Today I am

making tomato chutney. It’s a gesture of optimism in these dark times, it’s my small way of saying there will be a future. Tomato chutney is not for now, it needs to be kept for a few months at least, and will keep even for a couple of years.

The recipe I have used for some years, with fewer or more modifications, comes from a book called James, Pickles and Chutneys by David and Rose Mabey, published by Macmillan in 1975. Their recipe for red tomato chutney is in imperial measure. I’m giving the quantities I used today. Take about 2kg of ripe tomatoes, preferably roma. 1 red pepper, chopped fine. Three onions (about 500g). 3 cloves of garlic. 2 teaspoons of salt. 2 teaspoons paprika. 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper. 2 teaspoons mustard seed, crushed. 250g sugar. 450ml white wine vinegar.

Peel the tomatoes and chop them. Chop the onions, fairly small. Chop the garlic very finely. Put the chopped onions, garlic and tomatoes into a preserving pan with a little vinegar, and cook gently until the tomatoes are pulpy. Stir them regularly, and crush them with the back of a wooden spoon from time to time.

Add the other ingredients and cook until the chutney is thick. Bottle in sterilised jars, and seal with paraffin wax.

Sometimes I used a chilli or two, finely chopped, instead of the cayenne pepper. Today I added a couple of bay leaves. And today I added some small wild tomatoes from the garden. 

The red pepper is optional in the original recipe. The Mabeys say the chutney should be stored for at least two months before using. ” It improves with keeping and is extraordinarily versatile; it goes with meat, fish, cheese (especially in sandwiches of rough home-made bread.”  They used 5lbs of tomatoes (2 and a bit kilos), and do not seal with paraffin wax. Use the cellophane tops if there is no paraffin wax (both are made by Vacola), and try to find jars with plastic lids because the vinegar will eat away at metal lids. Old Vegemite jars are ideal.

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