Tending an allotment plot offers countless delights throughout the year: seeing the first green growth in spring, or the new shoots of seedlings, a deep connection with nature and the seasons. And of course, using your home-grown produce to create delicious food! Now as we reach the end of the growing season, and begin to clear the remains of exhausted summer crops and prepare beds for the winter, its good to sit back ponder on the successes and lesson of the past year and of course to enjoy the fruits of our labours – literally! Today, I opened the first jar from this year’s batch of chutney; an exciting moment as I have been waiting since the end of August to dig in!
Chutney making is a highlight of late summer or early autumn. Last year, we were moving house, and so I was too busy. I really missed having a jar in the fridge and dollops of prickled goodness in my sandwiches, and I was determined this year would be a different story!
The day in question turned out to be August 23rd, a Friday. It was the first day of two weeks annual leave from work; my end of summer holiday and the start of my favourite time of year. Each evening during that week leading up to the 23rd, I harvested the ingredients I needed, initially from the allotment, then from the community orchard beside my home. Massive green marrows, slender shallots, multi-shaded carrots and punchy garlic… crunchy apples and soft pears.
I finished work on Thursday afternoon, and headed home to the kitchen. There I spent the rest of the evening happily chopping and preparing the vegetables, spice mix, and glass jars, listening to Sir David Attenborough regaling me with stories of distant adventures, via the audiobook of his ‘Life Stories’.
The chutney itself turned out to be a golden mustardy wonder – a lot like a good old fashioned piccalilli – perfect with some strong cheese, a thick chunk of cooked ham, and a dollop of mash potato… or in a crusty-bread ploughman’s sandwich!
If you’d like to have a go at making a few jars of Potting Shed Pickle yourself they make great gifts for (whispers) …Christmas?!
Recipe: Potting Shed Pickle
(Spiced Marrow chutney with apples, pear, carrot, shallot & ginger)
- 1.5kg marrow – approx. 2 large fruits, peeled & de-seeded, chopped small
- 225-250g each:
- Shallot, peeled and chopped small
- Carrot, grated
- Apple and pear, cored, peeled, chopped small
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 spoons fresh ginger (I used a ‘lazy’ jar), chopped fine (or peeled and grated if using a fresh root)
- A generous pinch of chilli flakes and turmeric
- Spices (I was very generous with these, adjust
- 1 tablespoon each, Cumin & Corriander seeds
- 1.5 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
- Half tablespoon black peppercorns
- Rosemary, bay leaves and 1 cinnamon stick broken up.
- 250g Demerara sugar
- 850ml apple cyder vinegar
Prepare the ingredients the night before. Chopped marrow and shallot can be placed in colanders over bowls or saucepans, sprinkled generously with salt, and leave overnight. By the morning, much of the excess moisture in the veg will have collected in the bowl underneath, and can be discarded.
The whole spices and herbs can be combined, put them in an infuser bag, or pile them in the middle of a piece of muslin and tie tightly to form a ball with all the spices secured inside.
Top tip! To make peeling shallots and garlic easier, immerse them in hot water for a few minutes – top and tail, and the skin peels off without any effort at all!
Place a big metal preserving pan on your hob (Don’t use your best saucepan! This is a big quantity of veg and liquid – a heavy bottomed preserving pan is best and they are inexpensive online! I picked up mine in my local hardware store a few years ago and keep it at my mum’s kitchen as she has more space than my tiny flat!).
Add the turmeric, chilli, ginger and garlic to the pan, followed by the shallots. Fry this mixture for a moment before adding the carrot. Take your time, keep the heat low, don’t burn the spices!
Add the marrow and fruit, all the time mixing well so everything is combined.
Stir in the sugar.
Drop in your muslin ball or bag of spices. Pour in the vinegar. Stir well and bring to the boil.
Reduce the heat to a simmer, and stir frequently.
Sterilise the jars by washing in HOT soapy water, and place them in a warm oven to dry and keep warm until needed.
As the chutney cooks, stir frequently to make sure everything is well combined and the mixure does not catch or burn on the bottom of the pan. It should take about 45 minutes to 1 hour to reduce and thicken. Use a potato masher to make smoother chutney is the marrow chunks are too big (remove the spice ball when you do this!)
The chutney is ready when a spoon dragged through the mixture leaves a trail behind that is not immediately filled with liquid.
Spoon carefully into the hot jars (a wide funnel helps) and secure lids tightly. Label clearly once cooled and leave of at least 1 month to mature!
This made 15x 70z/190ml/63mm round jars of wonderful mustardy, spicy yellow chutney.
The recipe is adaptable to your tastes and available ingredients just keep the approximate proportions of fruit/veg to sugar and vinegar the same and have fun with flavours!
I’d love to know what version you create!