By Laura Grimes
We stumbled upon chutney lust quite by accident. One summer we had a gangly vine in the backyard that produced nothing but tiny green tomatoes. Lots of them.
So I checked into what I could do with them and picked a recipe as much for its liberal use of a certain bracing spice as for its green tomatoes. I had a largish stash of crystallized ginger in the cupboard that I needed to use up.
The chutney flavor was an irresistible blend of sweet and tangy with just a little pow of hot. We were hooked. And when a neighbor handed me a grocery bag full of apples from his trees, I was ready to experiment some more.
I found another recipe, cooked up all the apples in a blink and still had ingredients. Somewhat sheepishly I took the empty grocery bag back next door and said, “Please, sir, may I have another?” I thought I could rummage around on the neighbor’s lawn for fallen apples and reach some low-hanging branches, but the guilt really set in when he immediately fetched a tall ladder and climbed way up into a tree to pick some more. I had to foist a lot of jars of chutney on him to make up for it.
Since then apple chutney has become another annual canning tradition.
The number of batches has increased steadily over the years as we realized we kept running out way too soon. One year I made batch after batch over several days because friends kept asking how to make it and I gave lessons and split the booty.
Now Mr. Scatter and I make it together. He’s the slicer and dicer, and I’m the pot-stirrer and jar-filler. Last year, we made a couple of batches, but the number of jars looked way too skimpy. So we made a few more, but still we didn’t think we had enough. So we made a few more, and it turned out to be just right.
Some years we have made special trips up the Columbia River Gorge in October to buy apples. This year we started a bit early because I couldn’t pass up a bin full of crisp, local apples when we were shopping for pickling cukes, and anyway, it was handy to stock up on similar ingredients needed for pickles and take advantage of all the canning supplies already sprawled all over the kitchen.
The galas turned out to be wonderfully firm and juicy and just perfect for our primo apple crank. Using this gizmo is a highlight of harvest season, and we love to see how long we can make a single peel. I’ve had multiple kids lined up for a chance to peel their own apple. The Small Large Smelly Boy won this year with a strip as long as a jump rope!
This is what I call the sandcastle phase. Throw together most of the ingredients and carefully plop out perfectly formed cups of brown sugar. Then pour on vinegar so that the sugar splendidly dissolves into mush.
Cook it all up for what seems like forever until it’s brown and thick and doesn’t look like anything interesting.
Load up jars, give them a hot bath, break your back, break a sweat and presto, 39 little gems full of sweet and sour just waiting for a cracker. Our sinful treat is to spread it on naan bread, dab it with goat cheese and warm it in the oven.
A jar of apple chutney sat in my mom’s fridge for months until I hauled it out and put it on the kitchen table. Now she makes her own.
What’s ahead: I reach the simmer point with all the canning lessons I’ve learned.
What’s behind: We were in the throes of passion — making pickles. Read it here.