Gearing up for St James craft fair – 7th November 2009 10am – 4pm

Only just over a week to go before the craft fair at St James Church (back of Sainsbury’s West Ealing) All jams and chutneys are made and we counted up how many we had in total – 137 jars! This year we have alot more varieties of both jams and chutneys due to generous donations and Elizabeth and David’s allotment fruiting abundantly. We will also be selling 2 different varieties of chillis grown in a tub in my garden – scoth bonnets and chilli apache – HOT, HOT, HOT. The plan is to sell 2-3 in a bag if people like spicing up their chutney purchase.

Please do come along and sample our wares – but more importantly please buy them too!


apricot and ginger chutney 

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes
Makes: 1.2 litres

500g cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped into small chunks
500g apricots, pitted and chopped [see below if using dried apricots]
240g or 2 medium onions, chopped
400ml white wine vinegar
300g soft brown or Demerara [raw] sugar
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cardamom

1. Grease the base of the pan lightly with oil or butter. Combine the vinegar, sugar, garlic, mustard, ginger, cumin, coriander and cardamom in the pan. Stir over a low heat without boiling, until the sugar has dissolved.

2. Stir in the apples, apricots and onions.

3. Bring to the boil, then very gently simmer the mixture, uncovered, for about 60 minutes, or until thick and pulpy, and no excess liquid remains [see below]. Stir occasionally early in the cooking to check the mixture is not sticking or burning but stir more frequently towards the end of the cooking time.

4.When ready spoon the chutney into warmed sterilized jars. Use a skewer or the long handle of a spoon to remove any air bubbles. Cover with a lid and seal immediately.

5. Leave to cool. Label and store in a cool dark place and leave to mature for at least 2 months before eating. Use within 12months of making. Once open, store in the refrigerator and use within 6 weeks.


• Chutneys, which are made from vegetables, fruit, sugar, spices and vinegar, are cooked until very thick and the cooking is long and slow. They need to be left for 2 months before eating to allow the flavours to develop.

• Make sure your pan is large enough and preferably, is heavy-based. Do not leave vegetables or vinegar standing in aluminium pans for more than an hour.

• Vinegar- use a good quality vinegar with at least 4% acetic acid [can be malt, white or red wine vinegar]. Cheap vinegars do not contain enough acetic acid to act as a preservative.

• Sugar is not simply a sweetener but is also a preservative when used in high concentration as it acts to stop the development and growth of micro-organisms. Brown or white sugar is used in chutneys- brown sugar simply gives a richer flavour and colour.

• Bottle [jars]- check there are no chips or cracks. Wash bottles and lids in a dishwasher or hot soapy water and rinse well. Dry and sterilise the bottles in the oven. Place on a baking tray and leave in an oven [preheated to 120 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark ½ ] for 20 minutes or until ready to use.

• Cooking times can vary depending on the size of pan used, fruit and vegetables used, whether they are in season, their water content, how gentle the simmering etc.

• Stirring- chutneys must be stirred often to prevent sticking and burning on the bottom of the pan. Stir across the base of the pan not just around the edge.

• Test for when ready to bottle – place a spoonful of mixture on a plate. Draw the spoon though and the trail left should be clean without any runny liquid. Keep cooking till you achieve this. Alternatively just draw the spoon across the base of the pan.

• Alternative version: You can use dried apricots or a mix of fresh and dried. Before cooking, soak the apricots in water over night. Drain and use as per the recipe.

Damson and plum Jam

I made some damson and plum jam today, using some of the plums from Elizabeth that had failed to set in her plum jam. I was a bit hesitant about it setting so added the juice of 2 lemons to be on the safe side. I followed the recipe for the damson jam and again used around half the water in the recipe as I boiled the damsons/plums from frozen. The biggest amount of time spent is de-stoning the fruit! It is such a pain.

I am happy to report that the jam has successfully set although on tasting the sample it seems alot sweeter then the first batch of damson jam. Maybe it is the addition of the plums, or maybe my taste buds have changed!

Anyway the most important part is it’s 9 jars towards the stock we already have for the craft fair at St James, West Ealing on the 7th November. I have 6kg more of damsons to use so I reckon at this rate I will get around 27 more jars – that’s alot of damson jam!

Plum Jam – Failed to set!

Our fellow jam and chutney maker, Elizabeth made a small batch of plum jam as a trial and despite all her efforts the jam has failed to set. She used preserving sugar, lemon juice and has re-boiled it – all to no avail!

We had 10kg of plums given to us this year so it looks like we will be saving these to make chutney for next year as we have enough chutney to sell at the craft fair and Elizabeth has made some rather delicious plum sauce too.

So if anyone has any bright ideas on setting then let me know!