The nights are cool, the days are warm and at the market stalls are heaving with the jewel tones of autumn: the deep purple of eggplant, the oranges of squash and pumpkins, and of course, the many different reds of the tomatoes. I hate to see tomato season end, so this time of the year for me is all about capturing them and keeping them hostage for the long winter ahead. For years, I’ve spent the dog days of summer furiously trying to capture the tomatoes before they disappear! I’ve frozen quantities of Bolognese Sauce and tomato soup, but last year I got on a chutney jag that included this amazing recipe from The British Larder for Tomato & Ginger chutney.
Chutney forces one to be patient. A good chutney needs to “set” at least three months while the ingredients…what do they do? Do they “CHUT?” I’m not sure — anyone out there know? In any case, I went to town, made a large batch and arranged them in the back of the refrigerator in early September and returned nervously to them in mid November. I was overjoyed with the results! This chutney is tangy and sweet, with just the right amount of zing! Chutney has so many uses, and these jars came out of the fridge to liven up chicken, as a particularly fun burger topping, in a panini, but I mainly like to pair it with cheese. Add a nice baguette from Volkhonsky and glass of wine and suddenly a snack becomes a meal!
This is much easier than it might seem, so pick up a kilo of tomatoes from the market and sock them away in the form of this delightful condiment. The snow will fly soon enough!
500 gm (1 lb) fresh tomatoes (seeded, and roughly chopped)
Sea salt and pepper
Sterilize glass jars (see note below)
Prepare the tomatoes: wash them thoroughly, then remove the core and any blemishes. Scoop out the seeds with the edge of a teaspoon and then roughly chop.
Place the vinegar, sugar, cardamom, onion, ginger, garlic, coriander seeds and thyme in a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven. Cook over low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
Bring the mixture to a rapid boil and cook until it thickens and reaches the consistency of syrup.
Add the tomato puree, chopped tomatoes, bay leaf, dried fruit, crystalized ginger and reduce heat to a low simmer.
Now step back and let the mixture cook covered to the desired consistency. Chutney should be thicker than jam with very little runny juice, but be aware that it will thicken as it cools. To test, put a spoonful of chutney on a plate.
Now step back and let the mixture cook covered to the desired consistency. Chutney should be thicker than jam with very little runny juice, but be aware that it will thicken as it cools. To test, put a spoonful of chutney on a plate, then into the freezer for 3 minutes. The result will approximate the thickness you will achieve after the chutney “sets.” Count on at least thirty minutes, after which, check frequently.
Once you have reached the desired thickness, add the thyme and onion seeds, then salt and pepper to taste.
Let cool completely, then spoon into prepared jars, top each with a sprig of thyme, then seal, and store in the fridge for at least two months!
A Note on Sterilizing Jars in Moscow:
Moscow kitchens and pantries make a full blown canning operation impractical at best and impossible at worst. I store my chutney in the fridge at this time of the year, since finding that “cool, dark place” in my Moscow flat at this time of the year is nigh on impossible! If you can’t face Russian canning jars, cut a few corners by getting your “СЛУМ” jars with rubber rings at good old IKEA and sterilize them using this method:
Remove the rubber rings from the jars and wash jars and rings in hot soapy water.
Preheat oven to 50 C (125 F) and place the rack in the middle position.
Line a baking sheet or roasting pan with a towel and arrange the jars so that there is ample space between each. Fill each jar 2/3 of the way with water.
Place jars in the oven and set the timer for 60 minutes.
Fill a saucepan with cool water and bring to a roiling boil. Drop the rubber rings into the boiling water and let cook for five minutes. Remove from heat and use a pair of tongs to remove the rings to a clean tea towel.
Fold a bath towel in half and place it on the counter. Remove the sterilized jars from the oven and allow them to cool slightly. Use a pair of oven mitts to handle the jars, but take care not to let the mitts touch the inside of the jars. Decant the water from each jar and place it on the towel.
Spoon the chutney or jam into each jar with a clean spoon, then use a pair of tongs to position a sterilized rubber ring onto the rim of each jar. Close and refrigerate!
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