The only reason this is called a Christmas chutney is because this is the time of year that I make it – a great big pot of it. It easily lasts a year if stored somewhere cool and dark, and once opened a jar will safely last a month in the fridge – though to be absolutely honest a jar did once get lost in the depths of my fridge for I don’t know how many months and it was still delicious – and safe to eat – after all that time. That shouldn’t be surprising, this is, after all, a pickle. In fact it is quite similar to a very well known high street brand of pickle, but better, of course.
I like giving home-made edible presents at Christmas: sloe gin, shortbread, biscuits for cheese and this chutney are ever-present elements of a small, home-made gift hamper. I don’t think there is a better present that you can give; after all, what can be more precious than giving someone your time, thought and energy?
I am indebted to Nigella Lawson for this recipe. It came from ‘Nigella Christmas’ and as is usual with Nigella’s recipes it is perfect just as she wrote it.
You will need a sufficient number of jars in which to store this chutney; the sizes don’t really matter, you can re-use old jam jars if you wish or use small Kilner jars. A jam funnel is useful for getting the chutney into the jars cleanly, and you will also need wax discs to put on top of the chutney before putting the lids on.
The longer this chutney is allowed to sit in the cupboard, the better it will be!
RECIPE – makes around 2.25 litres
750g cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
500g fresh or frozen cranberries (thaw them if frozen)
250g soft, pitted dates, each cut into six pieces
2 clementines or satsumas
400g golden caster sugar
1 tsp whole cloves, finely ground in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder
1 heaped tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
500ml white wine vinegar
2 tsp sea salt flakes (or 1 tsp table salt)
Put the apples, onion, cranberries and dates into a large pan, then grate the zest of the clementines/satsumas over the top, squeeze in the juice then scrape out the pulp, chop it finely and add to the pan. The pectin in the pulp helps the chutney to thicken up.
Add the sugar, ground cloves, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and salt, then pour in the vinegar. Give it a good stir and turn on the heat. At this point your chutney will look something like this:
Bring it to the boil then reduce it to a gentle simmer and let it bubble away, uncovered for about an hour until you have a dark, thick, sticky mass of deliciousness.
While the chutney is doing its thing, sterilise your jars and lids: heat the oven to 140C/ gas 1 and wash your jars and lids in hot soapy water, rinse and let them dry out in the warmed oven. When you take them out to use them, keep your grubby fingers away from the insides of the lids and jars or you will undo your good work.
When the chutney is ready to put into the jars, while it and the jars are still warm, fill the jars to within 5mm of the top, place a wax disc on top and put the lid on. Allow it to cool completely; the warm air in the jar will contract as it cools and provide you with a sterile vacuum which allows your chutney to last without spoiling.