We’re big fans of turning surplus fruit and veg into tasty chutney, so who better to ask for some top tips than Emma Horn, whose chutney recipe was recently voted the best in the land…
Your grandmother’s chutney recipe was the winner at last year’s ‘Chutfest’. Why did you decide to enter the competition?
When I saw an advert on the National Trust website for Chutfest 2011, a festival celebrating all things chutney related, I felt confident that we had a winning recipe. ‘Grandmother’s Chutney’ has been enjoyed by our family, young and old, for nearly 100 years. It was my grandmother’s recipe, but we are not sure where she found it. It could have come from the cookery school she attended in Edinburgh after working as a land girl in the First World War. Or it may have come from India, where she lived later. It has always been known to us as Grandmother’s Indian Chutney.
The recipe was passed down to her daughters and now to her grandchildren and there is always a jar or two ready in the cupboard. It went down very well at one school Christmas Fair and friends frequently ask for a pot, even those who claim not to like chutney.
At Chutfest, Grandmother’s Chutney was entered into the ‘My Favourite Chutney’ category and the whole family was thrilled when we won. The judges, food writer Vivien Lloyd and the owner of Tracklements, Guy Tulberg, loved its ‘gorgeous fruity flavour’ and the story of its possible origin.
Your family must be very proud. Do you have memories of eating the chutney when you were growing up?
When I was a child my grandmother lived in the highlands of Scotland and every summer we would go there for the holidays. I have very fond memories of sitting next to her at the table, eating cold meat and salad accompanied by her chutney and the delicious pickled onions she made with her own home-grown baby onions.
I also remember coming back from a blowy day on the beach to a supper of melted cheese on toast with grandmother’s chutney bubbling on the top. Delicious.
What are the main ingredients of good chutney?
Chutney originated in India and was a mix of uncooked fruit, green chilli, herbs and spices combined with vinegar or tamarind juice. When chutney came to England it was adapted as a way of preserving the surplus fruit and vegetables from the autumn harvest by cooking in vinegar and sugar and flavouring with spices.
A good chutney should be thick and full of flavour, but it can be made with almost any fruit or vegetable, from tomatoes and cucumber, to apricots and apples. Dried fruits work particularly well as they retain their texture after cooking. Finding the perfect balance of ingredients is the key to good chutney. Too much spice and it can overpower the flavour, too little and the chutney is bland. Getting the right balance of sugar and vinegar is also key. In flavour, it has to sit between a pickle and a jam.
And are there any special tips to follow when making it?
Try to use whole spice rather than ground as this can make the chutney look dull and cloudy.
We cook the fruit first with the vinegar until softened, and then add the sugar and salt. If the sugar is added to early it can make the chutney taste too much of caramelised sugar.
Once the chutney is in the jars, store in a cool dark place. An old-fashioned larder is perfect but under the bed in a spare bedroom where the heating is turned off is just as good. Leaving the chutney for at least three months allows the acids from the vinegar to soften and the fruity flavours to mature and blend together.
You’re now looking at turning your chutney making into a business. Are there any other products you’ll be making?
We are making grandmother’s chutney under the umbrella brand name of ‘Grandmother’s Larder’. This autumn we are including a deliciously sweet blackberry and apple jam. Grandmother told me that during the war in Surrey she remembers picking blackberries in glorious September sunshine watching the Battle of Britain in the skies above. It sounds strange now but free food was very important then.
We may add more products to the Grandmother’s Larder range, including her recipes for marmalade and Scottish raspberry jam.
It seems you can make chutney out of almost anything. What are the more unusual ingredients you have tried?
Grandmother’s chutney is so good, we never felt the need to try anything else. Some years she would make her delicious green tomato chutney but that was always dependable on there being any green tomatoes left at the end of the season.
And, finally, what do you think goes best with your chutney?
Boxing day, cold turkey, ham and stuffing, a lovely big green salad, some gorgeously golden brown and crispy buttery baked potatoes and a huge dollop of grandmother’s chutney.
It is also perfect with any sort of cheese. From a strong blue where its fruity softness mellows the strong flavours, to mild cheddar where its hint of ginger and dried fruits adds some zing. And maybe because of its possible Indian origin it’s also amazing with curry. Move over mango chutney!
For more information or to place an order please email Emma Horn at firstname.lastname@example.org