It is a bit bad to be thinking ahead to winter – even though the press releases for Christmas presents have been arriving for a month now and I am just working up to writing my December copy. I caught myself slightly wishing to snuggle up in a jumper the other day, in the absence of blazing sunshine. (In spring there is the opposite problem and I have to keep reminding myself that it is not too late to sow seeds).
But while my mind is working towards winter, my apple tree is thinking about autumn. It is a lovely tree – big chunky cooking apples that cook firm and make really scrumptious pie and crumble. It looks a bit like a bramley but is ripe in early September. I am still trying to work out what it is – I pondered Newton Wonder but I don’t think it is. When I get a chance I will take it to visit an apple expert or two and ask them (although not sure what to do if I get conflicting identifications…). All bright ideas gratefully received. This picture was taken using a zoom lens out of my study window. Suffice it to say, I’d make a rotten paparazzo.
Anyhow, the earliest fallers start coming off in August and it seems a bit rude and wasteful just to leave them on the ground. They are too hard and sour to crumble immediately but, instead, I have invented a nice sharp chutney. It also deals with the pervasive temporal dislocation, bringing together the states of mind and the times of year nicely. It is a pretty pinkish colour and tastes of Christmas – it manages the proto-glut of late summer while making thoughtful presents for chutney-loving friends and relatives.
Awesome Early Apple and Cranberry Chutney
2lb early apples (roughly peeled and cored)
1lb onions (peeled)
1/2pt spirit vinegar
12 oz light brown sugar
1 tsp pickling spice
Salt about 1tsp
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
6oz fresh or frozen cranberries (or a packet of dried ones, but you may need to adjust the sugar)
Finely grated zest of a large orange
1tsp ground cinnamon
Warmed jars (about 6)
Chop onions and apples and put in a preserving pan with vinegar, sugar, raisins, salt and pepper. Tie the pickling spices in muslin, give it a good bash with a rolling pin and add to the brew.
Bring to the boil and cook for 10min or so before adding the cranberries. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. As the chutney thickens in the last 10mins of cooking, add orange zest and cinnamon.
It is ready when a clear path remains when you pull a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan. Spoon the finished chutney into the warmed jars, stir gently to remove air pockets and put the lids on (tighten using a teatowel). Wait until cool before remove any spillage from the outside of the jars.
Break it out in early December or next time you are required to contribute to a seasonal event or hold your own at a Grow Your Own convention. Useful stuff, chutney.