Mrs H Neave's Apple Chutney November 12, 2015 22:08
Pheasant Plucker’s mother (try saying that three times after a couple of glasses of sloe gin) has a notebook which she’s had since the beginning of time that she writes interesting recipes in. Inside its swirly, bright purple and turquoise 1970s cover, are well thumbed pages, covered in splats and splodges with usually the vaguest of details and instructions (a particular favourite: “cook until done or longer if needed”). Accompanying some of the recipes are brief feedback notes written in the margin – a recipe for beetroot soup has “disgusting!” underlined three times beside it and a complicated dessert has “a complete faff” written determinedly above it, giving an insight into Ma Pheasant’s personal culinary tastes and expertise.
Some of the recipes have been cooked so many times over the years that the book is no longer needed and some of them are cooked regularly but only every so often due to seasonality. One of these is very special to us: Mrs H Neave’s Chutney.
Mrs H Neave was Pheasant Plucker’s great-grandmother. Although we never met her and don’t even have a photograph of her, when we make this chutney every Autumn we like to imagine her cooking it in her farmhouse kitchen in a completely different age to the one we’re in now but using the same processes and ingredients as us. What did she think about as she made it and what her life was like? Who was she? Did she achieve everything she ever wanted? She could never have dreamed that her recipe would end up on a blog a hundred years later.
True to form, the recipe details are spectacularly imprecise (see photo above and note the quantity of onions required) but it somehow always turns out to be delicious. We’ve been cooking this for a few years now so here's the recipe below as we make it, to save you the uncertainty.
1.5lbs apples (strong, sharp tasting ones work best) peeled, cored and chopped
1.5lbs onions, chopped
11/2lb dates, stoned and chopped
11/2 pints vinegar
1.5oz ground ginger (although we sometimes use freshly grated ginger instead)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Put all the ingredients into a large, heavy bottomed pan and stir well over a high heat. Bring to the boil and then simmer away rapidly until the apples and onions have broken down and the mixture is a rich, dark brown colour with a thick consistency. It will smell quite vinegary but don't be put off by that, it will subside. Be careful as it'll be very hot at this point.
While the chutney is cooking, sterilise some jam jars by washing them in hot, soapy water and drying them in a low temperature oven. Transfer the chutney to the jars when it's ready, filling it all the way up to the top. Add a waxed paper circle and then put the lid on. You can eat it as soon as it cools, although it tastes better if you leave it for a couple of weeks to infuse inside the jar.
And there you have it. Chutney just like they made in the olden days.