Almost all the chutney I make ends up looking a dark brownish black, mainly because it is made with dark fruit and/or dark brown sugar. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it does mean that even though the different versions might taste different, they do all tend to look the same. This time, I was holiday just at the moment of an apricot glut, and I knew I wanted to somehow make sure I didn’t lose that rich orange glow. I couldn’t resist adding some tiny wild bird cherries I’d found drying on the ground under an old tree, and crossed my fingers that their dark red wouldn’t bleed out into the rest of the mixture. The gamble paid off. Besides showcasing a fruit I love, the apricot, this chutney also makes a nice change on the colour front: it’s a gorgeous deep orange, and tastes just as good as it looks.
I don’t think you necessarily have to be too precise with chutney recipes. I usually weigh everything quite carefully, but I made this when on holiday and without scales, and the rough proportions worked out using an old teacup turned out just fine.
5 cups apricots, stoned and cut into 8-10 pieces each
1 cup brown sugar
1 medium onion, chopped
¾ cups dried fruit like cherries or raisins
1 tbsp salt
1 cup vinegar
3 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
Tied into a small piece of muslin:
2 sprigs fresh coriander seeds, or 10 dried coriander seeds
1½ cm stick of cinnamon
1 blade of mace
½ – 1 dried chilli, to taste
Place all of the prepared ingredients in a large non-stick pan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring as you do so to make sure the sugar is dissolved and nothing is sticking. Once it reaches a boil, lower the heat and keep it cooking at a steady low simmer. It will start to thicken, and big fat bubbles will start to burst occasionally on the surface. Depending on the quantity in the pan and your speed of cooking, you’ll need to simmer it for about 20-30 minutes. You’ll know it is done when it has thickened up and a spoon run across the surface leaves a mark for a few seconds and doesn’t instantly fill with vinegar. Try not to overcook it, as I think this makes the end result too sweet, as well as making it too thick once it has aged.
Once it is ready, pour into prepared sterilised jars, seal for long storage* and label. It will need to sit in the cupboard for at least a month before you taste it. I usually refrigerate a jar once it has been opened, though this might not be necessary.
*Although a lot of the vinegar is evaporated out of a chutney, if you are planning to keep it for any length of time remember to ensure that any metal lids are well sealed, or have a layer of plastic between them and the jar’s contents, as eventually the vinegar will start to corrode them.