Green tomatoes from the vegetable garden – chutney time?

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As we move into the third week in October,  the weather is gradually changing and cooler nights are arriving.

In fact this week the first smell of wood smoke was noticeable in Barga Vecchia as people started to feel the encroaching winter and light their fires and stoves.

The giornaledibarganews weather forecaster, David Sesto  tells us today in his article that warmer weather is on the way at least for the next two or three days  (article here)  but down in the vegetable garden everything has more or less come to an abrupt as it cold down there at night.

There are a couple of sad looking cabbages which have managed to evade the hungry mouths of the marauding deer and a handful (and I do mean a handful  of green beans but apart from that, the season is over.

It looks as though there will not be enough sun to ripen the remaining tomatoes and so a decision has to be made.

Do we pick them and move them up to the house and maybe see if we can ripen them in boxes put out by the windows or maybe we could try something which we thought about doing last year but somehow never got round to doing  –  making some green tomato chutney.

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Chutney refers to a wide-ranging family of condiments from South Asian cuisine and Indian cuisine that usually contain some mixture of spice and vegetable and/or fruit.

A virtually limitless number of chutneys can be made from almost any combination of vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices. Chutneys are usually grouped into either sweet or hot forms; both forms usually contain various spices, including chili, but differ by their main flavours. Chutney types and their preparations vary widely across Pakistan and India.

Trying to buy some of the ingredients to make the chutney on Wednesday in Barga was somewhat difficult –  chopped candied ginger and cider vinegar for instance were a little difficult to find but overall everything else was available.

The recipe (below) did say 15 minutes preparation time and 45 minutes cooking,  which by my reckoning comes to exactly an hour,  so why did it take me more than 4 and 1/2 hours to prepare and cook my green tomato chutney?

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Green Tomato Chutney – Place all of the ingredients in a medium sized (about 4 qt) thick-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.- source

    • 2 1/2 pounds firm green tomatoes, about 7 cups, cored and chopped
    • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
    • 1 cup chopped red onion
    • 1 cup golden raisins
    • 1 cup cider vinegar
    • 2 Tbsp chopped candied ginger
    • 1 Tbsp mustard seeds
    • 1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
    • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
    • 1 teaspoon of salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • Pinch of ground nutmeg

Similar in preparation and usage to a pickle, simple spiced chutneys can be dated as far back as 500BC. Originating in Northern Europe, this method of preserving food was subsequently adopted by the Roman and later British empires, exporting this to the colonies, Australia and America.

As greater imports of foreign and varied foods increasing into Northern Europe the chutney fell out of favour, this combined with a greater ability to refrigerate fresh foods and an increasing amount of glasshouses meant chutney and pickle being relegated to military and colonial use.

Diego Álvarez Chanca brought back chili peppers from the Americas. After discovering their medicinal properties, Chanca developed a chutney to administer them. This coincided with the British Royal Navy’s use of a lime pickle or chutney to ward off scurvy on journeys to the new world. In the late 15th and early 16th century, British colonization of the Indian subcontinent relied on preserved food stuffs such as lime pickles, chutneys and marmalades. (Marmalades proving unpopular due their tartness and a lack of available sugar.)

Beginning in the 17th century, chutneys were shipped to European countries like England and France as luxury goods. Western imitations were called “mangoed” fruits or vegetables, the word ‘chutney’ still being associated with the lower working classes.

In the 19th century, brands of chutney like Major Grey’s or Bengal Club created for Western tastes were shipped to Europe.

Generally these chutneys are fruit, vinegar, and sugar cooked down to a reduction.

The tradition of chutney making spread through the English speaking world, especially in the Caribbean and American South where chutney is still a popular condiment for ham, pork, and fish.



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