A recipe for Date and Marrow Chutney.
It's that time of year again ...
I don't know about you but I just cannot waste marrows.
I'm not particularly fond of them as a dinner vegetable but being brought up in the country I was taught to waste nothing so the obvious answer to this dilemma was ... make chutney!
And Date and Marrow chutney is as good as it gets even if you think the ingredients are an unlikely pairing. But let's face it, once vegetables are made into chutney they are so much more than the sum of their parts anyway.
Growing your own ingredients for date and marrow chutney.
Okay, so it's not likely that you can grow your own dates unless you live in an oasis but everything else is very easy to grow. This year I grew the marrows, onions and tomatoes for this chutney - and it was my first year as a vegetable gardener.
The marrows in fact grew faster than I could deal with, so if I can grow them successfully, anyone can. The moral here is simply 'Have a go and grow'.
- 1.35kg Marrow, peeled and chopped into small chunks
- 450g Onions, chopped or minced
- 450g Ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped
- 115g Dates, chopped
- 570ml Malt vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons Allspice
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons Salt
- 675g soft brown sugar
Firstly ... don't panic, making chutney is therapeutic.
- Peel the marrow ( a speed peeler works well here), scoop out the seeds and chop the flesh into smallish chunks.
- Place the tomatoes in a bowl and pour boiling water over them - leave them until the skins split.
- Meanwhile, peel and chop the onions. (Have a box of tissues handy for the tears).
- Peel the skins off the tomatoes (careful when getting them out of the hot water) and chop them.
- Roughly chop up the dates.
- Put marrow, onions, tomatoes and dates into a heavy, flat-bottomed pan - a brass preserve pan is ideal if you have one. As you can see I use a large cast iron Le Creuset casserole. Add half of the vinegar, mix ingredients well and bring to a rapid simmer/boil.
- Simmer until the marrow is soft and squashy, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. This will take time ... do not try to rush it. Patience is needed.
- Once the marrow is pulpy, add the spices and salt and pepper, stir in well and simmer again for 15 minutes.
- Then stir in the rest of the vinegar and the sugar. Stir well and continue to stir until the sugar has dissolved. This is the critical stage as the sugar can burn onto the pan bottom - guess how I know.
- Once the sugar has dissolved, continue to cook the mixture until it thickens. Stir occasionally to make sure there is nothing sticking or burning on the bottom of the pan.This can be the time consuming part as the vinegar has to evaporate. Test for this by drawing the back of a wooden spoon lightly across the mixture. Once the vinegar does not run too rapidly behind the spoon the consistency is right.
- Remove from heat and ladle carefully into hot, sterilised jars. Screw sterilised lids on immediately without touching the insides. These will make a 'popping' noise as they eventually cool. At this point they have created a seal and so the chutney will keep for much longer.
Things to be aware of when making chutney.
Chutney making requires both time and concentration but remember there are really no hard and fast rules. Got rather too much marrow? No problem, just chuck it all in. A few millilitres short on vinegar? Don't worry, just go with what you've got.
You don't even need to peel the tomatoes if you chop them small enough. So don't be too exacting with quantities although you may need to be rather more accurate with the quantity of spices.
However with this chutney it is important to buy the freshest marrow you can. Marrows can get rather 'woody' as they age and 'woody' marrows do not make good chutney.
This is when a single marrow plant in the garden is useful, it can be used as soon as it is cut.
So how long does it really take to cook?
This depends on a lot of variables such as the efficiency of your hob and the pan you use.
All you need to remember is that you cannot rush making chutney and at the risk of sounding like a stuck record that is really all you should be concentrating on.
That is why I said chutney making, or making any preserve for that matter, is so therapeutic ... it really does tend to slow life down a bit.
Okay so you can leave it to simmer whilst you put the washing in but you must always remember to come back and stir it frequently to check for burning or sticking on the bottom of the pan.
And when you are stirring the mixture whilst it is in the final reduction it can be like molten lava, bubbling and splashing, so please take great care at this stage.
Easy jar sterilising for preserves.
Wash and rinse your jars. Do not dry them but place the wet jars upside down on a shelf in the oven. Put oven on to heat up to 140 -150 degrees. Once it has reached heat switch it off. Leave the jars in the cooling oven until needed.
Put metal lids in a pan of water, bring to the boil and boil for 5 minutes.
I do this when the chutney is in its final stages, when the sugar has been added and it is in rapid simmer phase to reduce the vinegar and thicken the mixture.
Use an oven cloth to hold jars but try to fill them whilst they and the mixture are still fairly hot.
Drain the lids and screw them onto the jars whilst they too are still hot. Use a clean tea towel to help you handle them and do not touch the undersides of the lids.
This sterilisation process guarantees that your preserves will last for a very long time without the danger of bacteria creating mould.
Uses for Date and Marrow Chutney.
Date and Marrow Chutney is wonderful with almost everything ... trust me, I have tried it with most foods.
Be aware that this is a rather sweet chutney which may not suit all palates but it works particularly well as a contrast to cheese, especially salty or blue cheeses like Stilton.
Try it on turkey sandwiches or with hot sausages ... experiment with it.
Above all, enjoy it!