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The Preservation of Preserving

Once in a while you cross paths with people and you know you click. Well mine crossed with the lovely Charles of www.aglassofredwine.com, we joke now that we are food twins! His style of cooking and obsession with food is captivating as is his passion for wine. His blog is new…..I have been on his back as have many others to get it going and I have to say the wait was worth it! I’m delighted to have him do a ‘Guest Blog Post’ here for me on his thoughts on the making of Chutney……sometimes I think we are loosing many skills passed down through the generations and this art is something I would love to see making a comeback……..over to you Charles!


It’s coming up to the Christmas season. Don’t try to deny it, you know it’s true! I know it’s “Only October” but most of us have at least thought about it and the very good of us may even have picked up a few stocking fillers. Tis the season to be jolly, we are told. However, it is also a season where financial pressures of the ludicrous overspending and gift-giving, which we all do to bestow upon our loved-ones, can become somewhat overwhelming.


It was for this very reason, along with wanting to be prepared for once, combined with my interest in cooking that I looked at alternative avenues a few years ago. The memory eludes me as to when or how I decided, possibly a food magazine or programme, to make chutney. But I did, and so my love of the late autumn ritual of preserving the harvest overabundance of tomatoes, apples and many other wonders began. After a long, thought-out process of finding the perfect recipe was appeased, I began the arduous process of peeling a kilo of tomatoes. This was combined with bramley apples, dark sugar, and spices into the pot. Even the eye watering, house filling, unctuous smell of boiling cider vinegar was not enough to put me off. I was hooked.


Filling the sterilised jars and leaving the chutney to mature in its recommended, apocalyptic sounding, “cold, dark place” could not dampen my expectation of what was to come; Christmas and the giving of the gift. I’m not saying for one second that I made the best chutney known to history, but wrapped up and gift tagged, the recipients gave a response much like they had received a jar of gold. The penny dropped. In this commercialised world the joy that people received was not so much what was contained within the contents of the jar but rather the time and effort given to those contents. And the best part was; the effort was given, not in a high street store on Christmas Eve, but in my kitchen in early October.


It has been a few years now and with every year that passes my interest increases and the preparation begins earlier and earlier. Picking up and storing jars from January has become the norm. I even branched out last year and made three different kinds of chutney. Recently though I have started thinking about the process. Not just the gift that people seem to really enjoy nor the self satisfying need to be prepared but the preservation of food items that, in the abundance of autumn goods, may otherwise have seen the inside of the supermarket skip.


We are all so used to the convenience of refrigeration and freezing that I wonder is the use of using vinegar, sugar, salt, and other processes dying out, so to speak? Canning in the late 19th century, along with the developments brought about by Louis Pasteur made huge inroads into enhancing the shelf-life of our foodstuffs. Electricity followed and the development of the aforementioned refrigeration unit; now a household standard. The use of vinegar for pickling, alcohol for preserving, and sugar in jams has long been used to keep the bounty of the autumn, in season fruits, before a time when one could readily and easily attain a Peruvian punnet of strawberries in December from a supermarket shelf.
Don’t get me wrong, convenience is wonderful. I’m not suggesting a 1940s/50s war time situation of using mashed potato to make pastry, or carrots to simulate apricots when not in season, or available as the example pertains to. I’m just wondering have we become far too disconnected with what is good and plentiful, and when? Food, in season, is cheaper and has a much higher taste quality. Does it not make sense then to use these known-to-work methods of keeping this for a later time when it’s much more expensive and of a lesser quality? Does it not make sense for all of us to be involved in the preservation of preserving?

Cathals Chutney for the blog


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