Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chutney Apocalypse Regained

The clamour to know about my adventures in chutney making has retched reached such a pitch that I can now do no more than accede to the wishes of my readers (sit up there, at the back. Yes, you). My recipe comes from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book which despite being flanked on our shelves by trendier volumes such as Delia Does Devizes and Nigella's Trifles gets a lot more use here at the Maison Des Girrafes, I can tell you.

Having a surfeit of home-grown cooking apples as big as babies' heads that rain down on the just and the unjust alike as small warheads so that the bunnies have to wear crash helmets, apples are always in the frame. Marrows, well, let's say I have a reliable supplier. Put the two together and you have marrow and apple chutney, and here is the recipe from the GHCB, more or less from memory, except that the quantities here are double what they are in the book. Please note that my memory might be faulty. Restrictions may apply. (Closed Wednesdays).

8lbs marrow, peeled and chopped;
6oz salt;
4lbs cooking apples, peeled, cored, and finely chopped;
A bicycle pedal;
2lbs ladies of shallots, hung, drawn and quartered;
2lbs soft brown sugar, just like a young girl should, yeah;
4pts tickling vinegar;
One of those ordinary Northumbrian spokeshaver's coracles;
two pinches of ground ginger;
1 oz tickling spice.

This is what it looks like.
The process begins the night before the morning after. Once the crepuscular shades of evening had descended over the cerulean welkin, I chopped the marrows and placed them in layers in the ordinary Northumbrian spokeshaver's coracle, alternated with layers of salt. The theory is that the somewhat bitter juices of the native marrow are sucked out, by enosis osmosis, as it were. This can take all night. Here is a time-lapse photograph of this process in action. Watch carefully.
The next morning I rinsed and drained the marrow pieces and plonked them into my jam kettle, along with all the other ingredients. At first they looked like this.
But wait, there's more. I brought the cauldron to the boil...
... and then left it to simmer for some hours while I mucked out the chickens and the guinea pigs, cleared the cat litter and did sundry other chores. But you don't want to know any of that, so here is a cute pet picture while you're waiting.
Some hours later the cauldron has reached what cordon-bleu chefs and farmers' wives alike describe as the 'volcanic' stage.
Beneath the noxious medieval reek you can see that the volume has reduced quite a lot. At this point approaching the cauldron is extremely dangerous, as red-hot gobbets of glop fly out in all directions without warning, scaring teh kittehs. Things settle down, however, allowing even the fair hand of Crox Minima to spoon the hot chutney into jars ...
...which have previously been washed, dried and heated for 300 years in the ancestral ovens to make sure that they are bone dry. And here is the finished product,
approximately 9lbs of Chutney Des Girrafes.

What of the taste? Well, new-made chutney tastes mostly of vinegar. It takes a while for the full flavour to develop. However, experimental tastings did record that the full apple-marrow-shallot experience did penetrate the over-riding acidity even before bottling. There was, however, a rather worrying note of caramel, which meant only one thing - the chutney got a bit burned, which might account for its somewhat darker-than-expected colour. And the bottom of my jam kettle looks like that part of Star Wars in which Han Solo is encased in carbonite. I am hoping that soaking it in Bar-Keepers' Friend overnight will cure it.

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