What am I doing? I asked myself as I foraged in the back of the kitchen cupboards for jars and lids, vinegar and spices. It’s an August Bank Holiday and we still have our late summer trip to Northumberland in front of us and I have the audacity to start making chutney. It was as if I was allowing autumn to creep past the humming lavender pots and in through my backdoor and hover behind me. I felt him as I added sugar and cinnamon to the berries. He was breathing down my neck and getting high on the scent of woody spice and burst-ripe fruits.
I should add that this was not the first encounter. On the evenings that ran up to our Bank Holiday, Martin and I had enjoyed early evening walks where we watched the skies deepen from pale baby blues and pinks into shock orange and reds as the sun shrank from view.
Those evenings were warm enough to almost make us believe in summer but, with his cooling kisses, touches of autumn teased us away from the glare of the sun and showed us the turning leaves and the hedgerow stores. We listened more carefully, then, to the swallows and their manic chatter on the farm whose lamps were now lit.
On Sunday morning sharp – we retraced our steps and picked blackberries until our fingers turned purple. Our aim was to make a plum and blackberry crumble. But after soaking the berries in a basin of salted water to rid them of pests, they looked less than appetising and so I left them in the bowl with a mind to throwing them away the next day.
I didn’t and this was the result:
I found a recipe on the internet here. I adapted it to meet what I had in the kitchen and how many blackberries I was left with: a mere 300g. And so I added a couple of pears and a plum to reach the 500g mark. It became a perfect medley of seasonal fruits and the resulting chutney was dark and sticky and perfectly set.
5oog Blackberries (add chopped pear and plum if not enough berries)
140g Soft brown sugar
140g Red onion (chopped)
2 tsp Ground Ginger
1 tsp Cloves
1 tsp Cinnamon
150ml White wine vinegar
Makes around 600ml (will be less if just using blackberries).
Combine all your ingredients - except for the vinegar - in a large saucepan or preserve pan and stir the mixture over the heat until the fruits give under your spoon. Add the vinegar and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for around 30-45 minutes.
Once the mixture has set to a thick jammy consistency, spoon into sterilised jars and seal.
And in the dark cupboard my chutney will stay until a day in late, late autumn. On that evening there will be candles lit and a pheasant roasting in the oven. It will be my duty to come back here and tell you just how well blackberry chutney goes with game.