Green Tomato Chutney

For over twenty years we’ve been growing enough tomatoes most years to produce ‘GTC’ – Green Tomato Chutney. If we don’t give jars of it to certain friends and relations at Christmas, we get complaints. I had assumed it was pretty well known as a recipe, but from the comments on our Facebook pages this year, apparently not.

So here goes with the whole recipe thing – but remember, this is only a guide! In many years we’ve done an ‘onion free’ version for friends who can’t onion, bulking out the quantities with extra tomatoes and apples. Historically we’ve also done batches with fresh ginger, or Christmas spices. This year, we didn’t have quite enough soft brown sugar, so we used some golden granulated instead because we really couldn’t face going shopping in the rain!

Recipe:
12oz green (ish) tomatoes – chopped
12oz onions – chopped fairly finely
8oz cooking apples – peeled, cored and chopped
12fl oz malt vinegar
12oz soft brown sugar
1.5 level tbs cornflour
3 level tsp ground ginger
1 level tsp salt
0.5 level tsp ground black pepper
0.25 level tsp turmeric
A couple of handfuls of dried fruit – sultanas and raisins

We find we can get 3x recipe in our jam saucepans, and 2x recipe in the largest saucepan we’ve got. We’re very imprecise on the spices – if you like more flavour go heaped on those spoonfuls!

Chop the tomatoes, apples and onions finely.
Place in a pan and cook on a low heat for about half-an-hour. Stir regularly as it will catch, and if it looks like it’s struggling for liquid, add a cup-full of water – we did that with our last (2x) batch today. Add a couple of handfuls of dried fruit.
Put some clean jam jars in the oven at 100c to warm gently – this stuff gets lethal hot, and will crack a jam jar at bottling if you don’t!
Add more than half of the batch’s worth of vinegar, and boil for a further 5 minutes, whilst you…
Blend the cornflour and spices, with the remaining vinegar.
Mix to a slurry, and add with the sugar to the mixture in the pan.
Keep stirring and cook for a further 5 minutes or so.
If the lumps of veg are too chunky or hard, you could take the spud basher to it?!

We use the jam funnel and a ladle to get it into jars. The person in the house with the most ‘asbestos fingers’ get’s to screw the jars on tight. Then leave to cool, wash up and open the windows, if you haven’t already – your house will smell of vinegar for days otherwise!

We always wash down the jars of chutney with hot water when they’ve cooled as I’ve never yet managed to bottle it without getting sticky chutney everywhere. Label when the jars are dry, and store for at least 3 months before trying it – but it can keep for years, if your family and friends don’t get to it first.

To give credit where credit is due, this recipe came from our friends Charlotte and Iain from our Bracknell days, and I can’t remember we where they got it from.

Roasted tomato and garlic sauce

Autumn has arrived, so we finally stripped out the tomatoes from the greenhouse this morning, which left us the rest of the day to process the goods. First up, was our take on a favourite Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall veg recipe with the ripe ones. I think you can jar this, be we don’t – we freeze it in small (3 ladle) amounts, and pop it in stews or use as a soup base during the winter. This is probably the 4th batch of this stuff we’ve made this year – the tomato crop has been immense.

Don’t ask me about quantities, not a clue! But we had enough ripe ones to cover more than 1 of our roasting dishes, so I spread them out across two – the bigger tomatoes are cut in half, and laid out face down. Then I split a whole bulb of garlic across the two dishes – crushed – then drizzled a reasonable quantity of olive oil over the lot. I think the classic HFW recipe involves herbs too, but I’ve never bothered.

I popped them in a hot oven 180c for about a half hour, keeping an eye on them until the top of the tomatoes and some loose garlic bits are slightly crispy. Then comes the slightly faffy bit, where 2 pairs are hands are useful: carefully pour the mushy, liquidy gloop through as sieve placed over a large bowl. Having one person to hold the roasting dish, and one to slide the gloop is ideal.

What we do then is to use a short handled wooden spoon (or my husband prefers a potato masher with our flat-bottomed sieve) to push through as much of the roasted tomato as possible, breaking down the skins, centres and pips until you’ve just got a load of tough husky bits left. You may need to decant to a larger bowl, and you’ll definitely need to scrape the underside of the sieve because that goo is the best bit!

Washing up the sieve is the biggest pain of the whole exercise, but well worth it!

We leave the bowl with cling-film over it to go cold. Then the resulting bowl of flavour-filled gloop is frozen into small batches, and will be added to assorted stews just before the ‘thickening’ stage, all winter long.

Crab-apple Jelly and Apple Mint Jelly – produce from a bumper year!

2020 is proving a bonanza year for many fruiting trees – and a trip to the New Forest this week reinforced this news. There are hundreds of crab-apple trees just loaded to dripping point with crab apples – more than the Commoners livestock and deer will probably pick up. So, Dad and I helped by foraging a few for ourselves.

I was surprised when a couple of ladies picking blackberries (also still in good supply) asked where we going to make Crab Apple Jelly, how did we eat it, and what does it taste like. Obviously not all fellow foragers are crab-apple aware! So, for posterity, because I’m forgetful, and in case it helps anyone else, here’s what we do.

I’ve doubled up with some notes on making hot apple juice into Mint Jelly as an alternative additional ‘savoury’ jelly which is great with lamb!

Crab-apple jelly has been a staple throughout my life, in sandwiches, on toast, in the gravy of pot-roasted game, even with the Christmas meats as an alternative to red-currant. It’s sweet, and apple-y (obviously) and varies in colour and quantity depending on the apples, and the year. Some years, the apples are more juicy than others, and different strains of wild crab, or varieties of garden grown crabs, come in different flesh colours. So in our haul this week, we have wild crab apples, a few of a ‘domestic’ columnar crab apple (Malus) called “Laura” which is a deep plummy colour. Dad planted Laura in his garden 2 years ago, alongside an early crab (and heavy cropper) called “John Downie” that’s already been jammed!

Dad and I are rather imprecise, perhaps lazy, cooks. So standard practice is not to cut up the crabs – the skins split quite happily on their own once the water is boiling. However, the “Laura” are a chunky fruit for a crab, with such amazing flesh colour which will deepen the colour of the jelly, that I have halved them to help their colour permeate the pulp produced. You’re meant to bring it to the boil gently… but I’ve not really got time for that sort of faff either!

Thinking about it, washing them and taking the stalks off is probably also approved of in polite circles, but since these were (largely) hand-picked, and that also adds time to a lengthy process, I, er, don’t normally. We also tend to take the spud-basher to them once they start to soften, ‘to help the pulping process along’ you understand.

When Dad makes crab-apple jelly, he using completes this stage in the evening, and leaves it overnight, so that the actual jelly making happens in the morning after the mush has had plenty of time to drain through. I got back from his place too late last night for that, so this is being left to drain until early evening, when there is a second pair of hands to help un-string and catch the muslins without dunking them in the juice! The drained pulp gets composted.

It’s worth noting that to this point, the process is exactly the same when making Mint Jelly, at least to the point of bringing the apple juice back to the boil. However when we did this earlier in the summer (10th August) we used various bought and scavenged cooking apples.

The main bit of measuring comes next, as the sum goes: 1pint of juice to 1lb of sugar (because I’m old fashioned in my measuring), slowly adding the sugar to the juice as you gently warm it up on the stove again. Tonight I had 5.5pints of juice. You can’t rush this bit – if you try you end up with burnt sugar on the bottom of the pan, and a nasty mess.

Sometimes, like this time, you end up with considerable scum on the top – more so than with blackcurrant or similar jam. Tonight, there was perhaps more scum than normal, as there was a slight handling error getting the pulp into the compost. But we don’t waste it! It will taste delicious even if it looks a bit grim.

Tonight, I got set after 10 minutes at the first try of the ‘cold plate in the freezer’ trick! In fact I suspect it was setting before it came to rolling boil but I wanted to make sure I got as much scum up and off as I could to get a good clear jelly. I suspect I could have got away with giving the apples a little more water with the apples right back at the beginning this morning, but it made things quicker tonight, so I’m not complaining. (Not enough) jars had been pre-warmed at 100c in the oven whilst it was boiling. Lids are screwed tight immediately, and a while later they should ‘pop’ loudly as they cool.

Back in the summer with the Mint Jelly, we simply stripped all the leaves from our mint plant, chopped them as finely as we could, and added them to the (much paler) jelly juice, once we knew we’d reached setting point.

If read all this, well done! We hope it is helpful. Enjoy making the most of whatever apple crop you’ve got, foraged, or otherwise!

Rhubarb gin and its yummy by-products

2016-07-09 14.55.329th July: a rare Saturday of family time at home combined with the need to make the most of the limited productivity of our little garden as we were going away (to different places) for a few days the following week.

Among the pickings was over a kilo of rhubarb (grown in half a water butt – the other one has courgette plants in it). Having recently bottled last year’s sloe gin, and not yet got any raspberries to do the business with, the lad and I had decided that some of this would go towards an experiment in rhubarb gin.

The internet told us variously that we should use the juice of half a lemon, only steep it for 2-3 weeks, and not leave it for more than 3 months because otherwise it takes on a bitter flavour.

2016-07-09 14.56.09This is what we actually did:

  • Wash the rhubarb
  • Cut the pinkest (lower) bits of the stalks into roughly inch lengths, setting the top half of each stalk aside to be stewed
  • Weighed it (600g)
  • Dropped it in the massively large Kilner jar we got from a charity shop some years ago
  • Using roughly the quantities from the Superpants recipe, because I like Hugh F-W stuff and that was their source, we added 300g of castor sugar: a mix of white and golden because that’s what we had, pouring it in on top
  • Closed the lid, and shook the sugar so it was stuck all over the rhubarb
  • Poured in 75cl of London Dry Gin from what is effectively our corner shop; OK so Waitrose is our corner shop, we live with it 😉
  • Closed the lid again, and shook repeatedly2016-07-09 14.56.57
  • Stored it in a cool dark corner, with a note on the counter above which read “have we shaken the gin today?”
  • There was then a significant pause… which we decided would probably last until shortly before the lad went back to Uni. Can’t think why…

Perhaps fittingly, 9th July also proved to be the day that my ‘sloe gin’ guru Dom Nicholas, monk of Alton Abbey, died. I think he would have approved.

29th August: It also seemed fitting to end the ‘Not Greenbelt 2016’ (#notgb16) festival with the conclusion of the rhubarb gin experiment. You can read about the festival (which raises funds The Big Issue Foundation) here.

2016-08-29 10.33.23cToday the lad and I strained the rhubarb gin; it gave us almost exactly a litre of liquid, which we assume includes the juice of the rhubarb but more particularly the sugar we added. It tastes… delicious, and has a bit of a kick. We’ve not yet tried the ‘cut with champagne’ version, that will need to come later!

Left with gin infused but otherwise raw rhubarb we didn’t feel we could throw it in the compost – if only because we’d get the worms very drunk 😉

So instead, we stewed some down, with a little more sugar, mixed that with lime jelly cubes and made the whole into Rhubarb, Gin and Lime Jelly. A finger taste before it set suggests it will taste lovely, but we’ll see how tomorrow guests take to it. 2016-08-29 12.54.08

With the rest, plus some added fresh rhubarb from the patch, we made a simple rhubarb crumble, which we hope will have a suitable kick from the not so secret ingredient. It smells lovely but is going in the freezer, so the taste test will be much delayed.

So that’s about it really. Feel free to try copying any or all of the above, and let me know the results, good or bad. Happy gin drinking… and if you’re a connoisseur of the stuff try and get hold of my favourite holiday find Wicked Wolf a new handcrafted award-winning gin from Exmoor (but don’t waste it on rhubarb!)2016-08-29 10.51.53