Somehow we pulled ourselves away from our work at the Pub
and made our way up to London to visit some friends and get a glimpse of the marathon.
|Being ultimate tourists on Tower Bridge||
|There was a donkey running the race!|
Once London consumed all of our money, we said "cheerio" to Merry Olde England and journeyed forth to Wales. You know that place you may have heard of in reference to the Prince of Wales or when people talk about the country with the name of an ocean mammal? Well, turns out it's basically England's left hip. It's a small hip—
not very womanly—
but it is luscious none the less.
|A short hike up a hill near our new hosts' house overlooking the hills near Brecon Beacons National Park|
We found ourselves nestled under the black "mountains" (the Welsh haven't quite figured out what mountains are) just outside the Brecon Beacons National Park at the home of Roger and Beatrice, with whom we'll be working/volunteering
to restore their 16th century home and barn.
|John displays a neatly labeled jar of my plum chutney between the fine company of our hosts Beatrice and Roger (interesting note: Roger built the kitchen in which they're sitting; you can see the beginning of the section he added onto the original building in a vertical line going down the stones just behind the left side of Beatice's head. ).|
Roger has a world of handyman knowledge in that brain of his, so we're happy to have made our goal during this period
of volunteering move from farming and gardening more toward work related to building and self-sufficiency, as we figure that hands-on building skills might come very much in handy when we decide to do whatever it is that we decide to do (and if anyone has been informed on what this will be, please let me know—
|Behind you can see the barn that Roger has completely reconstructed and the prep for concreting its floor||
|Serious rhubarbage meets serious worksuit. Who needs a suit and tie when you have an oversized blue one-piece?|
But apart from building wood storage racks, painting chicken houses, and concreting floors, the less-rugged, more delicate woman in me ("haha," we all laugh in unison) has also found a place here. You see, in a similar way that many British will claim "curry" as their "national dish" with a tone and attitude suggesting that their statement actually somehow makes sense, they have similarly embraced the chutney.
|Raisins and onions in jam? Oh my, oh yes...!|
Why Americans have not similarly embraced the vast world of chutney
I'm not sure, because this elusive condiment is a great way to spice up your cheeseboard, your sandwich, your pork tenderloin, and even your life (!!). Especially nice is the fact that there is much less sugar in it than in typically oversweetened things like jam or what ever high-fructose-gelatinous-thing it is that you spread on your food.
|And below this beautiful pot of chutney you will find the most burnt pan bottom in your life. And it will make you sore and mornful in your attempts to remove it.|
So lucky me, because this family has a small plum and apple orchard, and when you get so overwhelmed with a glut of plums and apples, freeze them and make some damn good chutney whenever you damn please.
British Spiced Plum Chutney
("British" meaning "probably India-Inspired")
1 lb sugar
2 lbs/32 oz malt vinegar or pickling vinegar, 1 cup set aside
1 lb apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
3 lbs plums, stoned and quartered* (don't forget to buy organic stone fruit!
1 lb onions, peeled and quartered
1/2 lb raisins
1/2 lb carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 oz salt
2 tsp cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp allspice
Tools: food processor (optional), sterilized jars
*Save half of the plum stones and remove the kernels
to add to the food processor with the carrots. They'll add nutrition (but be careful, because too many can be toxic
), flavor, and pectin. Triple threat
|Getting my mise en place on with frozen plums and apples and the rest of the gang. Dealing with frozen plums can be annoying, and I found removing the stone when the fruit was still half-frozen to be easiest.||
|I soaked the stones in water and then essentially bashed them with a blunt object to remove the kernel, which adds flavor to james and chutneys, but too many and you're poisoned. Just sayin'.|
In a large pot, heat sugar and vinegar (minus one cup) over medium-high heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Turn heat to low.
Pulse carrots in food processor 3-4 times, add raisins, pulse another 3-4 times, then add to sugar/vinegar mixture along with the plums.
Pulse onion in food processor until chopped (or chop by hand if you're feeling industrious). I also threw my frozen apple slices in with fine results. Add to the pot.
|Don't forget to wear protective eyewear when chopping onions, especially if you're a fragile ginger like myself.||
|It almost looks like an appetizer platter. |
You guys are just so beautiful.
Combine salt and spices in reserved cup of vinegar, then add to everything else. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, stirring the mixture occasionally so that it doesn't catch on the bottom of the pan (clean-up will be hell if it does—
I should know). Don't worry about chunky plum pieces, because they will break down during this process.
Let it reduce for 30-60 minutes, or until desired thickness is reached. It's hard to go wrong here, but a nice rule is that if you take a bit of chutney on a large wooden spoon and run your finger down the center and the line isn't filled up with runny chutney, it's probably thick enough.
Jar using your method of choice, but ideally place a disc of wax paper atop the hot chutney once it's been doled out to the jars. Seal with an airtight lid, making sure that's it's non-metal on the interior, as this will react negatively with the vinegar. No need to boil these jars, although it never hurts.
|Plopping my chutney and trying (yet failing) not to make a mess (not pictured)||
|Roger took it upon himself to pop out some labels for my jars. Isn't that the cutest?|
Technically you're supposed to let this stuff "age" for three months or up to a year, but I gobble it down straight out of the pot and set aside a big tub in the refrigerator to eat throughout the week. If jarred, keep in a cool dark place, and eat within about a year, but I'll tell you that we've had chutney using this recipe that's lasted two years, so the risk is all yours.
Once you make your quintessentially British chutney, you can follow it with a nice British curry and something else completely British.
And then go outside and see the sunset.
|Maybe this picture didn't follow with the general theme of where I was going with the post, but man Wales is pretty.|
And stay tuned
, bell ringing is coming up next!
(What does that even mean!?)