do this, prick them with a sharp knife, place in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for a few seconds then drain and cover with cold water. The skins will now come away easily. “Easily”, but not quickly. Do this bit in front of the telly.
2. Chop the tomatoes and aubergine and seed and chop the peppers. Put in a large heavy-based pan with the chopped onions and crushed garlic and bring to the boil.
3. Cover with a lid, lower the heat and gently simmer for about one hour, stirring occasionally, until tender.
4. Tip the sugar, vinegar, salt, coriander, paprika and cayenne into the pan and bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Continue to boil for 30 minutes or so, until the mixture achieves a chunky chutney consistency and the surplus watery liquid has evaporated. Take care towards the end of the cooking time to continue stirring so that the chutney doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. I’ve often found this bit has previously taken me almost an hour to do, so make sure you’ve left enough time in your evening. I was sterilising jars and spooning chutney at way past 10pm. Not ideal.
5. Ladle the chutney into sterilised or dishwasher-clean jars, sealing them whilst still hot. Leave to mature for at least a month in a cool dark place.
Today’s quote is from Edward Lear.