The nox has equi-ed and so, rather depressingly, the nights are longer than days, prompting the question of where has the year gone? The southwards progression of autumn was emphasised on our trip to Leeds this last weekend, where the leaves are turning well ahead of London. There are pluses, though. At my parents’ house, the fireplace is back in action and I do particularly like a good fire. And the season of harvest also means that it’s the season for preserving, bottling and filling the store cupboard for the long, dark nights ahead.
Chutney making is predominantly a male pastime in my family. My father is a big fan, and the family chutney story revolves around my grandfather’s mistaking oz for lb – not a good error to make when it comes to spices. The upside was that it did mean that sixteen times more chutney was produced than originally intended, and as this took place in autumn 1939, it wasn’t a bad time to be filling the larder. To sharpen my own chutney making skills, I went to Vivien Lloyd’s for a masterclass, along with my father.
When we arrived, Vivien already had a date and chilli chutney on the go; our arrival coincided with the addition of vinegar to the mix, followed by the sugar. The chutney looked extremely unappetizing; the large quantity of liquid that this particular recipe calls means that at this stage, there is a certain resemblance to washing up water. It’s then simmered until the chutney had thickened so that a trail is left when the wooden spoon is pulled across the surface of the chutney.
Next came the green tomato and ginger chutney. Green tomato chutney has fallen from favour at home, as tomatoes can be ripened in a bowl on the kitchen windowsill, and it’s deemed a shame not to let them ripen and enjoy home-grown tomatoes until late autumn. Anway, if the greenhouse is large enough and the tomato supply is sufficient, then it’s worth considering chutney-ing the excess. Vivien pointed out that tomatoes are very dry this year, so a splash of water needs to be added when making the chutney.
Finally, we rounded off the day by stirring up some lemon curd: the deeply coloured yolks of the eggs resulted in a lovely colour to the curd, and again, it was instructive to see for myself what it looks like when done – thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, but still fairly liquid and obviously, in its hot state, much runnier than when cooled and in the jam jar. Vivien was also very keen on emphasising the use of wax discs and cellophane for curds, unlike chutneys which need lids on the jars.
For both those who want to brush up their skills, and novices who want helpful guidance on how to whip up a batch of award winning chutney, a trip down to Somerset for a masterclass with Vivien is ideal. Vivien’s excellent book First Preserves is available from Amazon.
Fuss Free Flavours was the guest of Vivien Lloyd, many thanks for a lovely day.
Also many thanks to Le Parfait for my preserving jars.
Seville oranges are now in stock, so here are some top tips for successful marmalade from Vivien:
Vivien Lloyd’s top tips for Seville orange season
- Seville oranges are not great keepers, so as soon as they start appearing in shops and farmers’ markets take advantage of them before they disappear
- Sevilles are extremely bitter and are not the variety to eat or juice but once cooked down with sugar give an incredible flavour.
- Choose those with a rich orange colour, sometimes tinged with green.
- Hunt out organic Sevilles- they give a more intense aroma and flavour.
- 1kg of Sevilles will yield 3kg of marmalade