If you’re stuck in the kitchen feeling creative on a rainy day, why don’t you try your hand at making chutney? It’s a simple, convenient way to preserve fresh fruit and vegetables at any time of year, yielding plenty of delicious results that you can keep, unopened, for years. Here’s how:
1 – Choose your produce
When it comes to making your own chutney, the only limitation is your imagination. Choose whichever fruit or vegetable takes your fancy (or you have too much of). From windfall apples to shop bought Seville oranges, leftover courgettes or a glut of rhubarb – it can all be processed into delicious chutney and personalised with your choice of dried fruit, ginger, garlic or spices for extra oomph.
What’s more, chutney can be sweet or sour, spicy or mild, made from fruit or veg or a mixture of both – there are no set rules other than those dictated by your taste buds. Experiment to your heart’s content, or take inspiration from trusted recipes such as Delia’s Mango Chutney or Jamie’s Easy Tomato Chutney.
2 – Get the right equipment
Successful chutney making at home largely depends on assembling the right equipment so that you have everything to hand when you need it:
- A very large stainless steel or enamel saucepan that doesn’t react with the vinegar and spoil the flavour of the end product
- A large wooden spoon for stirring, and a long handled ladle for filling jars
- A chopping board, large stainless steel vegetable knife and sieve
- Muslin or cotton squares and string
- Preserving jars or old intact jam jars with non-metal lids (plastic coating is fine). Or you can get Kilner style preserving jars that have glass lids and rubber seals.
- Wax discs for sealing the chutney in the jar
- Decorative jar top covers and labels
3 – Assemble the 3 key ingredients
Regardless of which produce and recipe you choose, these key ingredients are always involved in making chutney:
Vinegar is essential in the preserving process. Choose a good quality product with a minimum of 5% acetic acid such as malt, white/red wine, cider, balsamic or rice vinegar. Experiment with different variants and choose the flavour you like best.
Sugar is another key ingredients needed for preserving and chutney making. Select according to your personal preference such as white granulated sugar, soft brown sugar or demerara sugar. The darker the sugar, the richer the taste of the end product.
Spices are what make chutneys distinctive and personal. Experiment far and wide or stick to tried and tested combinations such as cinnamon and nutmeg, ginger and star anise, chilli and mustard seeds etc.
4 – Follow the basic process
Regardless of which recipe you choose, chutney making always follows the same basic process:
- Wash and chop your produce into small chunks of even size, making sure to discard any stones, pips or blemishes.
- Place your fruit/veg into a large pan with sugar, vinegar and spices according to the recipe, the cook down gently, stirring all the while until the sugar has dissolved.
- Bring to a boil, the simmer slowly until you have reached a thick, syrupy consistency. When a wooden spoon leaves a channel on the bottom of the pan, the chutney is ready.
- Prepare hot, sterilised jars by washing them in hot soapy water, then placing them upside down in a pre-heated oven (150C) for 15 minutes.
- Ladle the hot chutney into just sterilised, still hot jars and cover with a wax disc and loosely placed lid. Secure the lid when the jar has completely cooled.