Jam is so last week. The jam shelf in the cupboard is full. My husband is not enormously impressed with this state of affairs because the jam shares shelf space with his beer. There’s lots of one and not a lot of the other in the cupboard at the moment.
Instead, around here it’s all about chutney. The chutney shelf is bare after a poor chutney year in 2009. I only managed a desperate batch of runner bean chutney in July last year when it appeared that the runner beans were trying to take over the world. My husband said he liked it, but it’s an act that I’ll only be repeating if we’re really, really desperate. For the rest of the time I was under medical orders not to pick up anything as heavy as the preserving pan, and so the chutney shelf lay mostly bare.
So, chutney. The chutney shares a shelf with the pickled beetroot, but I haven’t pickled any beetroot yet this year. So there’s plenty of room. I started with my favourite recipe, taken from the BBC Good Food Magazine a few years ago. It’s called Christmas chutney because it’s made now and left to mature, and is ready just in time for the festive season. The ingredients are lots of apples, some sultanas, a little bit of garlic and ginger, a few spices, the usual sugar and vinegar – et voila, a light, tasty chutney.
Other favourites around here are Delia’s Dowerhouse chutney (if there are enough spare plums on the trees in the orchard) and green tomato chutney (if there are unripe tomatoes at the end of the season).
I find chutneys easier to make than jam. So long as you gently cook them for long enough, there’s not the worry about them setting. They make the house stink of vinegar though, which is not as nice as the scent of cooking fruit that wafts around when making jam. Another disadvantage is the amount of time they have to be left to ‘mature’ before they’re eaten.
I’m off to the cash and carry to buy an industrial sized bottle of malt vinegar in preparation for this season’s chutney making. Since the farm is a business, we’re officially allowed to be a member of the cash and carry. I went to join recently, a little guiltily because all I wanted at the time was lots and lots of distilled vinegar to strip my son’s nappies which, as does tend to happen to washable nappies, had developed an odour (euphemistically known as ‘barnyard bum’).
On the back of the cash and carry joining form was a list of businesses but none of them were ‘farm’ and when I was asked what I would be buying I answered ‘vinegar, and sugar… and stuff’. I didn’t want to admit that most of what I would be looking for was for the house and my cooking and a tiny bit would be stuff for the farm. On the up side, I needed an official business title for the cash and carry card so I’m now ‘head of purchasing’ for the farm, rather than ‘go-fer’.
One thing I will not be buying from the cash and carry for now is jam. Or chutney. That’s got to be a good thing.