Maybe this is a British thing, but there often isn’t anything better than some lovely soft cheese, a decent slice of bread, and some great chutney. Pair it with a glass of wine and you have a lunch fit for champions.
My love affair with chutney really started back in England, in my early twenties. A friend and I every weekend would go off for a walk through the countryside, chew the fat a bit (talk a bunch of complete crap), get thoroughly lost, but somehow always manage to end up at a pub.. Actually if you have been to England you will know it isn’t too hard to always end up a pub.
Lunch would be a pint of local ale, and a “Ploughmans”. A ploughmans lunch is really just a big piece of bread (normally a baguette), a honking big piece of cheese – most likely a local cheddar, and some chutney or pickle. Sometimes there would be lettuce, other times a wee bit of tomato. It didn’t matter, it was all about the cheese and chutney.
This was normally a mellow lunch out in the pub garden – looking over the countryside we just got completely lost through. The next few hours were then spent working our way home, slightly tipsy with bellies full.
But you know the funny thing. Since moving to Seattle 7 years ago I haven’t had chutney. I was never much of a fan of the jarred variety (normally Branston’s in England), it lacked a lot of character. I also thought it was just too much of a pain to make, but in all honesty I had never read a recipe for it.
The traditional British chutney is a pretty rich affair. Very flavorful with a mix of spices (but not “spicy”), and a decent balance of sugar and vinegar. Traditionally a dark brown sugar is used, which furthers the flavor with deep molasses. The spices would often include ginger and clove, making for a pretty flavorful mix – especially once it has been fermenting for a while!
So chutney is really just a mix of vegetables, fruit, sugar, vinegar and spices that have all cooked together for a while. The trick is balancing the sweet with the acidity (vinegar). The trick is also letting it ferment in the fridge long enough to get some decent flavor out of it. I think I mentioned in my last post that I am rather impatient.. well, making chutney and curing meat are two things I never thought I would do because of this.
The first chutney I made a few months ago was using a recipe from the excellent “River Cottage Cookbook” by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. This was a very traditional English chutney, spice forward and a little sweet. It was good. Very good. In fact, it is so good I have even managed to leave a container of it in the back of the fridge for a couple of months without touching it. I think I will open it in January for a special occasion.
The chutney that I present to you here is my modification of Hugh’s original recipe. The veg and fruits are changed. I am now using a mix of white and brown sugar (to cut back some of the molasses flavor), and a different range of spices. I have however kept the basic ratios of things the same – there is no need to mess around with them, the original is a pretty well balanced chutney.
The main spice flavors here are sage and coriander seed – two flavors I just love with winter squash. You can use practically any squash you want. A combination is nice – even if it is just to prevent boredom peeling and chopping the same kind of squash all the time.
So this recipe is great for all you CSA freaks out there. I know you lot.. you at this time have 10000lb’s of winter squash sitting in your pantry, and not much else. Nothing wrong with that, but you can only roast so much of it.
Thankfully, this recipe will make even the largest tower of squash look a lot smaller by the time you are done peeling and dicing, and for this recipe you will be doing A LOT of peeling and dicing.
Talk about a recipe to hone those knife skills, and give you blisters.
It is worth it though. Cheese just seems kinda naked now without chutney.
This is really a recipe for a lazy afternoon. It takes a while. Just the prep work takes a couple of hours. The cooking is around 3 hours. I find the whole chopping part far more agreeable, and in fact enjoyable with a glass of wine, but that goes for a lot of things in life!
Oh – every veg and fruit gets peeled and diced. I wouldn’t worry a crazy amount about getting the perfect dice here.. It is cooking for 3 hours – slight variations in dice size isn’t really going to effect the cooking of each dice piece!
Winter Squash Chutney
4lb of winter squash (any variety, or a combination) – diced
1lb of cooking apples – cored, peeled and diced
1lb of onions – peeled and diced
1lb of golden raisins or sultanas
3/4lb white sugar
1/4lb light brown sugar
2 1/2 cups of white wine vinegar
a pinch of salt
a handful of sage leaves
30-40 corriander seeds (roughly)
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
Put the corriander seeds, sage and black peppercorns in a piece of cheesecloth, and tie up the end – this is our spice bag.
Combine all the other ingredients in a large saucepan, and put the spice bag in. Bring this slowly to the boil, then cook uncovered for 2 to 3 hours. Stir occasionally.
The chutney is done when it is reduced, and if you run a spoon through it the mixture should stay parted so you can see the bottom of the pan.
Allow the chutney to cool slightly, then put into sterilized jars.
Store the jars in the fridge (some people see no problem leaving them on a pantry shelf however – apparently the ferment better that way… I am sure they do) for at least two weeks before munching.. 2 months however will make the chutney even better.