As followers on Twitter and FB probably well know I’ve been up to more than a spot of preserving of late. It’s my latest addiction, as if I need any more of those. My Dad’s the King of Jams, Chutneys and Pickles and I have a feeling he’s passed his enthusiastic genes for it on to me!. Which is great, but time consuming. Many an evening has been spent peeling, dicing, de-stoning, chopping, stirring, testing, sterilising and jarring. And then obviously the tasting. And all the crackers, bread and cheese to go with it!. I rarely get to bed much before midnight on my chutneying nights. And to be honest my cupboards are now fit to bursting with so many goodies, but at least I have christmas presents totally nailed this year.
My Dad’s been making Hedgerow Chutney for years, and it happens to be everyone’s favourite of all his chutney recipes (and he makes quite a number!). Each autumn he takes a long walk around the field at the back of his house in Herefordshire picking all the freebie hedgerow goodies he can find and transforms them into this marvellously fruitful chutney. There’s always plenty of damsons, bullaces, sloes, blackberries and a few elderberries. Plus pears or apples for smoothing and bulking out. We don’t have quite the same fruit in our hedgerows in France but I thought I’d make my own French version picking the fruit from our garden and nearby tracks and lanes, managing to find plenty of figs, greengages, plums, pears, blackberries and sloes just before the season finished a couple of weeks ago. We’ve elderberries here too but they were way past their best by the time I got into full chutney mode.
There’s no escaping how time consuming and labourious chutney making can be, especially when using so much fruit that needs hefty preparatory work. I realise now why it’s a hobby generally taken up by retired folk. But the results are so worth it, if you can spare it set aside a whole evening in the kitchen and wile away the hours getting lost in music or the radio or even catching up on a few programmes on You Tube.
Every year my Dad’s Hedgerow Chutney is slightly different depending on which fruits have been particularly fruitful that year so feel free to use in whatever quantities you happen to find, but go easy on too many woody elderberries (which are particularly fiddly anyway).
Particularly fabulous with goats cheese, but to be honest it’s pretty good with any cheese or cold cut really. Bread or crackers, or to liven up a sandwich. Or just as a spread on it’s own.
Makes 8 to 12 jars (depending obviously on the size of your jars!)
3 kilos of prepared hedgerow fruit, washed and de-stoned
a kilo of apples or pears, peeled, cored and finely chopped
a kilo of onions, finely diced
150g of fresh ginger, grated
1300g of demerera sugar
800ml of malt or cider vinegar (I use cider as I can’t source malt vinegar in France)
a teaspoon of salt
Special Equipment: A very large pan, 8 to 12 sterilised jars and lids
Start with prepping all your fruit. If using elderberries and/or sloes boil them in a pan with a little water for 10 minutes to soften a little before passing through a sieve to remove the skin and pips. Remove the stones from all other stoned fruit (bullaces, damsons, plums or greengages) and cut to an equal size. Smaller fruit can be just chopped in two, but larger plums should be diced some more.
Peel the apples and pears, core and finely dice. Dice any other fruit you’re using. Blackberries may be left whole. Finally dice the onions (I actually cheated with the onions and briefly pulsed them in my food processor to save on a little time).
Place all the fruit and onion in a large pan, preferably a jam pan or maslin. I actually use a very large stock pot for all my jams and chutneys. Pour in the vinegar and sugar together with the grated ginger and salt.
Place on the hob on a high heat and bring everything to a simmer. Cook fairly furiously for at least an hour, stirring very regularly so nothing catches on the bottom. The chutney should be considerably thickened and the surplus liquid evaporated. You should be able to cross a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan and see the bottom.
Ladle into sterilised jars and screw the lids on immediately. Leave to mature for at least 2 months (if you can resist!).
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