Time to make chutney – just start early in the day!
Yesterday I made an enormous batch of tamarillo chutney, hopefully enough to last us the year. We love it in sandwiches and rolls, with burgers and chicken, with bacon and avocado, and, well, with just about anything. So we need heaps. Now is the time to make it while tamarillos are at their peak and affordable. There are some lovely big ones around at the moment, which are less fiddly to prepare than baby ones.
Of course, and you’d think I’d know better…I meant to start making the chutney before midday. But time ticked away and before I knew it, it was 4.00pm. That’s a dumb time to start making a big batch of chutney and I’ll tell you why. It means you’ll be making it in the evening, and if it’s too cold to have the doors and windows open, you’ll be locking the smell of chutney in your house overnight. The smell of vinegar and bubbling sweet fruit is not so appealing first thing in the morning when you’d really rather smell toast and coffee! More importantly, as luck will have it, you’ll probably be tied to the pot stirring right on dinnertime. Well, that’s what happened to me last night. While everyone was tucking into roasted parsnips with a crispy parmesan, garlic and rosemary topping, leeks a la Grecque and a big salad from the garden and a crusty loaf, I stirred the pot. Drat! However, this morning, once I had opened the windows and let out the pong, when I saw the jars all lined up on the kitchen bench I knew it had been worth it.
Making chutney is easy because you just throw everything in the pot, but it takes a fair while to chop and weigh the ingredients. To make a batch of tamarillo chutney following my recipe allow 3-4 hours. Not that you’ll be at the pot that long! It’s really just in the final phase of reduction that the chutney can catch on the bottom of the pan. You’ll probably only need to stir it for the last 10 minutes or so. Make sure you have a long-handled wooden spoon because splatters of chutney can burn deeply.
Have jars and lids sterilized and at the ready, then pour in the hot chutney, use a clean knife to cut through each jar of chutney 2-3 times to knock out air bubbles, tap the jars on the bench once or twice to encourage the contents to settle, then top with a lid. Wipe jars and label once they’re cool. My kitchen gets very warm in summer, and as I have plenty of refrigeration and I want the chutney to keep well for a good year, I store the chutney in a second refrigerator ostensibly designated ‘the wine fridge’. But if you’ve got a cool pantry, it’ll keep very well in there.
Last night I carried out an experiment and made one batch in the large deep saucepan I use for chutneys and the like, and a second batch in an old aluminium jam pan. And guess what? The batch in the aluminium jam pan cooked more quickly, by at least 30 minutes – and here is why: it has sloping sides which allows for faster reduction. Simple.
Leave the tamarillo chutney to mellow for a week or two before using if you can. And pot some into small jars, too, to give away as gifts. Topped with a circle of fabric and tied with rustic string they look quite a picture!