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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Guest blogger; Flaming Chutney

Thanks so much Phelan for inviting me to be your guest blogger this week. There are so many things I am interested in, that I struggled to decide what to write about, and threw the choice open to a poll in my Livejournal. From several options, a clear winner emerged, and that was making condiment preserves; home made chutney, jam, and marmalade.

I am what you might call an urban fantasy homesteader. Whilst my early life was spent deep in the English countryside, learning to write in the dirt and learning the names of edible plants and field foods on long walks with my granny whilst she kept one eye peeled for mushrooms; life has very firmly replanted me in the middle of London, England.

This could hardly be a more urban context - and yet, I still have a very strong urge to grow and create and make things for myself. My hand made cards and gifts business, my interest in the preservation of allotments, my knitting, and my involvement with a gardening charity,Thatu, which helps to create organic permaculture food gardens in areas of South Africa that are challenged by inhospitable environment, poverty, and AIDS; I suppose the common thread to these is a Marxist style notion that when man owns the means of production (in my case – these two hands!) and employs them to his own benefit, he is engaging in labour for himself which will provide him a sense of self worth and satisfaction.

Without wandering off too much into philosophy, my point is that whether or not engaging in 'home made' and 'DIY' activities is thrifty or saves you money, it is good for you. It is satisfying to the inner person, and for that reason alone, activities that promote self reliance (the homesteading ideal, if you will) are just as worthwhile whether you live in a high rise in Tokyo or on a homestead in Kansas.

I suppose I became interested in preserves because my late aunt and father always made lemon curd, and chutney, and wild bramble jam. For many years I was put off even trying, because it always seemed an arcane art that involved thermometers, setting points, and all manner of special equipment.

Then one day I came across a recipe for Grapefruit marmalade, which was so straightforward that literally anyone could do it. I refer you to Nigella Lawson's Book How to be a Domestic Goddess, for her ‘Pink Grapefruit Marmalade’ . In spite of having a title that feminism seems to have passed by, it is in fact an invaluable book filled with excellent recipes including several wonderful jams, jellies, chutneys and preserves. The results of this recipe are delicious with some lovely crusty bread,

Once the fallacy of difficulty had been shattered, nothing could stop me. I tried all sorts of preserves! I have even ended up selling them, because the flavour and texture of homemade marmalade, jam and chutney is so vastly superior to anything you might find in the supermarket, that if you make the mistake of giving some away early in your preserve making career, you will soon find a path being beaten to you door and demand outstripping supply!

And so, it is my very great pleasure to present to you the secret recipe for my 'Flaming Chutney'. Don't tell ANYONE!

Flaming Chutney
Makes about a litre.

1kg Sharp cooking apples {2 lbs}
125g Sultanas {4 oz}
2 Medium onions
4 Bird's eye chillies (red for preference)
500g Demerara (brown sugar with coarse, large granules) {17 oz}
2 Teaspoons Ground Allspice
2 Teaspoons Ground Cloves
1 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Teaspoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 Teaspoons turmeric
700ml cider vinegar 5% acidity {23 oz}

Rubber Gloves
Very large metal or enamel saucepan - I use one that can hold 4 litres - you need room to stir!
4 x 1/2 litre jars or equivalent

Core, peel and roughly chop apples.
Finely chop onion.
Seed the chillies and chop finely WEARING RUBBER GLOVES to prevent burns.
Put all ingredients into the pan and bring to boil.
Cook over medium heat for 40 minutes, and until the mixture is thick and evenly brown.
Spoon into clean sterilized jars.
Re-using glass Jars
Re using glass jars is economically sensible and environmentally sound. According to, the energy saved from recycling one glass bottle can run a 100-watt light bulb for four hours. It also causes 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution than when a new bottle is made from raw materials. So, it's worth saving your old pasta sauce jars and giving them another use. {editorial from Phelan, if re-using pasta sauce jars to can, do not use them in a pressure cooker. In the US, the USDA says they shouldn't be used to can at all. They are weaker than jars bought for home canning and can break in a pressure canner}

Sterilizing them for home use is much simpler than you might think. Turn the oven to 140 degrees C / Gas Mark 1 {284f}. Wash your jars and lids thoroughly in very hot soapy water and rinse, and then put them on a baking sheet in the hot oven until you need them. This sterilizes the jars - they should be still warm when you are filling them later. Some people place waxed paper circles onto the preserve before sealing the lids - this prevents air coming into contact with the food. If you are only making small quantities you are likely to have eaten it all before there is any danger of it having gone off, but if you are planning to make a large quantity you can buy waxed circles and polythene circles (to replace lost lids) from, or your local store. My only caution would be to say that hot jars and preserves, and kids and animals do not mix, so please keep them elsewhere whilst you are doing this. I like to clear an afternoon, and turn the radio up, so I can get on with it undisturbed.

I hope I have tempted you to give the chutney a whirl, and I would be really pleased to hear about your results.

Thanks for having me, Phelan, and if you ever fancy dropping by for a cheese and chutney sandwich and some jam scones and cream, the door is always open.


And thank you! I have yet to make any Flaming Chutney. Looks wonderful! I am asking Ali to be a semi regular guest blogger, as she has a few other things she wants to talk about, things that I am indeed interested in knowing and learning.

There is a lot of details in her post, if you have any questions for her about what you have read above, please leave a comment. She is a regular reader of my blog, and will be around to answer any of your questions.

Ali is also the owner and creator of Farley Heath Designs, The same store I bought my wonderful hand socks, a.k.a. wrist warmers, from.

As soon as I am done with that hike through Ireland I have been promised by another, I will stop by for some of that delicious looking chutney.

Want to be a guest blogger? Have something to teach me, or a neophyte story of your own? Please e-mail me at eirennaigh at juno dot com. Please keep it on topic to do-it-yourself.


Peter said...

Good, sturdy tucker, that! Ali has her roots in the countryside, and it shows. I've met her several times in London now, and if ever there was a person more inclined to back a cake than slide down to the supermarket, it is Ali. And she has a great flair for craft and art. The perfect urban homesteader - putting common sense and imagination ahead of the latest mass marketed technopap.

Peter said...

Err, that should read bake a cake, of course...

jeanne said...

Can't wait to make the flaming chutney.

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