What to do with pumpkins – chutney

pumpkins glowing in autumn lightI don’t really want to harvest all my pumpkins too soon, I want to have a few left for Halloween but they are ripening up thick and fast in this warm, early autumn weather. I roasted most of the last one and made some soup (based on this one but with added lentils) but quite a lot of that is still in the freezer.

inside a pumpkin

The second of our eight fruits came home at the weekend and it was about the same size as the first – 7kg! Time to make some chutney.

It’s two years since we had a major chutney making session. I don’t know how many jars we made but we’ve been eating my favourite dark, sticky rhubarb chutney ever since. I’ve adapted the recipe to use up some of my pumpkin. It seems to have worked well but I can’t promise that it is perfect because you can’t really test a chutney until it’s matured for  month or two.

The most time consuming part of making chutney is the chopping up. It can’t really be avoided though and unless you particularly want chunky chutney, you have to spend the time finely dicing your fruit and vegetables. The pumpkin seems to hold it’s shape surprisingly well, considering how easy it is to mash when it is steamed. The picture below is the ‘before’.

pumpkin chutney before

Ingredients

450g Dark Brown Sugar

1kg of finely diced pumpkin. This is the weight after it has been peeled and chopped

450g chopped cooking apples

450g sultanas

450g finely diced onion

2 lemons – remove the zest and chop, remove the pips then finely chop the rest of the lemon

25g ground ginger

25g salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

700ml white wine or cider vinegar.

Put all the ingredients into a large preserving pan and heat gently. Continue to cook, allowing the mixture to bubble gently until the liquid has reduced significantly. This will take a couple of hours but you shouldn’t need to give it a lot of attention, just the occasional stir to make sure that nothing is sticking.

To test whether the chutney is done, draw a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan. If the mixture stays parted for a few seconds and you can see the base, it has probably reduced enough. The picture below is the ‘after’ picture. It’s not particularly attractive but it does taste good.

When the chutney is almost done, prepare your jars. I always use recycled glass jars which I wash well, stand upright in a roasting tin and put in the oven for about 15 minutes at just over 100C to sterilise them. I also wash the lids, checking that none of them are damaged and then stand them in a pan of boiling water.

Fill the hot jars with the warm chutney using a jam funnel, taking care not to get burned!

bottling chutney with funnel

And if you’ve still got lots of pumpkin left, roast some more and make spiced coconut and pumpkin stew.

pumpkin stew

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September Food

Food has been on my mind. September should be a busy month for the home preserve maker. I bought some hard goats cheese ages ago with the intention of making nasturtium pesto. It really is tasty, I made some a few years ago but I still haven’t made the time to do it this year.

We seem to have nasturtiums growing in great quantities in the allotment so they should be put to good use.

Our allotment is so neglected. We have some little saplings in pots that we meant to plant out about two years ago. We still haven’t cleared the area that they are supposed to go in. They are bearing fruit this year, despite their roots being crammed into a small space with limited nutrients. I hope this means that when they finally do get planted they will crop heavily. I am longing to turn these crab apples into something tasty but I can hardly reach them, the area is so overgrown. Come to think of it, I’m not sure how I got the photo!

The hedgerows can be full of beautiful berries at this time of year (and I seem to get carried away trying to photograph them).

Some berries seem more sparse than usual this year. I haven’t seen any sloes near here but the elderberries have been as abundant as ever.

I managed to grab the few apples from my Mum’s tree and made a big batch of apple and elderberry jelly.

I really enjoy making this. You don’t have to peel or core the apples because you only want the strained, cooked juice from them. The cooking process is so visually satisfying. I was taking photos of it every five minutes as the colours in the pan changed. This blogging lark can do funny things like that to you.

It’s a bit of a drawn out affair as you have to let the cooked fruit drip through a muslin cloth over night. I know it’s strange/pathetic/not very rock and roll, but there’s something about that that I like too. I can’t really put my finger on why I enjoy doing it so much. I’ve tried to explain my love of making preserves in this post. There’s definitely something comforting about the routine of it.

The other preserve that I have managed to make this autumn is rhubarb chutney. The Husband noticed that our rhubarb was starting to go past it’s best. There was plenty of it, but it was a bit tough for using in desserts. That, and the fact that we recently used up our last jar meant a chutney session was in order. We have been making this rhubarb chutney recipe for quite a few years now and it is absolutely my favourite. It’s dark, soft and treacly. There are no chunky bits in it but it does have texture. We had enough rhubarb to triple the recipe and plenty of home grown onions too. One night while I was chopping and cooking the apples and elderberries the husband did all the chopping and mixing of the rhubarb chutney ingredients.

The next morning at about 6am I tipped it into our maslin pan, hoping it would all fit. It did, just. The house smelled of vinegar fumes all day while it simmered away. I could have bottled it sooner if I didn’t have three children to contend with but I just had to keep putting it off until they were in bed. I don’t suppose that’s good practice and I hope it doesn’t affect it’s keeping qualities. I couldn’t follow the usual instructions for the cooking time either. My preserve book suggests that it’s done when you draw a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan and it leaves a clear trail for a few seconds. There was so much in the pan, there was no way you would be able to see the bottom. I think when the wooden spoon stands upright like this:

it’s probably done. It tastes ok, which is just as well because I’ve now got about 15 jars of it. My next mission is to create some apple and bramble treats – flavoured gin, anyone?