One way to make Apple Chutney

I love chutney! A rich combination of autumn fruits, dried fruits and vegetables simmered for hours in a mixture of muscovado sugar and cider vinegar, seasoned with spices and root ginger is one of my favourite things to make. It takes far longer than jam, but is much less stressful, none of this pectin testing and no chilled saucers.

Chutney livens up a dull cottage pie, adds joy to a cheese sandwich and gets better as it gets older.  I am very keen on foods that get better as they get older and foods that don’t need to be kept in the freezer in particular.

On a shelf in the garage I found a packet of dried William pears and a bag of dried dates.  The pears had little crystals of sugar on them, the dates were a little dry. I cut pieces off them both and tasted and sniffed and decided they were just fine still and perfect companions for my neighbour Carmella’s box of windfall apples and a string of French Onions and would hopefully add texture and body to the apples which would disintegrate in the chutney.

I also took pity on a couple of courgettes and a bag of sultanas yelled plaintively. “Take us, don’t leave us here till Christmas again!”  I heard you sultanas, don’t worry!

I added a few of the stubborn green tomatoes from the tray ripening on the window sill to the mix as well.

I sliced up fresh ginger root and put it in a spice bag together with a mix of whole spices that took my fancy. My neigbour Maureen had just treated me to a bag of beautiful mixed peppercorns from the market in Istanbul and I had some allspice berries which I love so I used those as well. You could use cloves, cinammon, whatever you like, lots of room for experimentation.

mixed pepper corns, allspice and chilli flakes

I added a 500 g box of Billingtons muscovado sugar, and 600 ml of Aspall’s organic cider vinegar.

This was my list of ingredients for this batch, the proportions are all based on the Glutney chutney recipes in Pam Corbin’s indispensable Preserves book:

  • 500g box of Brown sugar (muscovado if you can get it)
  • 600 ml of organic cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • 900 g of peeled, cored and chopped up apples
  • 2 medium sized courgettes, diced
  • 1 kg of onions, peeled and diced
  • 250 g of dried pears
  • 250 g of dates
  • 250 sultanas
  • 200 g green tomatoes
  • tsp of salt
  • a thumb’s worth of fresh root ginger
  • 1 tsp of allspice berries
  • 2 tsp of mixed pepper corns
  • 1 tsp of coriander (whole)
  • 1 tsp of dried chilli flakes

Put the ginger and the spices in a little muslin bag. You can get these from the jamjar website, or make your own if you are crafty. I am not very crafty.  Pile everything else into a maslin pan or a big heavy bottomed saucepan. Tuck the spice and ginger bag into the fruit and veg.

Still lots of liquid left, about half way there…

Cook on your lowest gentlest heat source. Once the sugar has melted and it starts to cook let it bubble away peacefully and slowly, simmer is maybe the best word for this, for about 3 – 5 hours.   You will need to stir it occasionally at the beginning and then visit the pan more frequently the closer it gets to being ready to put in jars.

In the meantime visit your recycling boxes and rummage around for jars. If you are lucky enough to have relatives who always return empties when you give them chutney, cultivate them assiduously. The words, “Would you like my empty jars?” are music to a home preserves maker!

For chutney choose jars with vinegar proof lids. A vinegar proof lid is one which doesn’t have metal that will come in contact with the vinegar – most lids have a plastic covering on the inside but if they are bare metal they are not suitable.  Scrub any old labels off that you forgot to remove before.  Wash your jars and lids in hot water with a little washing up liquid.  Rinse well and then put on a tray in the oven at 140 C/Gas Mark 1 for 15 minutes.  I put the lids in a saucepan with cold water and bring them to the boil and keep them simmering until needed.

The chutney will need to reduce considerably in volume and become thick and glossy. You will start to hear and feel a bit of potential sticking going on when you are nearly there. Keep stirring, reduce the heat if necessary to avoid the chutney catching on the bottom of the pan.When it is ready  if you drag your wooden spoon through it you should be able to see the bottom of the pan clearly and the chutney should stay open for a bit before closing up again. Think of Charlton Heston as Moses and the parting of the Red Sea if you have any doubts as to what this looks like. If it looks at all watery, it isn’t ready yet.

When you are ready, assemble any kit you need and pour boiling water over and shake dry.  I use a funnel and a ladle and usually something to poke the chutney down into the jar with, like a thin silicon spatula.

Fill the jars carefully up to 5 mm from the top. Do your best to make sure there are no air bubbles or pockets of air visible, by packing the chutney down and then, shake the lids to remove any water, and screw them on as tightly as you can. Tap the jars sharply on a wooden surface once the lids are on.  Leave the jars to cool completely. Check the lids again when they are cold and don’t forget to label them!  Best left for two months or more to mature. We are eating last year’s chutney now. It keeps very well for a long time in a cool dark place.

Yesterday the Frenchman who sells the most wonderful onions, shallots and huge French purple garlic at the Whiteladies Road Farmers market appeared at my door. He was going home this weekend and was obviously trying to sell as much as possible before leaving.  I bought more supplies, they are all strung neatly and hung them up in the garage. Then I remembered that I had used ‘his onions’ in this and gave him a jar. “Chutney?” he said, but “what is this?” I tried to explain and in the end, he simply untwisted the lid, which opened with a satisfying pop and took a big sniff. “Ah!” he said, “I willl share zees with my family!” Who knows what a French palate will make of my chutney…

To find out more about the history of chutneys, a term used to describe all manner of variations of these condiments, you could do worse than start here on Wikipedia.

42 thoughts on “One way to make Apple Chutney

  1. Kari @ bite-sized thoughts

    I have a horrible feeling that I don’t have the patience for chutney. On looking at your photos, I think I’d be happy to eat the contents of your first saucepan shot! This definitely looks like an impressive combination of flavours.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I had been postponing it and postponing it for that very reason Kari! In the end we took shift duties on getting it to the finish line. I will probably only make this batch this year, it’s usually enough to last till next Autumn when I have forgotten how long it takes all over again. If you are in anyway it is fairly straightforward to do. You can also buy those heat diffuser mats that you put on the stove that keep the temperature even lower and reduces the risk of burning.

  2. invisiblespice

    Your chutney looks wonderful, I can almost smell it cooking with all of those interesting additions like the peppercorns and allspice. Look at all of those tomatoes, did you grow them yourself?

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thank you Invisiblespice ! Yes, we grew those, it was a variety of tumbling tomato, called Maskotka, that you can grow in a plant pot, they are bushy and produce lots of biggish cherry sized tomatoes. A good one to grow if you don’t have much outside space. This is the first time I’ve grown them and they were very prolific!

  3. Nip it in the bud

    marvellous and thanks for the reminder that I have foraged apples in the cellar that need to be turned into something before the bruises and grub holes start to rot!

    1. Joanna Post author

      You have a cellar! How lucky you are. I wish I could get faster at peeling apples, I still have a couple of boxes to do something with. Maybe this weekend :)

  4. Elaine

    I too have been enjoying making chutney. There is something so wonderfully satisfying about making something so tasty from such varied ingredients. I love the aroma of fruit, vegetables and spices which fill up the kitchen as I try different varieties and versions. I have just made an apple chutney using windfalls which my mother’s friend gave her together with onions and a variety of spices including cinnamon plus balsamic vinegar. A few weeks ago a friend let me pick some quinces from her garden and I found a good recipe on the BBC website on quince chutney – I adapted it as I did not have all the ingredient to hand – that is the beauty of making chutney you can adapt and add to the original recipes to make it your own. Hopefully the quince one will taste good. Kevin made a marrow one a couple of months ago and we are just waiting to taste it. All are waiting in our larder for the taste test! Moving on from chutneys I am hoping to retry preserving pears – last year I tried it but the pears did not taste particularly good! If anyone has a recipe that I could try I would be grateful.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Elaine, have you tried making quince cheese ever? I am very jealous of your quinces, they do have the most wonderful smell ever. I have seen various pickled pear recipes around, but the only thing I have tried so far is preserving them in a vanilla flavoured sugar syrup and that was a bit of a performance. There is a recipe in the Preserves book I mention above for Italian style pickled pears with mustard, that might be good. :)

  5. Melanie

    I loved all the pictures with this post. They pulled me into your project and made me want to run downstairs and start. Out of all the canning projects I’d like to try, chutney is at the top of my list. However, the thing that’s prevented me from doing it is that I’m not quite sure what to do with the chutney after I make it (except for the obvious of give it away) I know my hubby won’t eat it, and I like the stuff from the store, its just that I’m not sure how or what to eat it with so that I would use it up. Yours sounds delicious!! I am jealous of the individuals that will receive a gift from your stash.

    1. Joanna Post author

      You can eat it simply like you would a mustard or a ketchup or other relish with a cheese or cold meat sandwich or on the side with roast meats or poultry. You can also add a spoonful to a casserole or stew if you like the basic taste of the chutney to add depth to the flavours, but if your husband isn’t keen on the sweet/sour/fruit/pickle taste then maybe not.

      I like chutney because you don’t have to do the pasteurizing thing after you have filled the jars, though I don’t know if they advise you to do that in the States for all preserves. Here we don’t as a rule for this sort of chutney.

  6. Misk Cooks

    I love the look of those tomatoes. Ours are history for the year, although I have several bags of puree in the freezer. As for the chutney, I love it – Peder loves it – Peder can’t have it, so I don’t keep it in the house.

    1. Joanna Post author

      These are the last of the tomatoes Misk, once these are gone, that’s it and back to shop bought ones or eating the passata sauce we made earlier in the year. :)

      1. Misk Cooks

        I am back to buying produce at Costco again because it’s commercial grade and far better than what I’m able to buy at our local supermarkets. I know you scoff at Costco but one day you should ask for a visitor’s pass and have a browse around.

  7. emilysincerely

    I can smell it. I can smell it. I made some zucchini chutney two years ago and we are still eating it. I love that chutney can be made with so many different ingredients. The apple and ginger and green tomatoes, etc. Wonderful. And you have a little of this and that from so many friends & neighbors, even Istanbul! Thanks for sharing your process. Great photos. We planted fruit trees and I know some of the fruit will go into chutneys. Can’t wait (another year or two!)

    1. Joanna Post author

      It’s wonderful to be able to make your own preserves isn’t it? I hope you are still blogging when your fruit trees are ready to see I bet they will be splendid. I love the variety too :D

  8. heidi

    I love chutney on sandwiches.
    Yours looks especially good. And I think your spice choice would be mine as well- cinnamon is just not a good flavor in chutney!
    I’m not making it this year- I made some with quince last year and we still have some left- plus- we didn’t go to the apple orchard to pick this year, so all of our apples are being happily eaten- no surplus!
    Thanks for sharing, Joanna, it is almost as nice as making my self. :)

  9. ceciliag

    I LOVE chutney! and this one looks so good. What a great presentation.. we have had a miserable year for apples here. I will have to go hunting! because i want to make this one.. c

    1. Joanna Post author

      stacks of apples and pears here this year, even from my two trees, more than enough for us and neighbours. Chutney is a response to a glut really, though it is very tasty of course :)

  10. teawithhazel took us on a delightful journey in the way you described your chutney making..and i love the way you adapted the recipe to make use of ingredients that were languishing..happy squirrelling..x

    1. Joanna Post author

      the trouble is I buy things when I see them or with a baking project in mind and then like a true squirrel forget a) that I bought it or b) where I put it! thanks for reading Jane :)

  11. cityhippyfarmgirl

    Look at all those lovely tomatoes. I can smell them from here… and I can happily say I have muscavado sitting in my pantry again, so this recipe is now a possibility. I have trouble getting it, and pounced on some dark recently to stock up. (It’s a happy pantry again :-)
    Now chutney is on my my mind today as well, as I have three different jars sitting around all begging for a little seedy bread and a wedge of cheese, which one to choose….
    I’ll bet your french man loved his chutney Joanna. All the jars lined up look lovely.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I remember you are a chutney fan too, It’s all in that lovely sugar flavour and decent vinegar. I will be sad when the tomatoes are all used up, they look so pretty on the windowsill :)

  12. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    Please, would you trade me some chutney for some chocolate brownie? ;-)

    Yours sounds so appealing, and I never seem to be able to get it right, mostly because I take Hugh/Pam literally when they say you can put anything you want into glutney and I end up with the weirdest flavours. Green butternut pumpkins and sour plums last time – mad flavour that no-one would eat!

    I think I should follow your lead exactly next time and use apples and pears! :)

    I love the big bucket you’ve cooked it all in – is that a special jam making pot with a handle?

    1. Joanna Post author

      Absolutely trade! fabulous idea! I find dried fruits are very good in chutney because they hold shape and are already sweet. I would love to make mango chutney, as that is my favourite, but they arev very pricy. I think I once made one with mostly green tomatoes that no one would eat too, so you are not alone in that. xx

  13. C

    Your chutney looks glorious, a real celebration of autumn produce. I love the way you’ve adapted the recipe, I’m still too much of a chutney novice to stray far from a recipe. I’ve only made chutney a couple of times after an utter disaster when I was younger – it involved me, a pan of burnt chutney the me and various small sharp knives and scrubbers with my mum’s best preserving pan….. none of us were very happy and I was put off chutney for a very long time.

    The other problem I have with chutney is that you’re supposed to leave it for 6-8 weeks to mature. After which time I’ve either forgotten that I’ve made it and/or gone off the idea of eating it. I did make some last year that my brother enjoyed though, for Christmas… do you think the remaining jars will still be ok? (yep, another victim of a forgetful mind!!!)

    1. Joanna Post author

      I killed a saucepan attempting to re-make some apricot jam that hadn’t set last month. I have a theory about these pans, and I suspect one needs to spend more money and get the really really thick bottomed ones. I keep hovering and looking at them and thinking, no I really don’t make enough of this stuff to justify it. But I have learnt to make relatively small quantities and then it all cooks down quicker (relatively speaking) and the pan is less likely to catch, but you do have to stay on top of it for the last half an hour to forty five minutes – which is just the point where you are bored to tears with the whole thing.

      As to your question about whether last year’s is still good. If the seals are good and there are no air bubbles in the chutney, it should be fine. You will know when you open the jar. I put a spoonful in marinades sometimes or add to casseroles or stews if I think it will add something too.

  14. Mariana

    Oh what joy to stumble upon another’s encounter with the preserving pot. I agree about jams being more exacting and precise and the whole pectin thing can be a wee stressful. Still, I love jams and would never back off if some beautiful fresh fruit presented itself on my kitchen bench.

    I love chutneys and relishes too. I had a crazy month in June this year where I made about twenty different preserves and my pumpkin chutney received high acclaim from my friends. A great way to use up “one” of my “thirty” pumpkins from the garden. NO joke. Some are still out there!

    I really enjoyed your glorious post Joanna – lots of great tips too. When a preserve nears the end of cooking, I usually look for a “plopping” sound, almost like when lava bubbles along from a volcano. Funny, how we all have our own ways of identifying stages.

    I just love the row of your jars. They look like a family. It makes my heart sing when I go through the process of making preserves and then view the final product in jars. It feels like such an achievement; and although it may sound silly I get very attached and sometimes don’t want to give them away. And I am usually known for being a very generous person!! As you can see, I get rather excited when it comes to the subject of preserves.

    Lovely, lovely post! Mariana xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thank you Mariana, coming from such an accomplished preserves maker as you I am very touched. Brian gets quite possessive about the jars too, but I like to give them away, I can only eat so much jam and sauce. I love the tradition of swapping jars of jams anyway, it’s good fun.

      I know the plopping sound you speak of too… it’s a very sensual experience altogether :)

      1. Mariana

        “An accomplished preserve maker” – wow – I’m rather touched myself. I know, I know – of course we can only eat so much – but it’s a weird thing. I enjoy simply looking at them for a good month or so and then I can part with them more easily. As for swapping; I’m afraid there aren’t many ladies who seem to preserve any more. At least not around me. But I agree with you, it’s fun, otherwise I simply wouldn’t bother.

        1. Joanna Post author

          I guess that’s where photography comes in handy, you can always look at the pictures to remind yourself how pretty they looked all lined up. I read about a Chutney Day at some local stately home the other week, where you could go and bring and do an exchange if you wanted. That sounded like a fun idea too, though I think I would be a bit shy…. ;)

  15. greg becker

    Its a shame I did not think of apple chutney back in september when I was trying to think what to do with all the allotment apples (they don’t keep well). Your recipe looks good, I’d like to try it next year, especially as it uses courgettes as well.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I confess I still have a box or two of softening Egremont russets waiting for me to do something with them and some pears that I am supposed to be trying to bottle. Too much all at once isn’t it? And I have Nic’s purple potatoes waiting for me too. Nice to hear from you Greg :)

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