In my on-going battle to use up our glut of peaches, I’ve been experimenting with chutney. It’s a new departure but, it seems, a tasty one. I kept it far simpler than my very complicated green tomato chutney: just fruit and onion and garlic and spices. But that, I hope, helps to let the delicate peachy flavours through.
As with peach jam, you must remember that peaches – especially underripe ones – are the stickiest fruit: you can’t take your eye off the ball for a moment or you’ll be weeping over your blackened and burnt preserving pan. Chunks of fruit will even glue themselves to the sides of the pan, so don’t restrict your frantic scraping to the bottom. If you have a heat diffusor, stick it under your pan so there are no hot sticking points.
As usual, I did huge quantities – undoubtedly far more than a small household needs. But chutneys make great presents, expecially hereabouts where my neighbours may have experienced them on foreign holidays but they certainly don’t make up part of the local store cupboard. And the proportions are very easily reduced.
Peaches – 5 kg
Sugar – 1 kg
Vinegar – 1 lt
Sultanas – 100 g
Onions – 500 g
Garlic – 10 cloves
Ginger – 50 g
Spices to taste – cardamon, black pepper corns, allspice, chili, cloves
First, prepare your peaches. I only peeled the ones that came off the tree looking unappetising on the outside (inside there is hardly – miraculously – a single bug or blemish). But for ‘neat’ fruit, peeling isn’t really necessary.
Now pull or cut the fruit from the stone and chop it. If you like a smoother more uniform chutney, dice it neatly. I prefer a chunkier finish and so chop it fairly coarsely. You may need to plunge the peach pieces into a big bowl of water full of lemon juice to stop it going brown. But if you work swiftly, this won’t be necessary.
Chop the onions. The same rule applies: either dice them to the same specifications as the peach or more coarsely. I simply sliced mine into rounds. Peel the garlic and chop it roughly. Peel the ginger and mince it finely.
Place all the ingredients except the sugar into a preserving pan, and bring it to the boil very gently, remembering to stir all the time. You’ll have noticed that I have been very vague about spices. This is because, it’s up to you. I threw in about ten tiny, very strong chillis for a very piquant chutney, and a good handful of cardamoms too, because I love the flavour. When the mix is gently bubbling, add the sugar and stir it until it dissolves.
Now comes the long, slow part. Keeping the heat low – or you risk destroying your pan – keep bubbling and stirring until the mix approaches gelling point (106° at sea level, less as you climb). I say ‘approaches’ because it’s far less important for chutney than for jam that the mixture be thick and compact: even if it’s a little runny, that will do. Now pour it into sterilised jars (see here for how to sterilise jars), close them tight and label and store the chutney.
Chutney always seems to improve if left for a month or so before opening. Or maybe that’s my imagination… or the fact that I’m usually struggling to polish off the previous year’s supply and so my latest production tends to languish, and taste very good when I get around to it.
© Anne Hanley, 2011