Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Tomatoes and Chutneys


The best thing to come out of our garden all year. Our garden is not large and my fingers are not green, so anything resembling a harvest is greeted with much fanfare and excitement around here. I grew these from seed (from seed!) and dutifully moved them from seed tray to flower pot to slightly bigger flower pot, from cold frame to garden. I think we got lucky with the weather this summer - it was glorious and the sun shone plentifully and so the fruit ripened. We picked everything; big and little, overripe and underripe, red and green and everything in between.

Since I am currently time rich and money poor, I have decided that I will be making my gifts this Christmas. That's easy enough for the women and children in our family as I can think of many things to wear, to play with or for the home that will be happily received. But the men in our family are harder to make for and so they will most likely be receiving consumables this year. Little hampers containing chutneys, jams, maybe a fruit cake and some cheese (I'll be buying the cheese). 


I made this tomato and chilli chutney, leaving out the cardamom seeds (I didn't have any) and swapping the red wine vinegar for malt vinegar as that's what was in the cupboard. It seemed to work well with the cherry tomatoes and I liked the way this recipe made no mention of skinning the tomatoes.


And with the green ones (I just LOVE the colour of these!) I made, yes you guessed it, green tomato chutney. This is the recipe I have been using for the last few years and it works really well every time. It makes enough chutney to fill four jars.

500 g green tomatoes
400 g red onions
400 g apple, peeled and cored
250 g raisins
250 g brown sugar
1 tsp cayenne pepper
500 ml malt vinegar

  • Chop all the fruit. (I diced the onions and apple and halved the larger cherry tomatoes and left the really small ones whole.)
  • Put all the ingredients into a large pan and mix.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for one hour.
  • Spoon into sterilised jars.
The combination of brown sugar, vinegar, spices and cooking time mean that the tomatoes lose most of their vivid green colour, but I like the way you can just see a few little pale green circles pressed up against the sides of the glass jar.



As always, fun was had with matching jar toppers and labels. I'll freely admit that this is the part I enjoy most, and I do think that if you're going to be so bold as to give someone something you made and expect then to eat it and enjoy it, then presentation helps smooth this path a great deal. Also, aren't these jar labels nice? Very mid century, just the sort of colours and patterns I like. Shame about my scrawly handwriting.


Someone kindly pointed out to me that making gifts isn't always the cheapest way to go when trying to save money, and it's a very good point. Much money can be spent on lovely materials and fancy ingredients (not to mention pretty ribbon for wrapping gifts!) which do add up, and I'm conscious of this all the time. So out of interest I costed these jars of chutney to see if it really is cheaper. The red tomato and chilli chutney cost around 48p a jar to make. Most of the cost there is in the onions and sugar. The green tomato chutney was about 59p a jar and the costs there lie in the apple, raisins and sugar. The jam jars are recycled and therefore free. The fabric for the toppers I've had for years and but I can tell you it's pretty cheap stuff, probably bought on sale. The labels work out at 10p each. So yes it is cheaper but - more importantly - I enjoyed the process and that's really why I do it.


37 comments:

  1. We have tons of green tomatoes and I make chutney every year with them too, I think that homemade gifts are lovely and yes they might not be the cheapest but they often mean the most.

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  2. Wonderful tomatoes and chutneys Gillian and yes, homemade isn't always cheaper but the little finishing touches, as you say, don't have to cost more than a few pennies and mean that the item stands alone nicely as a gift in a way that a bought item wouldn't. In the end I think homemade gifts do work out as saving money and anyway they are just so much nicer. I love your JL jam labels - very you! E x

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  3. I give my father-in-law some homemade chutney or jam every year - it is an ideal 'man gift' and he looks forward to his jar each year! Your jars look very yummy, and I don't care what anyone says, homemade gifts are usually less expensive and are always always very gratefully received! Chrissie x

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  4. I'd be thrilled to receive a jar of your chutney as a gift, I think it's the attention you give to the finishing touches which make it so special. It's been a great year for tomatoes here too, I've had pounds and pounds and they just keep on coming.

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  5. It sounds like a wonderful recipe for chutney, so thank you for sharing this with us. I also think you deserve a little medal for growing those from seed as it is pretty tricky growing tomatoes in this country, so well done!! I have always done chutney's and handmade gifts for christmas as that is exactly what it is about, and I think you will love every minute of getting it all ready, its the bit I enjoy the most and it is so much more rewarding than buying something and the good news is that they eat it. I usually just give a bottle of plonk or cake to the men, depending on who they are. Your photo's are simply wonderful Gillian!! Thank you for your sweet comment over at mine! Happy week lovely xoxo

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  6. Well of course it's cheaper. I know you are supposed to take into account all the ingredients and materials you use that you might already have in stock, but I know from experience that I don't rush out and replace all those ingredients immediately. I know my family isn't going to starve if I used all the sugar or vinegar up making chutney. Jars of locally made chutney go for nearly £4 at my local farm shop.

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  7. I love the labels - I was wondering where they came from so thanks for the link! I enjoy making things as presents too - as you say it is worth keeping an eye on the cost. I;d rather spend an afternoon in teh kitchen that trawling around the shops any day though! Juliex

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  8. That is most helpful that you have costed this out - I am always saying that it is cheaper to make your own but never really totted it up. My neighbours have asked me to strip their tomato plants and apple and pear trees by the end of the week! I will go out to the Co-op and buy some vinegar and apart from that I am good to go I think. I may have one or two jam jars around the place and I am sure if I look hard enough I will find some fabric topping......

    Best wishes and enjoy the sunshine

    Jenny

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    1. Replying to myself here - those labels seem pricey to me....or am I just plain old mean.....

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    2. They're not cheap but I'm afraid I was seduced by the pretty colours...

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    3. I often make gifts for the women of our families for Christmas, but can never think of anything for the men - thank you for the inspiration! x

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  9. They look delicious and I am sure they will be well-received. Maybe it isn't lots cheaper but if you know that people you're giving it too will appreciate it, I think that's the most important thing. I have had a few unfortunate experiences with people who really didn't "get" the handmade gift thing and it was disappointing to me. I am sure people will love this gift.

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  10. Everything looks so fresh and vibrant. I love the way you lined up those little toms in colour order, a great shot! Your gifts are wonderful, and your handwriting is anything but scrawly my dear :) x

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  11. In my opinion there is nothing nicer than a (thoughtful!) handmade gift and your jars of chutney look fabulous and yes yes yes the labels are very cool.
    I love your rainbow of tomatoes ..... thats so cool!
    love jooles xxx

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  12. Homemade gifts are by far the best, I love them so much more than anything else! Love the photos as well, the line of tomatoes would look fab on the bottom of a label of a jar of chutney and your handwriting is lovely. Trust me I have seen some dire examples (teacher moment) xxx

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  13. You remind me of the lady on GBBO - the one that designs for Joules? She bakes beautifully, but has a flair for the aesthetic that I really admire. I think making your own gifts is definitely cheaper. But even if it's only a bit cheaper, who cares?! I am totally loving my homemade hampers coming together. I may even make Lavender bags....

    Leanne xx

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  14. Homemade all the way Gillian, hooray for Homemade is what I say! It's about the thought and time rather than the price, but yes it is good to be mindful of money being spent too. Clever you, love those green tomatoes too, brilliant that you grew these tomatoes xox Penny

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    1. ps. I adore theretro looking labels too and might just buy some to label my own chutney x

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  15. Your toms look fab, I adore the colour of the green ones. You have made your chutneys look very pretty indeed. I completely agree, homemade gifts are fab and the males in my family love anything edible at all!
    Marianne x

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  16. Yum! Though I have to say I've stopped giving hamper type presents as it's when you add up the total cost of the hamper contents that you get a bit of a shock. Last year I picked up some wonderful vintage sherry and shot glasses on eBay for just a few squids that made a brilliant present for the chaps instead.

    Love that colour coded tomato shot :)

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  17. I think that is a lovely present. I am giving a plant and pot holders to everyone in my family this year. I think home made is best. all the time and love you have put into it is better than a hastily purchased box of smellies that will live under their bed.

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  18. Every year I plan to make my own gifts but it never happens! Maybe this year.... Love your picture of the varying shades of cherry tomatoes. X

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  19. ... And. Just so much more appreciated. I'm going to try the green one with all the toms Gemma has left me. I've some chillies too but don't know if I have enough red toms are you gong to give that recipe too. Xx

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  20. I love homemade gifts. Your chutney looks great I can get my green tomatoes picked and put to go use now! Thank you for sharing the recipe xx

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  21. What a perfect gift, we do this too and it's always recieved well. Will have to try the tomato and chilli one, sounds yummy!

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  22. You're making me hungry! Love chutneys, really I should learn to cook....... :) x

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  23. None of my tomatoes ripened :( so green tomato chutney it is here too. This weekends job I feel! Thank you for the recipe it saves me looking. I think a homemade present is difficult to put a price on as even though you add up the cost of the ingredients or items you cannot put a price on the 'thought and care' that go into it.

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  24. How Fab, Thank You for sharing your ideas
    Best Wishes, Hope you're all well
    Sue xxx

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  25. ooh, I'd love to receive a jar of either! thanks for the recipe for green tomato chutney, I might give that one a go :) x

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  26. Mmm, they look delicious. You did really well with your tomatoes, it's always really fulfilling to grow something from seed I think. You are right, if you are making your own presents and you have a small budget, you have to make sure you don't waste money on things you don't need. Lucky family receiving your chutney.

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  27. Gillian, you are clever! Those chutneys look amazing and such a great gift to give. I love the idea of home-made gifts for Christmas. Unfortunately I am extremely time poor (and cash poor come to think of it :-) ) so no crafty gifts from me. x

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  28. Even if you added another 20p for the fabric and things you already had it would still be cheap chutney and even more cost effective for a gift, but that is not the point. There is no price that you can put on the love that you put into making these chutneys and that is what giving a gift is all about. I do love love love green tomato chutney and would pay quite a bit for a good one, as you never see green tomato chutney. I grew up on that and marrow and ginger jam (sounds weird, tastes amazing!).

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