Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 2+ hours
Makes: about 2 litres
2kg eating plums, de-stoned and cut into quarters
450g cooking apples, cored but not peeled, and chopped finely.
450g onions, chopped finely
300g dried apricots, chopped into small pieces
200g raisins or sultanas
1 litre white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
250g soft brown sugar
3 large cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 teaspoon ground allspice,
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon,
3 teaspoons grated fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger.
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
8 juniper berries, using a mortar and pestle, roughly grind the juniper and peppercorns together
10-12 black peppercorns
1.Grease the base of the pan lightly with oil or butter. Combine all the ingredients in a large heavy bottomed pan. Stir over a low heat without boiling, until the sugar has dissolved.
2.Bring slowly to a gentle boil. Immediately turn down the heat to a very gently simmer [with tiny bubbles just breaking the surface], uncovered, for about 2+ hours until the mixture has broken down and thickened, and no excess liquid remains [see below]. Stir occasionally early in the cooking to check the mixture is not sticking or burning but stir frequently in the last hour of the cooking time as this chutney does stick easily.
3.When ready spoon the chutney into warmed sterilized jars. Save some in a small jar to use to test the taste over time. Use a skewer or the long handle of a spoon to remove any air bubbles. Cover with a lid and seal immediately.
4.Leave to cool. Label and store in a cool dark place and leave to mature for at least 2-3 months before eating. Best used within 12 months of making. Once open, store in the refrigerator.
5.Alternative version. Damsons can be used and, depending how sweet they are, you may need to use additional sugar – that is between 250g used above and 450g if the damsons are quite sharp.
• Chutneys, which are made from vegetables, fruit, sugar, spices and vinegar, are cooked until very thick and the cooking is long and slow. Leave for 2-3 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. Remember chutneys thick when they cool.