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A novice's guide to producing his own food

Glut, my arse

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Toby Buckland

Toby Buckland

 

Gardener’s World, eh? Quite a show. Whenever I see presenter Toby Buckland stroll into view brimming with fake enthusiasm and waving his arms, I want to puke. Still, you got to respect what the man says. He knows his stuff.  

A couple of Fridays ago he opened with something which pulled me up so sharply, I swallowed the little bit of vomit which had just welled up into my mouth. “Isn’t September great?” he gushed, insincerely, “It’s this time of year when your veg patch has really come together, and you suddenly find yourself with a glut of food.”  

What? A glut? Not in my allotment there ain’t. We had a few good meals, but everything was eaten as it ripened. No way could you use the word “glut” to describe any of my harvests.  

Mind you, there was one notable exception – courgettes. There were lots and lots of courgettes. And I mean so many it was becoming a little bit of a problem. From only six plants we’d made ratatouille so often some of the kids were sick of it, and, as an experiment, Sue and I had frozen some completely raw, and some which had been blanched for a minute (the jury is out on which is the best way.)  

But there was still loads left over. What to do? It isn’t the moste versatile of veg. Fortunately, in the genuinely good magazine to accompany Gardener’s World, I found a recipe for a courgette chutney. Problem solved. Time to try my hand a spot of serious cooking.  

 

Seasonal Chutney

   

  • 1kg courgettes, diced
  • 1kg green tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 500g cooking apples, peeled cored and diced
  • 500g sultanas
  • 500g light soft brown sugar
  • 600ml cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • Pinch of salt

For the spice bag  

   

  • 50g fresh ginger
  • 12 cloves
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds


  

  1. Make up your spice bag by tying up the spices in a 20cm square of muslin. Put this into a preserving pan with all the other ingredients and bring slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally.
  2. Let the mixture simmer uncovered for two-and-a-half to three hours. Stir regularly. It’s ready when glossy, thick and well reduced, but chunky.
  3. Pour the chutney, while worm, in sterilised jars. Pack down with the back of a spoon to remove air pockets. Seal with vinegar-proof lids. Store in a cool dark place.

 

It all seemed pretty straight forward. I had to buy just about every other ingredient, except half the onions, so there was quite a considerable expense. Worse, still, I had to fork out £4.60 for a vast packet of muslin, when I only needed 20cm. Total expense was maybe in the range of £10, but it did produce eight jars, which at, say, £2-plus each in the shop, meant I was still quids in. Besides, I had loads of spices (and football fields of muslin) left over for any future batches.  

You’d expect chopping to be a pain in the bahookey, but, as with most chores connected with the allotment, I didn’t mind a bit. I’d dug out the biggest soup pan in the house – a big two-handled jobby – but there was a mountain of ingredients sticking up above the rim by the time I’d added everything.  

Three hours later, and £10 lighter, I had eight jars of chutney

Three hours later, and £10 lighter, I had eight jars of chutney

 

Fortunately, it wasn’t long before the whole mixture started to reduce. By the end of the evening (and precariously close to my bedtime), I’d had my chutney bottled and labelled. So, how did it taste? Well, I won’t know for sure for another two months, but I did sneak a wee teaspoon, and I’m pretty confident it’s gonna be just fine.  

Sue had been out for the evening, and when she returned, I showed her my handiwork. “What do you think?” I said, holding up a jar like it was a glass of  fine wine. “It looks the stuff I used to throw up when I was pregnant,” she replied.  

I went to bed.

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