As the words of the song suggest, when I moved to the Country, eating a lot of peaches was on my to-do list. Peaches are one of those things that you have to enjoy while you can as the window can be small. Three weeks ago, I was picking the first early fruit and now there is nary a one left on the tree. I almost missed the beginning of the crop this year, as the dry weather seems to have ripened the peaches early. We have netted all the trees so I missed the visual cues; it was walking past and getting a wave of sweet peach aroma that alerted me. However netting seems to be the way to go, it stops all my fruit competitors from accessing the fruit, from fruit fly to possums and birds.
To get the most from the harvest, I have been preserving up a storm, making jam and chutney every weekend. Mid-week I just chop up fruit and freeze until I can block out some preserving time. I tend to grade the fruit as it comes in, with the large perfect fruit reserved for impressing loved ones and eating myself. The next quality, ripe but with some imperfections, I stew and freeze or make into jam, while undersized and damaged fruit, often ends up as chutney or spicy barbeque sauce. There is something so satisfying, about opening up your pantry or preserve cupboard and seeing a year’s worth of homemade goodies there, long after the season is finished.
When choosing fruit don’t be frightened to put in 30 or 40 % under ripe fruit, generally these resist the cooking process better and add texture to the finished product, whereas the ripe fruit gives flavour. Purists worry about removing skins, but roughage is good for you I think, however if skin worries you, immerse the whole fruit in boiling water until the skin slides off easily, before roughly chopping.
This chutney is perfect with a curry or on a cheese platter.
- ½ teaspoon cumin seed
- ½ teaspoon coriander seed
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cardamom pods
- 3 cloves
The above could be pulverised in a mortar and pestle, or whacked with a rolling pin to break them up.
- 1 tablespoon of garam masala
- 1 small chilli or ½ tsp of chilli powder (these can vary in strength and it is better to start small and taste test!)
- 4 teaspoons of crushed garlic
- 4 teaspoons of fresh grated ginger
- 2 teaspoons of fine grated lime or lemon rind
- 2 large diced onions
- ½ cup of sultanas
- 3 cups of cider vinegar
- 3 cups of brown sugar (you could use white or raw for a lighter looking chutney)
- 3 kgs of peaches chopped stoned weight; this is about 12 x 250ml cups
Simmer for 1 hour at low heat until reduced by at least a third; the mixture should be nice and thick. My favourite way of making chutney is mix everything together then put it into my slow cooker and leave it on low for a few hours, works like a charm and frees me up to do other preserving. It makes sense to do 2 jobs at a time as the sterilising of the jars or bottles can be time consuming and this way I do the chore for jams or sauce and my chutney. I sterilise the jars by removing any labels and boiling lids and jars for 10 minutes. Then I place the jars in a 150°C oven to dry them and keep them warm. Hot chutney has to go into hot jars, to preserve correctly and to stop the jars from cracking. I use recycled jam or pasta sauce jars with a metal screw lid. Push the mix down with a sterilised spoon to remove any air pockets and leave about 1 cm from the rim, clean off the rim with paper towel. Place the sterilised dry lids on loosely and place the jars in a large saucepan, fill with hot water until the water is 2/3 of the way up the jar. It is important to not overfill and risk water getting under your lid. Give the filled jars a good 15 minutes of moderate boiling and remove carefully. Screw tight the lids immediately and what you should see as your jars cool is a vacuum effect, with little button space on the lid sucking in. If you don’t and the button is still popped up, you need to either repeat the process or refrigerate and use these jars first. Properly sealed jars should keep for at least a year although sometimes the top of the chutney darkens over time. Enjoy.