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This is my fifteenth autumn in the UK, and the fourteenth time I’ve taken part in an annual ritual of chutney making with all the abundance of fruit, much of it “windfall” (on the ground, fallen from the tree) and pretty much always part of a seasonal glut that demands quick attention.  I mean chutney not as a raw accompaniment or cooked decoration on a plate, but a vinegary, quite sugared preserve of a jam or compote that is processed and jarred for eating with cheeses and meats and, of course, for sharing with family and friends.

And I’ve been lacto-fermenting vegetables for about ten years I reckon; much of this natural, healthy and no-cook food tradition has made me question the value of preserving fruit and veg in jams and chutneys.   Whereas ferments add health and nutrients, jams and chutneys involve cooking the life out of living food, and adding so much sugar– at least in the typical British style that we know them.   And they use so much energy, unless I were cooking on a wood-burning stove like an Aga or Rayburn that was on anyway for home-heating (in which case that wouldn’t be the most energy efficient way to heat a home).  And anyway my stove is electric (induction to reveal all).

Yet. Yet. Yet.  There’s a beauty to the taste and tradition of jams and chutneys as well,  and culinary usefulness, and in the fun in making and sharing.  I never quite manage a preserving season in which I don’t go mad, even while cringing at the white sugar and carbon emission/ energy contribution and cursing myself and the messy kitchen as the clock approaches midnight.

The resolution for me has been to enjoy making and eating both the raw ferments and the cooked preserves, not feeling any need to take a decisive side.

So it wasn’t a long mental walk from the thrill of making my Plum Kimchi to thinking, wouldn’t it be fun to make a chutney with mostly the same ingredients as a kind of interesting comparison. Raw vs Cooked, Groovy vs Old Fashioned, Naturally Sour vs. Vinegar and Sugar…

And I still had a zillion plums (here’s a mere one washing-up bowl filled) –getting more and more ripe on the way to rot.

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And some carrots that were ugly only one scrape layer deep;  I salvaged them from a going-to-be-composted box.

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And the decision to go with the same flavours of the Kimchi.    Loads of fresh chopped ginger and garlic,

But in some nod to traditionalism, I also added handfuls of sultanas, and thought: to replace onions, why not add onion seeds, or Kolonji, which for a while now have been a fragranced part of my chutney and savoury jams..

I remembered my mother-in-law apologising for a (truly delicious) plum chutney, saying it was too “hot” — which it really was not.  But it occurred to me, what if I did make a chutney, again in the spirit of the kimchi (which usually in acuality isn’t too hot either), that really was very very spicy.  So I added dried Indian chilis and crushed red peppers in addition to the Korean chili powder.  And it’s still not that spicy!

Here’s the recipe, one that obviously can be multiplied and infinitely varied, though the specificity of this one is pretty darn good, and only going to get better as it sits, as a chutney always will.

Kimchi-Inspired Plum and Carrot Chutney 
(in easy-to-eyeball volume measurements)
 
4 generous cups stoned plums (make a scrap vinegar!  See if you can plant them afterwards!)
5 chopped carrots
A cup of raisins or sultanas as respect for the way you were taught which you usually defy
a large man’s thumb of ginger, shredded, chopped, sliced thinly, whatever
half a head of garlic, chopped (so maybe five cloves?)
a tablespoon nigella seeds
1/2 cup intense vinegar (higher acidity than scrap usually gets_
2 1/2 scant cups sugar
1/4 chili powder
handful dried chilis
some of the fresh chili peppers maybe getting old in your fridge
a handful of chili flakes for good measure
 
Then simmer away until the concoction gels like jam, when a tablespoon of it is placed in the cold (ie the fridge.)  Decant into extremely clean and hot jars (maybe have been sitting in a low oven after thorough wash) — put a circle of  baking paper on the top in case mould — horrible– should want to grow.  This is what I was told.  Americans would probably be advised to “boil” the closed jar for 10 or more minutes, not sure exactly the recommendation.  But in the UK, tradition and the recipes all seem to believe– as I do– that the acidic fruit plus sugar plus vinegar has will have a PH. that would rule out anything awful happening in that jar as the preserve ages.
 

And this is how  I will eat it: on Mousetrap on a cracker, ideally but not this time, an oatcake.  So very more-ish, though Love I really mustn’t.

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