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.