Friday, 23 September 2011

Winter Ale Chutney

This is a bit of a blast from the past - my first ever chutney recipe! I came up with this waay back in 2005, when I inherited my Grandmothers preserving pan. I love this big old thing. I remember when my Nanan bought it from Harrods on a day trip to London in the early '80's, and every June we would spend a morning strawberry picking, and in the afternoon she would make strawberry jam in her mighty preserving pan.

Since it has been in my possession, no strawberry has met its unfortunate end within, my being of the opinion that cooking them or adding sugar is the cruellest thing you can do to a beautiful ripe strawberry. So it's been used to make chutney, the occasional relish, and even a few rare sweet things like damson cheese & apple butter (yes, recipes will be posted. Eventually!). As this is my first attempt, I used cup measurements rather than weighing things out, which I'm more likely to do now, but I really like the ease & simplicity of the cup of this, cup of that approach. You can substitute the dried fruit (and the spice bag) for whatever you have, or whatever you fancy. A honey beer goes well with dried pears & figs, a darker ale goes well with currants & sour cherries. There are lots of dried fruits out there, so let you imagination go nuts.

I've made this recipe many times, and try different beers each time. Real ale, especially brown ales & bitters, work best. Pale ale is too hoppy, and doesn't have that depth of flavour & bitterness that the chutney needs. A spiced ale works surprising well, and honey beer is really special. Basically, as long its a good, well-flavoured beer you'll be making something special! (This beer was made with Thorne Brewery Best Bitter, which is MikeyFox's brewery. I know it's good beer because he makes it!)

Winter Ale Chutney

2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup beer (there will be some left, so you'd better drink it!)
1 cup dates, chopped
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 cup raisins
1 onion, chopped
4 apples, peeled, deseeded & chopped
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp each of peppercorns & cloves, tied up in a piece of muslin
juice of 1 lemon

Put the dried fruit in a bowl & add the beer. Leave to stand for 20 minutes, so the fruit can get nicely soft & sozzled.
Put the vinegar & sugar in a large pan & bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Tip in the dried fruits & beer & add the remaining ingredients. Stir & simmer for around an hour, or until the mixture is thick & glossy. Fish out the muslin bag of spices (or it could be a nasty mouthful for someone!). Spoon into sterilized jars & tuck away in a cupboard for a month before eating. If well stored, it will last until the next Ice Age*. You may be battling giant radioactive serpents, Cthulhu & his Excessively Limbed KinThings may have eaten next Tuesday, but you'll still have chutney!

For those interested, the Happy Squid T-shirt is from the lovely Kate Beaton, who is right up there with Blackadder & Horrible Histories when it comes to making history disgustingly amusing.

*Honestly. I'm still eating chutney from 2006 & I'm fine *twitch*


Dolly58 said...

Have used this recipe and its not only easy to make but tastes wonderful! I passed this site to several friends who love it too and this Christmas all the family are going to receive a jar! Thanks for sharing!

littleblackfox said...

Thank you for your lovely comment!
I never tire of making this recipe (and eating it!), I love that you've made chutney for Christmas, and hope your family enjoyed their jars!

Anonymous said...

Hello, do you have a particular cup size for this recipe 8oz 12oz etc? Or doesn't it matter?
Thanks. Louise

littleblackfox said...

Hi Louise,

I tend to use a measuring cup or teacup, which is about 8oz. To be honest, as a recipe that works on volume rather than weight, you can use pretty much anything - coffee cup, soup bowl, hollowed out melon! and it'll come out fine (though the apples & spices would need a little adjusting)
Good luck and have fun!

Tansy Harrison said...

I used your Winter Ale Chutney recipe to inspire me and changed a few of the ingredients and the result has my pub customers begging for more. My variation uses dark brown sugar, goji berries, cranberries and dried cherries, (I just make sure the total dried fruit is the same volume as your recipe) and I have been known to substitute cider vinegar for red wine vinegar. The result is gloriously dark and I'm making a double batch as I write as I can't seem to keep up with demand. Thank you for putting me on the right track!

Lya de Putti said...

I followed your recipe and won a FIRST PRICE in my local Horticultural Society cooking competition. It's delicious!

Jenny x

Anonymous said...

I was looking for an ale chutney recipe, and kept finding ones with loads on ingredients. Then I found yours, and it was perfect! I had all the ingredients and a bottle of Bombadier ale no one was going to drink. I did substitue the muslin bag of pepper and whole cloves for 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves and some freshly ground black pepper.
I'm looking forward to it being ready to eat, and to giving some as Christmas presents.