You might think we can’t grow apricots in this country but we can. The type of apricot tree on our allotment was developed in Canada so can take a bit of cold weather. Most years our tree gets hit by a late frost and the crop is badly damaged but not this year. We have had our best crop in 10 years and one of the products we’ve made is apricot butter. The ‘butter’ just describes the consistency of what is basically concentrated fruit boiled down until it sets. Fruit butters spread whilst fruit cheeses need cutting. But whether butter or cheese, they go fantastically well with cheese and this year we have made a batch of apricot butter. I can vouch for its deliciousness! We’ve just delivered our first 6 jars of apricot butter to Cheddar Deli in Northfield Ave so if you want to give yourself a real treat do drop in and buy a jar and tell us what you think of it.
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.