“Is chutney a savoury jam, or is jam a sweet chutney?”
The answer according to New Zealand foodwriter, the late Digby Law on page 11 of his Pickle and Chutney Cookbook (reprinted in 1992), my go-to recipe book for many years, is that chutney is a savoury jam. Chutneys, cooked or uncooked, savoury or sweet, add great flavour bursts to many dishes.
Earlier this morning, while it was still cool enough to work in the kitchen, I processed ripe tomatoes picked last night to make Tomato Chutney using a tried and true recipe. Himself thinks it “smells good”. When preparing tomatoes, I always scald the fruit with boiling water and remove the skins. I used white sugar, which gives the chutney a lighter colour, simply because I had no brown sugar in my pantry.
Overnight it seemed, the cucumbers became my new garden triffids, too big to make dill pickles. Flip to page 30 of Law’s cookbook and I note I can use 3kg of peeled cucumbers to make a light, refreshing chutney. Vegetables are now salted and standing in a glass bowl until tomorrow.
Meanwhile, back in the garden, the Mangere Pole beans were soaking up the morning sunshine after drinking up lots of rain yesterday. About midday, I picked one bucket load. Back in the kitchen, the beans were topped ‘n tailed, sliced, blanched in boiling water, drained, plunged into cold water, drained, dried, sealed in large, labelled ziplock plastic bags then put into the freezer 30 minutes after being picked.
How fresh is this?
Mangere Pole Beans
We all like to eat well and if you want to eat then learn to cook well. Recipes handed down through families are culinary treasures. In New Zealand when I was a child, it was common to preserve fruit and vegetables, to make our own lemonade. No convenience store down the road for us. Visitors to the farm who turned up at morning teatime quite often stayed for dinner. Food draws people together and it is nice to offer homemade preserves with other food.
Relishes, chutneys and jams that are simple to make, are staple items in my pantry, used to jus up different recipes. Each season, fruit and vegetables ripen faster than we can consume. Home preservation is a practical money-saving activity that I enjoy and the chance to do some cook creative cooking. Yesterday, I turned a surplus of cucumbers picked from my garden into a lightly spiced relish that partners well with cheeses and cold meat. It will not last long in this household.
Surplus fruit gets frozen each season and the cleanout of the freezer prompted a jam-making effort. The raspberries, strawberries, boysenberries, white sugar and pectin smelled divine as the fruit came to a boiling roll in my jam-making saucepan. Using a wooden spoon, I stirred occasionally for the six-minute cooking time.
The low-pectin berry jam recipe has varied a little from my mother’s recipe: 1.75 kg of fruit, 1.1 kg of warmed sugar and a 70 gram sachet of powdered pectin.
It is a basic recipe. As I had enough berries, I did not want to add more fruit such as cooking apples or crabapples, as Mum usually did, even though they are high in pectin and jell easily when made into jam. My way to check the jam is setting is to cool a teaspoonful of jam on a plate which should crinkle when pushed with a finger.
I remember my brothers always wanted jam sandwiches for their school lunches. As kids, we all loved the taste of Mum’s newly set jam spread over a slice of fresh bread. There is nothing quite like the flavour of home grown seasonal fruit transformed into a delicious homemade conserve.
Boiling fruit and sugar
Test for jelling when a spoonful of jam is cooled, it should crinkle when pushed with a finger.
Jars of berry jam
Childhood memory of newly made berry jam spread on a slice of fresh bread
As the weather gets muggier and warmer, growth in the garden is rapid and a conflict of interest happens as work gets busier with end-of-year reviewing and forward planning and pre-Christmas socials. The heat is also on in the kitchen. Friend Trish brought some grapefruit picked from her tree for me to make marmalade – just as my thoughts were on making cauliflower pickle. And I keep hearing the retail message that it’s-55-shopping-days-to a jolly Christmas. So, Christmas baking has been added to my To Do list. This year I’m making it easy on myself and like my sister, am using a favourite boiled fruit cake recipe which only needs three eggs and is quick to make. Food prices here have increased of late – but it’s still cheaper to make my own cake.
I sometimes wonder why I say I use a recipe when I nearly always modify it in some way and the end-result is different every time. This time, I substituted organic muscovado sugar for its rich flavour and texture and added brandy. What my sister and I tend to do because we’ve usually cook for large numbers, is to double quantities in such a basic recipe. The texture is lighter and slightly more crumbly than the richer cakes I usually make. Later, I’ll cut the double-sized cake into smaller pieces and then wrap them to be given as gifts.
The marmalade set well, is sharp to taste as we like it and clear so the shredded rind shows.
The cauliflower has been cut into small florets, the onions are finely sliced and salt has been sprinkled over the vegetables to be left overnight. I have two recipes I’m using. One includes finely chopped fresh mint leaves, turmeric, cayenne pepper, allspice. The other includes crushed pineapple, dry mustard and curry powder. Both simmered in white vinegar and then thickened.
Well, it’s Saturday evening. People throughout the country will get together, may be enjoy a barbeque and set off some fireworks to ‘celebrate’ Guy Fawkes. Fire-fighters don’t ‘celebrate’ – there’s always the idiot factor at work somewhere, I guess. Local councils are doing their best to encourage families to enjoy organised public displays. Sales of fireworks were restricted to about four days and then it’s only over-18 year olds who can buy them. Not the same sense of freedom as when we were kids.