Saturday, 17 October 2009

Tomato chutney

My mum has to be the only person I know who likes it when blight strikes my tomatoes. This is because she loves my green tomato chutney. I say 'my' but in fact the recipe is my grandma's - that's my mum's mum. I grew up with the flavour of this chutney in cheese and chutney sandwiches both from visits to my grandma's house and also because my mum had jars of the stuff in her cupboard too. I don't think that my mum has ever made it herself so not only does she love the flavour of it but also the memories it holds. So when blight strikes I end up harvesting my tomatoes whilst still green - thus green tomato chutney.

Unfortunately, from my mum's point of view, I sprayed my tomatoes this year with copper sulphate at fortnightly intervals and managed to go the whole season without a single plant succumbing to the dreaded disease. From August to October I harvested ripe tomatoes every week and despite my youngest daughter's attempt to eat every tomato available, even she couldn't keep up and I have had pounds and pounds of tomatoes off the plot. Most of them have ended up in my freezer with the intention of turning them into chutney at a later date. What I hadn't realised with this slow accumulation was exactly how many pounds of tomatoes I had stashed away. And then, with the final harvest last weekend, I had pounds more tomatoes strung up in my kitchen.

Over and over again you hear people on the telly and read stuff in gardening magazines saying that if you have to pick tomatoes green just put them in a bag or drawer with a ripe apple or banana and the ethylene released from the fruit will cause the tomatoes to ripen. Well, in my experience, this isn't the case. If a tomato has started to ripen, no matter how slight, then this method will work but if it hasn't then it will stay green. It can sit happily on a sunny windowsill for weeks and weeks neither going mouldy nor turning ripe. So, even without the dreaded blight, at this time of year there are always enough green tomatoes to make green tomato chutney.

Green tomato chutney

Makes 2-4 jars
2lb (900 g) green tomatoes
1lb (454g) cooking apples
8 oz (225g) onions
1 oz (25g) salt
4 oz (110g) sultanas
1 pint (660 ml) malt vinegar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon pickling spice (e.g. cloves, cinnamon, allspice berries)
8 oz (225g) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon black treacle

Coarsely chop the tomatoes then peel, core and chop the apples (weigh after preparation). Peel and chop the onions and tie the spices in a piece of muslin. Mix all the ingredients except the sugar and treacle in the preserving pan and bring to the boil. Drop in the spices. Simmer gently, uncovered, until the pulp is tender (20 to 30 minutes). Add the sugar and treacle and stir well until it has completely dissolved. Bring back to the boil and continue to boil until thick. Pour into warm jars and seal immediately.

From the strings of tomatoes hanging in my kitchen I managed by mid week to pick enough red tomatoes to make the very tasty red tomato and ale chutney.

Red tomato and ale chutney

Makes 4-5 jars
4 lb (1815g) red tomatoes
12 oz (340g) onions
2-3 cloves garlic
12 oz (340g) sultanas
12 oz (340g) soft light brown sugar
12 fl oz (350ml) malt vinegar
6 fl oz (175ml) ale
1½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Puree the tomatoes to remove the skin and seeds. Plunge the tomatoes in hot water and then into cold then pinching off the skin. Roughly chop and blend in a blender then sieve to remove the seeds. Pour the puree into a preserving pan. Finely chop the onions and garlic and add these and the rest of the ingredients to the pan. Bring to the boil then simmer for 2-3 hours until thick, stirring occasionally. Ladle into warmed jars and seal.

Then to complete the set, at the end of the week, I thawed out 2 pounds of yellow tomatoes for my yellow tomato and pumpkin chutney.

Yellow Tomato and Pumpkin Chutney

Makes 3-4 jars
2 lb (900g) chopped pumpkin flesh
2 lb (900g) yellow tomatoes, skin and seeds removed.
12 oz (340g) onions
2 tablespoons of salt
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
3 teaspoons of turmeric
2 teaspoons of ground allspice
Freshly ground black pepper
5 garlic cloves, crushed
20 fl oz (500 ml) white wine vinegar
1 lb (454g) granulated sugar
2 oz (55g) stem ginger

Put all the ingredients except the sugar and stem ginger into a preserving pan and mix well. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 45 minutes until very soft. Stir in the sugar and stir until dissolved then simmer until the chutney is thick (about one and half hours). Add the freshly chopped stem ginger to the chutney and ladle into the jars and seal immediately.

What a satisfying week that was but with two drawbacks. The first is that I have made jars and jars of chutney and hardly touched the pounds of frozen tomatoes in my freezer. And the second is I had to cut into a pumpkin to make the yellow tomato chutney. So, now I have most of a huge pumpkin to use up. Well, folks, tune in to the next exciting installment to find out what I did with the pumpkin!

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