A while ago I posted about making my first ever chutney: a caramelised red onion one. The recipe said to leave it for a month or more to allow the flavour to mature, before trying it, and today I realised that it was exactly one month and one day since I’d done it, so I could finally see if it had worked.
My interest in preserving food is entirely rooted in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s descriptions of storing food in the Little House on the Prairie books. I’ve known how to store apples in an attic since I was about six years old – I’m a little surprised it’s taken me this long to actually do something about it, to be honest. Mistakenly deterred by the erroneous impression that you had to create massive quantities of stuff and needed special (expensive) equipment, probably. I haven’t got the space to store ten giant jars of the same kind of chutney and nor do I want to buy loads of something which ends up being expensive initially, even if it would be cheaper over the 10 years it took you to eat it…
Fortunately, you don’t need to work with kilos of stuff if you don’t want to. The recipe I followed made two jam jars of chutney – a perfect amount. What I hadn’t considered when I made it, however, was the wait before I could tell if it was OK. If I had stuffed up the sterilisation process or the flavour developed strangely (I may not have followed the recipe exactly) then I wouldn’t know until I either saw it start to go furry, or was able to open a jar and try some.
It made me think: if it had all gone wrong, at the end of the day it would have cost me only a fairly small amount of money and some of my time. When I grow things in larger quantities I’m going to end up doing more of this, and so big batches of stuff going off or tasting horrible could ruin a whole harvest of something. But so many of today’s home preservation methods are just refined versions of things people have been doing for hundreds of years, so it seems to be pretty reliable, now I’m a bit more familiar with it.
So I’ve kept watch for signs of life in the jars, and there hasn’t been any, and today I got to open one and actually try it. I made a nice seeded loaf yesterday and happened to have some really nice wafer thin ham so, obviously, decided to go that way. I apologise for the particularly poor photography here. I was especially hungry and basically wanted to get that sandwich in my face the second it was made, rather than going all food stylist on it.
The blob of chutney on the plate should in no way be considered an attempt at staging. I am simply clumsy and dropped some while I was making the sandwich. The cheese is a Red Leicester, selected on the basis of being the first one my hand reached in the fridge. I don’t generally over think cheese and select the ‘perfect’ one for the meal if it’s nothing elaborate. Cheddar, Red Leicester and other cheeses of that type do perfectly well for 99% of my cheese requirements. For everything else, there’s Parmesan.
Shortly after this shot was taken, I inhaled the sandwich. It was delicious, although if I were being critical I’d say the flavour of the chutney is a touch too sharp and not quite sweet enough, but I can definitely taste the possibilities and I’m really pleased. It’ll work in a sandwich and I suspect the excess vinegar would cook off so I might add some to give a depth of flavour to bolognese-y things, or muck about with a cottage pie.
I’ll be sure to buy the exact ingredients to make it properly next time. I was just trying to use up a load of onions in a hurry before they went off and did it on the spur of the moment, doing the best with what I had to hand. Good on Mary Berry for displaying the same attitude on tonight’s Great British Bake Off Masterclass: I like that she says about using what you’ve got and not wasting food.
So often in food programmes a lot of stuff seems to be discarded if it’s not needed for that dish. Not that I’d consider my chutney in remotely the same league as her Tipsy Trifle, though, even if we do disagree entirely on the addition of jelly. I’m definitely making that and jelly will be in it. Also, flaked almonds have no place on cream, even if it is traditional, so will be replaced with something that doesn’t have the texture of of slightly toasted flexible plastic. I’m sure the hive mind will have loads of alternatives when I query it.
So, a good recipe to try, even if you haven’t tried making a chutney before. I’ll let you know how the next batch goes, as and when.