9.15.10 Condimental: Nose-to-Tail Chutney

Chutney 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife
Scared you, didn't I? You thought this was going to be about some weird condiment made with offal. This chutney is definitely assertive in its own right, but it is strictly vegetarian. It is, however, from the original nose-to-tail chef, Fergus Henderson of St. John in London. I've never met Fergus, nor have I eaten in any of his restaurants, but I love the man. His seminal cookbook, Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking, is a window into his wonderfully warm, witty and ultimately quite sensible approach to food and life. (Did I mention he has Parkinsons?) You've never seen a less fussy cookbook. He doesn't get all bothered about quantities or times, but rather helps you to be an intuitive cook. Some choice phrases: "Do not be afraid of cooking, as your ingredients will know and misbehave." (As though an onion was a young horse feeling its oats!) Eating aoli "should be an emotional experience." And, with regard to this chutney, "There is nothing finer, after having a good stock up your sleeve, than having a reserve of chutney." I believe we've conquered the stock thing, and so are ready to proceed to this very British, quite rustic and highly addictive chutney.
Ingredients 790 xxx
Although I worship Fergus, after making this chutney I might advise you to break down its component parts a bit more, or plan to cook it quite a bit longer. I wound up roughly chopping the shallots and garlic cloves (Does he mean for us to leave them whole? Even the huge ones?); pitting the dates (he doesn't mention that); and ended up with very stringy ginger from all that grating (I think you should finely chop yours). I also added salt, which my palate missed here. You should play it by ear, so don't try to make this when you're on a tight schedule. It's more the type of recipe to attempt on a lazy Sunday when you're reading the paper and sipping a large, steaming mug of spiked cider. The chutney will bubble gently in the background and you can get up occasionally and poke around in the pot, sample a raisin or a chunk of apple, and head back to the couch. I used these jars which I discovered online, and I really like the shape. Wondering what you'll do with all this chutney? Eat it with cheese, spread on toast, swirled into yoghurt, with roast chicken or grilled or braised meats of any sort, especially sausages! A jar of St. John chutney would also make a lovely gift to a special, deserving friend.
Jars 790 xxx

Apple Chutney

adapted slightly from Fergus Henderson
makes enough to fill a dozen half-pint jars
  • spice bag (recipe follows)
  • — 1.5 kilos apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • — 1 kilo shallots, peeled
  • — 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • — 1.5 kilos tomatoes, chopped
  • — 1 kilo dates, pitted
  • — 1 kilo raisins
  • — 200 grams fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely grated
  • — 1 kilo dark brown muscovado sugar, or to taste (I used it all)
  • — 600 ml malt vinegar, or to taste (ditto)
  • — 5 teaspoons sea salt

Combine all the ingredients in a very large, heavy-bottomed non-reactive pot. Cook on a gentle heat, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking at the bottom, for approximately 1 hour.

What you want is a brown chutney look and consistency—this may take some more cooking but be careful not to go too far: you do not want to end up with a brown, jammy consistency. (GFL note: You might need to be British to actually grasp what he is talking about, but I think it has to do with retaining a chunkier quality and not letting it get all gloppy and broken down.)

When satisfied, remove the spice bag and bottle in clean, sterilized jars. Keep in the fridge for at least two weeks before eating. (Me again: I also processed my jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.)

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Spice Bag (for Apple Chtuney)

from Fergus Henderson
  • whole black peppercorns
  • whole coriander seeds
  • whole white peppercorns
  • whole chiles
  • allspice
  • mace (whole, not powdered)
  • bay leaf
  • celery seeds
  • cloves
  • fennel seed
  • mustard seed

To avoid crunching on an emotional peppercorn or cautiously extracting a collation of sturdy seeds from your mouth, tie ingredients together in a stockinet bag.

(GFL note: Isn't Fergus adorable? Don't you love the total disregard for quantities or even proportions? And what the hell is a stockinet bag? I just poured a tablespoon or so of each of this stuff into a double layer of cheesecloth and tied it up. Btw, I was out of bay leaves, and that seemed fine.)

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Chutney rocks!
Natalie L.Davis on November 17, 2014 at 9:48 am —
so, i made this. because i have a ton of apples from my own tree, i decided on this apple chutney. the quantity for things is way off. 1) wayy too much malt vinegar. chutney shouldn't be soupy, 2) garlic should be grated or zested, 3) same for ginger, 4) spices should be ground, not in cheesecloth, 5) spices need to be measured, some are very strong tasting, even in a forgivable dish like chutney is I understand this is Fergus's recipe but I'm just saying it really doesn't work. I've made other chutneys in the past, like this one here (not my blog) http://foodthatnourishes.blogspot.com/2009/12/cranberry-chutney.html, and it looked and tasted much better. i love your website and facebook posts but this recipe did not turn out well.
anna on August 3, 2016 at 10:45 pm —
Thanks for your input, Anna, and I'm sorry the chutney did not work for you. I have made it many times with excellent results. In Fergus' defense, I must say that the recipe does indicate that the cooking time is approximate and that the malt vinegar is to taste. I do agree with you about the garlic; I mince mine. This recipe definitely requires a familiarity with chutney and a sense of what you're going for. So glad you found another one out there that you prefer. (If you're game, try my recipe for rhubarb chutney sometime!) xo
laura on August 4, 2016 at 7:19 am —