Of all the preserves I make, Chutney is the one most frequently misunderstood and mis-represented in some cookery books, cookery programmes and food blogs.
Chutney is a savoury preserve made from fruit and vegetables, cooked in vinegar, sugar and spices. Smooth in texture, the flavour is a mature balance of all the ingredients in the jar. 
Once mature, it will be like conversation, smooth, fruity and spiced with interest.

Chutney on cheesesDuring my Edible Gifts course at Vale House Kitchen last week we made batches of one of my favourite chutneys, Hot Date Chutney. The preparation and cooking time took almost four hours. Traditional chutneys cannot be rushed. Quicker recipes are often relishes not chutneys. Relishes are made from fruit and vegetables, but their texture is different from that of a good chutney, they are chunky and crisp. In a relish, fruit and vegetables are are roughly chopped, combined with spices, vinegar and often sugar. Most require very little cooking, and some no cooking sat all. They do not keep as long as traditional chutneys. They are often eaten on the day they are made or refrigerated for a few weeks. A chutney will only be ready to eat after a couple of months, once it has matured.

Hot Date Chutney

Makes between 2.25kg (5lb) and 2.75kg (6lbs)
1kg (2lb) stoned dates
225g ( 8oz) seedless raisins
225 g (8oz) onions
225g (8oz) granulated, cane sugar
50g (2oz) red chillies
25g (1oz) garlic
15g ( ½ oz ) salt
600ml ( 1 pint ) water
2.27litres (4 pints) distilled, malt vinegar

1. Finely chop the dates, raisins and onions and put them into a large un-lidded preserving pan. Bruise the garlic and chillies by putting them on a chopping board and hitting them with a rolling pin. Tie them in a piece of muslin and add it to the pan.
2. Pour the water into the pan and bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 15 minutes until the dates and onions are tender.
3. Add the vinegar and salt and continue to cook until the contents of the pan are pulpy, stirring occasionally. Add the sugar and dissolve it carefully. Continue to cook gently until the contents of the pan are thick and no “free” liquid remains. Stir frequently to prevent the chutney sticking to the bottom of the pan. Place the jars in a pre-heated oven 140C/275F/Gas1.for 15 minutes.
4. Remove the pan from the heat and the jars from the oven. Squeeze out the liquid from the muslin bag back into the pan. Stir the chutney and ladle it into a glass or plastic jug. Pour the chutney into the jars, filling them to within 5mm (¼”) from the top. Seal the jars with new, vinegar resistant twist top lids.

Links

For more Gift Ideas Edible Gifts

How to Make Chutney

For more Preserves Recipes First Preserves: Marmalades, Jams, Chutneys or First Preserves: eBooks

 

Finished Chutney