Tomato Chutney

I tasted this chutney first at my friend Pia’s home, way back when; it’s her Mom’s recipe and it was then – and is now – good enough to eat with a spoon. It is understood in my family now that that’s what tomato chutney tastes like, the go-to-recipe for a chunky-sweet and slightly sour-with a definite hint of apple tomato condiment for grilled fish or pork. There’s only one person here in the house that actually can eat things like that with a spoon, and that’s my little son Luca, but although I cannot, cannot, cannot and won’t ever learn to understand how it’s possible to eat ketchup that comes in these almost too big for the fridge plastic bottles with a spoon, I have to admit, that I have no problem at all licking the spoon that comes out of the tomato chutney glass.

Making tomato chutney requires very little effort, quite some patience (it needs to cook for a while) and – maybe the hardest item to have on hand during the last leg of jam-making season – empty jam jars with a tight fitting screw top lid. Else it is like making jam, all ingredients go into the pot raw and while you watch and stir, the magic happens: at first the aroma of boiling vinegar and sugar knocks your socks off, but after a little while the flavors blend and mellow and the consistency turns jam-like. The only thing that can happen now is that your tomato chutney-to-be bubbles up and spits you in the eye – there’s quite a lot of sugar in it, after all…so, careful when you scrape the bottom; hot sugar spills hurt like something else.

 

It goes without saying that really good tomatoes go a long way towards making this chutney bursting with tomato-y flavor; if you’re lucky enough to still have some home grown ones, good for you. My greenhouse still has nice, purple cherry tomatoes, but there’s simply not enough of them at the same time to consider them candidates for the cook pot. Instead II try to buy the best available; I wish I could say I belonged to those folks that have more tomatoes than they could possibly eat – there are 8 very prolific tomato plants in the greenhouse and judging from the last 6 weeks’ experience, I have to realize that we simply don’t belong. We ate every last one of them. If life gives you tomatoes, don’t complain – make chutney!

A note on chopping onions: I am in the not so unique position of having crappy eye sight; I also prefer wearing contacts over glasses, they don’t only make it possible for me to tell the business end of a knife from the handle, but they too have the interesting side effect of acting like tiny shields for my eyes and ward off onion-induced tears. Unless I stick my fingers in my eyes to scratch an itch (…), I can chop onions with the best of them. Martin, who has excellent eyes, says it helps to have cold water running while peeling onions; that’s his story and he’s sticking to it.

Tomato Chutney

makes enough to fill 5 to 6 400 g (14 oz) jam glasses
1kg (2 lb) tomatoes
750 g (1.5 lb) onions
500 g (1lb) apples
750 g light brown sugar
1 !/2 tblsp salt
3 tbslp sweet paprika
cayenne pepper, to taste – start with 1/2 tsp
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cloves
500 ml (2 cups) cider vinegar
1) Skin the tomatoes: score the tomatoes crosswise at the bottom. Bring water to a boil in a pot large enough to hold all the tomatoes. Kill the heat and drop in the tomatoes. When you see the skin peeling back from the score marks at the bottom, drain the tomatoes and run cold water over them. You should be able to slip them right out of their skins now. Chop.
 
2) Peel and chop the onions.
 
3) Leave the peel on the apples and chop: the fastest way to slice an apple for chopping is to not bother with the core; don’t try to take it out, cut around it instead. Set the apple in front of you and cut off one cheek just far enough away from the core not to get much of it in the cut off piece. Rotate the apple and repeat 3 more times. You’ll be left with a funky looking, rectangular apple core that you can gnaw off, if you’re so inclined. Chop the apples.
 
4) Put all ingredients in a big pot and bring to a boil. Cook for 45 min over medium high heat, or until it turns from soup to jam-like – the mixture will become thicker and change color to a dark orangey-red. When the raw vinegar smell is gone and you feel some resistance when you stir, it’s ready.
 
5) Fill hot into jam glasses with a tight fitting lid. 

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