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Spiced Damson Chutney

There are chutneys and chutneys, but this one is simply the best of all. It is something I couldn't live without, having it permanently on my shelf. I love it with cold cuts, with cheese, but best of all, sausages and jacket potatoes - dipping crisp, crunchy potato skins into this dark, spicy, deeply flavoursome preserve is one of life's great pleasures.

 
 
 Spiced Damson Chutney

  Makes six 1 lb (350 ml capacity) jars

Ingredients
 3 lb (1.35 kg) damsons
 2 heaped teaspoons ground ginger
 2 small cinnamon sticks
 1 oz (25 g) allspice berries
 1 dessertspoon cloves
 2 pints (1.2 litres) malt vinegar
 1 lb (450 g) cooking apples (no need to peel)
 3 largish onions
 3 cloves garlic
 1 lb (450 g) seedless raisins
 1 lb (450 g) dark soft brown sugar
 1 lb (450 g) demerara sugar
 2 tablespoons sea salt
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Equipment
You will also need a preserving pan, or a very large, heavy-based saucepan; a 12 inch (30 cm) square piece of muslin (or gauze); some string; and six 1 lb (350 ml capacity) jars, sterilised.

This recipe is taken from How to Cook Book Three.

Method

You've got two options here. One is to halve the damsons, slitting them down the natural line of the fruit and twisting out the stones – very tedious. The other is to stew them gently with ½ pint (275 ml) of the vinegar and then, wearing rubber gloves, remove the stones as they separate themselves from the flesh - also tedious but, either way, it will only take about 25 minutes and I promise you it is well, well worth it. Place them in a preserving pan, then core the apples but leave the peel on, and finely chop them in a processor. Then process the onions, adding both these to the pan.


After that, crush the garlic and add that, followed by the ginger, raisins, sugar and the (remaining) vinegar. Then sprinkle in the salt and stir everything thoroughly. Now wrap the cinnamon, allspice and cloves in the muslin (or gauze) and tie the top loosely with the string to form a little bag, which should then be tied on to the handle of the pan and suspended among the rest of the ingredients.

Now bring everything to the boil, then lower the heat and let the chutney simmer very gently for 2-3 hours, stirring it occasionally and rather more often towards the end to prevent it sticking to the bottom. When almost all the vinegar has disappeared and the chutney has thickened to a soft consistency, do the channel test - if it is ready, when you draw a channel with a wooden spoon across its surface, it will leave an imprint for a few seconds without filling up with vinegar. While it is still warm, pour it into the hot, sterilised jars (see below), filling them as full as possible. Cover each with a waxed disc and seal tightly with a vinegar-proof lid. Label when cold and store the chutney in a cool, airy cupboard, leaving it to mellow for at least 3 months before eating.

To sterilise jars, wash the jars and lids in warm, soapy water, rinse well (again in warm water), then dry them thoroughly with a clean tea cloth, place them on a baking tray and pop them in a medium oven, gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C) for a minimum of 5 minutes. 

Add their contents while they are still hot.

 

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