BY AMY PENNINGTON
In late fall, gardens heave a near audible final breath and give up the last of their fruits. Fields turn fragrant with the pungent smell from fermenting fallen fruit and the last of anything sweet is gathered from bare tree branches or browning vines. For a canning enthusiast, or a 100-mile dieter, November marks the last ditch effort to get fresh food in a jar and up into your cupboard for winter indulgences. Apples hold well on the branch and are often harvested late in fall. Apples are quite flexible as they have a higher acid content and can be successfully canned or paired with a myriad of additional fruits or infusions. I have it on high esteem that chutneys are coming back in vogue, and this one will not disappoint. This fragrant chutney relies heavily on spices for flavor and has a bit of a bite from the chili flakes and cayenne pepper. Cider apples make the best chutney, as they are tart and quite firm so they will hold their shape and not turn too soft from cooking. If you can’t find cider apples, it’s ok to substitute another firm, tart apple.
Spiced Apple Chutney
Makes about 6 to 8 half pints | start to finish: 1.5 hours
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 pounds cider apples, cored and cut into small dice (do not peel)
12 whole cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoon mustard seed, coarsely ground
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
Heat oil in sauce pan over medium high heat. Add onions and salt and sauté until onions start to brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add apples and sauté until they start to brown, another 10 to 12 minutes. Add all spices, crystallized ginger and raisins, stirring for two minutes to incorporate. Add apple cider vinegar and brown sugar. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer. Cook until thick and apples are beginning to break down, but still hold their shape, about 45 minutes to an hour.
Fill clean jars with chutney, leaving 1/2 –inch head space. Using a damp, clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars, and top the jars with lids and rings. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove each jar with tongs and let cool on the counter. Once cool, make sure seals are secure. Sealed jars may be stored in a cool dark cupboard for up to one year.
Not many fruits are available this late in the season, but pumpkins store well and make a fantastic spread when cooked down and scented with spicy notes. Pumpkins are more of a challenge for the casual canner. As sugar levels and flesh density vary greatly between pumpkins, it is difficult to say with utmost certainty that water-bath canning of pumpkin butter is guaranteed to be safe. Though I have never had an issue with my butters, a wonderful (and utterly safe) alternative is to make a freezer jam and store your pumpkin butter in the freezer. Butters can be spread thick on toast or morning pastry, or used as a base layer in tarts and pies. Smear a generous heap on a tart shell, then fill the rest of the tart with melted chocolate ganache.
Honey Pumpkin Butter
Makes about 5 half pints | start to finish: 4 to 5 hours
3 lb sugar pie pumpkin, trimmed of outer flesh and diced to 1-inch cube
2 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, cut and beans scraped
1 cup water
1 lemon, cut in half
1 orange, cut in half
1 1/2 cups honey
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
In a large saucepan, add pumpkin, sugar, vanilla pod and seeds and water. Add all citrus halves to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook over low heat, until pumpkin is soft and can be easily pierced with a knife, 45 minutes to an hour. Remove lemon and orange halves and skim any citrus seeds from the surface. Remove vanilla bean.
Working in small batches, purée pumpkin in blender until completely smooth. Return smooth pumpkin purée back into the pot and add the honey, cardamom and nutmeg. Set over low heat and cook, stirring often. Butter will become thick and lava-like, producing big, low bubbles. Cook down until butter is thick and leaves a firm trail on the bottom of the pan when you stir. This can take up to 2 to 3 hours, depending on how thick you want your butter.
When pumpkin butter is cooked to your liking, add to small jars or plastic containers. If using glass jars, note that butter will expand slightly as it freezes, so it’s best to leave at least 1/2-inch head space to ensure jars will not crack. Let cool slightly on counter before sealing with lids and freezing.
*washed jars or freezer tubs; store chilled
From Edible Seattle November/December 2010