WELL... It has been a very long time since I have been here. I have been busy for the past year setting up a business with a friend of mine making Gourmet Artisan Chutneys, Relishes and Pickles.
The world of food preservation is a very interesting one and I thought I share it with you all.
Here is a little background on Chutneys.
Chutneys originated in India – the name derived from the Hindu word chatni – but are now a very popular preserve all over the world.
They are made from fruits or vegetables, or a mixture of the two, which are chopped, cooked, mixed with spices, vinegar and other ingredients and reduced to a smooth pulp. Unlike jam making, windfall apples, green tomatoes and other end-of-season fruit such as rhubarb can be used as there is no worry about the setting qualities. Dried fruit, especially grapes, in the form of raisins (dried white grapes usually of the variety 'Muscatel') sultanas (small raisins that are seedless, sweet, pale golden in colour) and currants (dried, black, seedless grapes) are commonly used.
The scope of chutneys is endless and the combinations and permutations can be varied according to personal taste and the ingredients available. They can be sweet, sour, hot or mild.
A big advantage to both fruit and vegetable chutneys is that they improve with age and, if properly stored, will remain in good condition for years.
Equipment Required for Making Chutney
- A stainless steel or enamel-lined pan that is large enough to contain all the ingredients (if you’re also a big jam maker it may be well worth in investing in a preserving pan). Brass, copper or iron pans should not be used as they react with the vinegar and give a metallic flavour to the chutney.
- Long-handled wooden spoon – this should be reserved for chutney-making only as the wood becomes impregnated with the spiciness of the chutney and will taint other recipes.
- Sieves – stainless steel or nylon
- Heatproof jug or wide necked stainless steel funnel - a heatproof glass, stainless steel or enamel jug is useful for pouring the chutney into the jars. Alternatively a wide necked stainless steel funnel or a large ladle can be used.
- Muslin or cotton squares – to tie up whole spices wanted for flavourings.
- Scales – preferably dual marked in metric and imperial.
- Chopping boards and stainless steel knife.
- Heat proof jars of assorted sizes. These should be clean, dry, sterilized and warm before pouring in the chutney. To sterilize the jars just before filling, put into a cool oven, Gas Mark 1 (140°C/275°F), for a few minutes.
- Covers – these are most important. Vinegar corrodes metal, so use plastic screw or snap-on type or plastic preserving skin. Specialist preserving or bottling jars are suitable, either with screw-on or clip-on lid, providing the lid is made of glass.
- Labels – For the front of the jars to identify the chutney and the date made.
Vinegar, Sugar and Spices
- Vinegar – one of the most important ingredients in successful chutney-making. This must be of good quality and have an acetic content of at least 5%. Malt, white or wine vinegar can be used.
- Sugar - granulated or brown. Brown sugar gives a darker colour to the chutney that is often preferred. Prolonged cooking of any sugar does, however, have a darkening effect on the chutney and, if a lighter colour is wanted, the sugar should only be added when the fruit and/or vegetables are already soft and mushy.
- Spices – generally whole spices are preferable in chutney-making than ground ones which can give a muddy appearance to the chutney. Bruise these and tie them up in a muslin bag and cook with the other ingredients. However, some recipes call for a mixture of both whole and ground spices to give the best flavour.
Tips and things that can go wrong when you're making chutney
- Tough or fibrous fruit and vegetables such as onions, apples and gooseberries, should be softened in a small amount of water in a covered pan. The remainder of the cooking should be done in an open pan as evaporation of the liquid is an important part of the cooking process.
- The success of a good chutney is that it should be relatively smooth in texture and have a rich mellow flavour. To achieve this it requires long, slow cooking and then, ideally, it should be left to mature for at least three months.
- If the chutney has shrunk in the jar, the cover is not airtight and moisture has evaporated.
- If loose liquid has collected on the top of the chutney, it has not been cooked sufficiently. It may be possible to rescue the chutney by tipping it back into the pan, bringing it to the boil again and cooking until the liquid disappears.