Yes folks, it’s getting near that time again when we all go crazy trying to get gifts bought and wrapped, get the house decorated, preparing for guests to arrive and preparing all the food and cooking our favorite meal for Christmas dinner, whatever it may be.
And how many of us wish it were all over before it even arrives? We all look forward to the holidays, but we’re completely exhausted by the time all is said and done because of all the preparation we need to do before the big day.
The best thing to do is try and get ahead of the game. I know it’s all easier said than done, but I have found that it really helps. If you do a lot of baking for Christmas, get as much of it as you can done early. Making cookies? Make up all the dough, wrap it up in plastic wrap, label it and stick it in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer. Then all you need to do is take it out the night before and put it in the fridge to thaw so you can bake the next day.
Having a few people over for appetizers and cocktails doesn’t have to put you in a frenzy. Try to serve things that you can make and freeze and then just pop in the oven to bake on the day. I make an Italian Rustic Pork Pie compliments of Nigella Lawson which can be made ahead of time and frozen. I also make sausage rolls, samosas, mini mince pies and other pastry delectables that can be frozen and baked later.
Feel free to cheat a bit if you really don’t have the time to make your own pastry. After all, I just read that Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood both use store-bought pastry to save time, so if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you! However, if you have the time, then go for it and make your own.
I admit, for the smaller things like the sausage rolls, I do use the store-bought pastry, but for the Pork Pie, I make the pastry myself.
But this post is about chutney….Christmas Chutney. For those of you not in the know, chutney is pretty much a mixture of fruit and veg (usually onions), sugar, vinegar and spices. It should really be made and then left to mature for at least a month or more before eating. It can be eaten as an accompaniment to most meats, hot or cold and also strong cheeses.
This Christmas Chutney is another recipe compliments of Nigella Lawson which was in one of the weekend magazines last year. If you would like to try your hand at this, it really is rather easy. It’s just a matter of prepping all the fruit and onions and throwing everything into a big pot and letting it cook. This makes a good bit so make sure you have plenty of jam jars with vinegar-proof lids or Kilner jars. You’ll need about 9 X 250ml/9floz jars. Yeah, it sounds like a lot, but homemade goodies make great gifts! You may get more or less jars depending on their size.
(makes approximately 2.2 litres)
750g/1 lb 10oz (prepared weight) cooking apples cored, peeled and chopped small
2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped
500g/17½oz fresh or frozen cranberries (thawed if frozen)
250g/9oz soft pitted dates, roughly chopped
zest and juice of 2 oranges
400g/14oz caster/fine sugar
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
500ml/17oz white wine vinegar
2 tsp Maldon salt or 1 tsp table salt
FIRST, PREPARE YOUR JARS.
Jars should be sterilized before having foodstuff put in them. Wash your jars and lids well in hot, soapy water and rinse well. Put the jars and lids on a paper-towel lined roasting pan and sit in a cold oven. When you have about 30-45 minutes left of cooking time on the chutney, turn on the oven to about 120°C/250°F and leave the oven on until the chutney is done. You want to be putting hot chutney into hot jars. Fill up to the top, leaving about 1/2 inch of head room. Seal immediately and leave to cool.
TO MAKE THE CHUTNEY…
Put the prepared apples, onions, cranberries and dates into a very large pan and give them a good stir around.
Zest the oranges over the top, then squeeze in the juice.
Add the sugar and spices, then pour over the vinegar and sprinkle on the salt.
Now give it all a good stir, turn on the heat, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and let it bubble, uncovered, for about an hour or until you have a pulpy mass. Give it a stir occasionally. (mine took about an hour and 15 min).
Spoon into your hot jars and seal down tight. As they cool, you should hear the ‘pop’ of the lid indicating the vacuum seal has been made. If they haven’t popped once they have cooled, press down the ‘button’ on the center of the lid and it should stay down. If it doesn’t stay down, it may mean that you didn’t put the lid on tight enough and air has gotten in. You can just store these in the fridge rather than the cupboard or tighten the lid more and heat in a water bath for about 10-15 minutes.*(see below)
MAKE AHEAD TIP
Make the chutney at least two months before using or giving as gifts. The longer it has to mature, the better. Store in a cool dark place for up to 18 months. Once opened, store in the fridge and use within a couple of months.
*Boiling water bath canning involves packing jars with food, completely covering the jars with water, heating the water to boiling (212°F/100°C), and processing for 5 to 85 minutes, depending on the food product, style of pack, and jar size. Boiling removes the oxygen remaining in the jar, which helps to form a tight seal between the lid and the rim. The heat used for this method of canning is sufficient to kill vegetative bacterial cells found in the food.