It is another very wet fall day here on the island, at the edge of the rainforest. It has been pouring with rain all day long but the sea outside my front door is calm. A misty grey monotone, it is peaceful and beautiful in its own way. It is not too bad out there if one dons head to toe rain gear and rubber boots before venturing out into the monsoon.
However, inside it is warm and dry and I am tempted to stay put, at least for the time being. There is plenty to do indoors anyway. I am still up to my ears in boxes of apples and green tomatoes, and worst of all, what seems like an endless supply of rather large zucchinis. I don’t know what it is, but there always seems to be way more of these monstrous darlings left over at the end of the summer than any ordinary person can deal with, let alone eat.
Although I had not really intended this blog to be all about food, it seems to be going in that direction. I suppose that is what happens when one grows a garden and there are only two humans to eat the results. Of course there is always the compost heap, or the chickens, but my Motley Crew of fowl, now reduced to only five in number, could not possibly get their beaks around the excess supply of overgrown courgettes lounging around on the back porch.
I hate waste, especially when it involves food. So what to do with the spare stuff? Certain things go into the freezer, like salmon and venison and berries. There is a bit of a battle about freezer space that goes on around here; we must use up the berries soon to make room for the incoming meat later in the fall. That is not a problem; I can always turn those little jewels into juice or syrup or jam when the time comes.
The green tomatoes, apples and zeppelin-ish zukes will inevitably be made into chutney or relish of one sort or another, bottled in glass jars and put away on the pantry shelves. Gradually, over the next year or two the jars will be brought out and opened and the tasty condiments will be served inside a sandwich at lunchtime or alongside a supper main dish such as curry, roasted venison or a casserole.
Here follows a trio of recipes in case you happen to have some extra apples, green tomatoes or zucchinis hanging around just waiting to be used up. After all, today is a perfect day to be indoors making chutney.
Once you have prepared the chutney or relish, fill clean, sterilized ½ pint or pint-sized jars (washed in hot soapy water and rinsed thoroughly in boiling water) with the hot chutney, leaving half an inch of head room. Wipe any spillage from the rim with a clean, damp cloth before applying the tin lid and screw band, both of which should be sterilized first by simmering for 10 minutes in a pan of hot water. Often the jar will simply seal itself as it cools. The tin lid will make a popping sound as it cools and seals. If sealed correctly, you will notice that the lid is slightly concave once the jar has cooled. If you are in doubt about this, you should use a hot water bath to seal your jars of chutney.
To do this place a canner or other large, deep pot on the stove and fill it with warm water to cover the jars by one inch or more. Use a rack on the bottom of the pot and place the jars on the rack. This will lift the jars off the bottom of the pot slightly, away from the direct heat and will prevent them from cracking. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Start timing when the water comes to a full boil. For ½ or 1 pint jars keep boiling for 10 minutes. Then turn the heat off and carefully remove the jars from the hot water bath. You may have to ladle out some of the hot water first to get a grip on the jar, or use a proper jar lifter if you have one.
Place the jars on a folded kitchen towel on the counter and let cool completely before storing in a cool, dark place. Don’t forget to label your jars with the contents and date. Properly sealed jars of chutney will keep for several years on the pantry shelf. Refrigerate once opened, or if your jar did not seal properly, and use within three weeks or so.
Island Golden Glow Pickle
3 quarts zucchini, cut in half, seeded and diced (I prefer skin on for colour)
3-4 large yellow onions, diced
2 – 3 sweet red peppers, seeded and diced
2-3 peeled and grated carrots (optional)
¼ cup coarse or sea salt
15 whole cloves
2 tablespoons whole mustard seed
1 teaspoon celery seed (optional)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3 cups vinegar, white or cider (white is better for colour)
3 ½ cups sugar
2 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons cold water
Combine all the diced and/or grated vegetables in a large ceramic, glass or stainless steel bowl and sprinkle with salt. Cover with a cloth and let stand in a cool place overnight. Drain, rinse in fresh water and drain again, thoroughly. Combine vinegar, sugar, and spices in a large non-reactive saucepan. Bring to the boil, then add the drained vegetables. Return to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. You do not want the vegetables to become mushy. Add the dissolved cornstarch and stir this mixture into the pot gently. Let it simmer for a minute or two longer. This will give the relish a nice finish and will ever so slightly thicken the juice. Ladle the hot relish into hot, sterilized jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Makes about 6 pints.
Island Green Tomato Chutney
12 medium-sized green tomatoes
18 tart apples
3 medium-sized Spanish onions
2 hot peppers
1 bunch celery
½ lb. fresh ginger
3 cups seedless raisins or sultanas
4 tablespoons sea salt
1 ½ lbs. brown sugar
6 cups cider vinegar
¼ cup mustard seed
Chop the tomatoes and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons salt. Let stand overnight. Drain. Dissolve the rest of the salt with the sugar in the vinegar. Chop apples, peppers, ginger, celery, and onion. Mix all together with remaining ingredients and cook until tender and thick. This could take up to about two hours. Ladle into sterilized, hot jars and seal immediately using a hot water bath. Makes about 10 pints.
Island East India Chutney
2 cups cider vinegar (or 1 cup cider, 1 cup plain vinegar)
3 cups sugar
¼ cup fresh ginger root, minced or ground
6 cups peeled, diced, ripe fruit; apples, peaches, pears, and mangoes, or a combination of these
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced, ground, or mashed
½ lb. currants
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 – 5 small, whole, dried chilies, or to taste (for heat)
Cook vinegar and sugar together until they form a clear syrup. Add ginger root and cook for 20 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer, covered, over very low flame for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Use a heat diffuser, or a wood stove, and watch carefully for scorching. Pour into clean, hot jars and seal in a hot water bath for 10 minutes . Makes about 6 pints.