Well hello, early snow! I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who woke up a little surprised, a little excited and a little sad this week when I saw a blanket of white on the ground. I love the changing of the seasons, but I was a little sad my growing season was cut short this year. Thankfully, a friend and local grower, Deb from Vesta Gardens, visited to warn me to pull my garden ASAP. Actually, she told me I should have pulled it the day before, but what can you do.
So I had tones of tomatoes, ranging from nice and ripe, to barely formed and I wanted to try something new this year for preserving the 10lbs of green tomatoes I pulled. Feeling the oncoming winter season, I thought a nice, stewed, warming chutney would be the way to go. I kept mine nice and basic so we can tweak depending on what dish it ends up on, but you can add whatever your favorite spices happen to be. Throw in mustard seeds, star anise, a shot of cognac, more spice, less spice, you be the decider of your chutney’s ultimate fate!
This recipe calls for making a dry caramel, a basic pastry technique that once you get the hang of, is really easy, but can be dangerous if you are careless or not paying attention. The best tips to a successful dry caramel is to use a pot large enough to easily fit all your sugar with room to expand, heat the ingredient you are going to cut the caramel with, and keep your hands clear of the way of steam when you are arresting your caramel with your add in. Good luck!
310g White Sugar
250ml White Wine Vinegar
1Kg Green Tomatoes
2 Shallots, Diced
2 Garlic, Minced
3cm Ginger, Peeled and Micro-Planed
1 tsp Chili Flakes
First, collect everything you need before you begin your caramel process because once you start, you won’t be able to walk very far away. In a large, stainless steel pot, pour in a fine layer of sugar (about a quarter of the total amount) and gently swirl and shake the pot to even it out. Place it over medium heat and grab a heat proof spatula. You will see the sugar start to melt and change colors from white to light caramel. As it melts, carefully swirl the pot in a circular motion to gently move around the white sugar into the melted caramel spots. When about half of the sugar is melted, add a little more of your sugar and swirl to combine. Meanwhile, heat your vinegar in a pot beside your sugar pot. This will help in the combination of the two ingredients later.
Keep swirling and adding your sugar until the entire amount has been incorporated and everything is melted and a nice caramel color. It can be a fine balancing act between adding sugar, swirling, not letting your sugar burn, so when you’re starting out, lower temperatures will be your friend. It might take a bit more time, but it’s better than a pot of black, burnt sugar smelling up your house. Now, keeping your hands away from where the steam will shoot up from your sugar pot, very carefully pour a bit of your hot vinegar into the sugar. It’s going to bubble up and spit and steam. Don’t panic, just keep your hands clear of danger. Use your heat proof spatula to combine the first bit of vinegar and sugar. Keep adding the vinegar and carefully stirring until it is all combined. If it’s bubbling out of control, turn off your heat and continue the process. If there are clumps, don’t worry, just keep your mix on the heat and stir and they will eventually melt and combine beautifully.
Now, add the rest of your ingredients all at once and stir to coat. Gently simmer and stew together until the tomatoes start to break down and pop and the mixture thickens and becomes very fragrant. It can take from a half hour to an hour to really cook down and combine all the flavours. Give it a taste every once and a while, (careful! The sugar sauce is HOT), and keep going until that bitter bite green tomatoes can have calmed down. I like to take it to where it’s just noticeable and the balance of heat, sweet, bitter, and sour have found a beautiful harmony.
Now your chutney is done! Use it with game meat, on a winter stew, on toast with whipped ricotta, with tourtiere, anything that could use a real pop of intense flavor, and enjoy!