Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chutney Diaries

Some raw materials, duly gathered.

Fruit torturing equipment for the S&M fans.

Early stages of the elaborate stewing process.

Hot and steamy as the definition of simmering is discussed.

From pan to pickle jar in one simple and slick movement.

Leave to cool and ferment for at least three months (first batch).

It was later in my life when I was introduced to chutney as both a consumer and a manufacturer. I use the term manufacturer loosely, it was more as willing Munchkin. My duties were simple enough, shake trees and gather fruit (plums, apples), climb trees and gather fruit (plums, apples), gather fallen fruit (plums, apples), bag fruit (plums, apples), sort and wash fruit (plums, apples) and peel/core and stone fruit (plums, apples). Awful sharp cutting devices were employed on these production duties, huge spinning blades, sharp and ruthless knives, ice cold water and hot metal implements. To soften the physical pain numbing amounts of alcohol were consumed as we danced in a mashed up fruit cocktail of pickling frenzy. I was bloodied and bound but strangely ecstatic, somehow lifted by the experience, the raw process of creation, the boiling and simmering, the temperature plateaus and then the joy of bottling or compressing the rich mixture with a final twist of the lid.

Somewhere in the background wild and ragged conversations raged, “Was Jesus a contemporary of Elvis?”, “Who does the Pope think he is?”, “Why are there not more Masonic Lodges in Scotland?”, “What kind of business is Google really in?”, “What does Felicity Kendall apply to her face and bottom every night?”, “What exactly would you do if you had a fully stocked cellar full of handy spices, vital ingredients and useful groceries?” , "Has the cat got a mouse in her mouth?“. There are of course no clear answers to any of these.

Later I was granted a bit of a day off and spent it wisely but used less time than allocated. I had a few loose, straggly and grey thoughts and then read the Sunday Times from cover to cover, very little of it made sense but I did make friends with black eyed Miliband Brothers (creepy), swooned at the apologists for the Papal visit and then was puzzled by the condensed diaries of Christopher Isherwood. Soon it was time for a coffee and a warm Kit Kat as lap 18 sped past my glazed stare - at Monza.

I am careful not to overeat except for those periods of fulsome and healthy gluttony that I occasionally allow myself, having said that I no current chutney fantasies at all. Once made and secured ready to ferment chutney represents little danger to the general public, it’s explosive phase having passed. It can therefore be stored in crowded cupboards, pantries or in some other cool dark place that is seldom vacuumed or disturbed such as under the stairs. Once mature and of the correct viscosity it may be given away as additions to already complex Christmas presents, as a social gift or as a spontaneous treat for workplace colleagues.

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