Friday, 17 September 2010

An apple a day, or the pindoctor's chutney project

You can definitely tell the season is changing. The weather has turned, and all around Pudsey, and throughout Leeds, no doubt, fruit trees are begging to be picked before their contents go to waste.

I have the same issue myself every year with my apple tree. Here's a picture I just took of it:

It produces billions of the most wonderful eating apples every year, which utterly surpass my ability to consume, even when I pack bags of them for my friends.

This year though, I've been on a mission to preserve as many of them as possible, and have spent the last couple of weekends on a chutney-making extravaganza.

Here's a couple of good recipes you might want to try out.

Classic English Apple and Date Chutney
This is based on a special recipe handed down to me from Ma Sneath, my friend Dave's late mother, who was wise in the ways of chutney.

It's a lovely blend of sweet and sour tastes, which is just the kind of thing Chinese medicine advises for Liver/Spleen disharmonies - the kind of digestive disruption people often get when they are stressed.

Makes about 2.5 kilos
2 Kg tart eating apples
0.5 Kg dried stoned dates
1 Kg onions
2 garlic cloves (optional)
2 chilis
0.5 Kg stoned raisins or sultanas
1.25 litres vinegar
0.4 Kg soft brown sugar (you should add another 0.15kg if you're using cooking apples)
1 to 2 level teaspoons salt
3 level teaspoons ground ginger
2 level teaspoons cinnamon
1 level tablespoon pickling spice; 6 cloves and 1 small bay leaf, all tied together in a muslin bag.

1. Peel core & slice apples
2. Peel & slice onions. Peel garlic
3. Coarsely chop apples, dates, onions, garlic, chilis and raisins/sultanas.
4. Put into saucepan with half the vinegar (preferably a non-metallic one)
5. Cover and simmer until fruit and vegetables are tender – about 30 minutes.
6. Add remaining ingredients and stir until sugar dissolves
7. Cook, uncovered, on a medium-low heat until the chutney thickens to a jam-like consistency, stirring occasionally (this probably takes a couple of hours, depending on your cooker settings)
8. Remove bag of spices then pot in sterilised jars and seal with a vinegar-proof lid.

This chutney is best left a month or two to mature somewhere cool and dry.

Hot South Indian Apple Chutney
I adapted this from a recipe using star fruit in Julie Sahni's excellent book Classic Indian Vegetarian Cookery.

It's a hot and vibrant chutney, redolent of the tastes of southern India. It's gorgeous in its own right, but from a Chinese medical point of view, it is just the sort of thing you'd want to pep up your meal in the early stages of a cold, to help you put on a sweat (Chinese call this 'releasing the exterior' which helps flush out pathogenic factors and invigorate the body's natural defenses when you are being attacked by an 'external Wind invasion'). I like this so much, I have difficulty waiting for the jars to mature!

It's definitely one for those who like heat though - not for anyone with a delicate digestion, nor those suffering from any condition which makes them feel hot or flushed, because the chili packs a punch.

Makes 450ml
700g tart eating apples, peeled and cored
1 tablespoon of salt
2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of turmeric
3/4 teaspoon ground asafoetida (you can easily get this at most Asian grocers, where it's usually kept in yellow plastic pots. Ask for 'Hing'
1/2 teaspoon of ground fenugreek seeds
125 ml light sesame or light vegetable oil (I usually add a couple of drops of the more easily available oriental dark sesame oil to ordinary vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds

1. Finely chop or food process the apples and mix with salt in a non-metallic bowl.

2. Blend the cayenne, turmeric, asafoetida and fenugreek in a bowl, and set aside next to your cooker.

3. Heat the oil in a small enamel or non-metallic pan on a medium/medium hot heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds, and cover with a lid until the popping and splattering of the seeds subsides.

4. Add the mixed ground spices in one go, and give a quick stir, then immediately add the apples.

5. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 10/15 minutes or until the apples are reduced to a spicy pulp and the oil has begun to separate. The chutney should be bubbling throughout, and you'll need to keep stirring so it doesn't stick and burn.

6. Pot in sterilised jars and seal.

This one is ready to eat immediately, but like most chutneys, will benefit from being left to mature for a few weeks.


  1. Have discovered that rhubarb makes an excellent alternative to apples, for the ultimate Yorkshire fusion chutney :D

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