A gently spiced apple chutney with sultanas, dates and dried cranberries - perfect in sandwiches, wraps or with a vegan cheeseboard.
One of the loveliest gifts both to give and receive at this time of year is a hamper of homemade goodies. Knowing that someone has put their thought and time and effort into making something especially for you to enjoy is surely more heartwarming than the fanciest or whizziest of shop-bought presents.
Lockdown has been tough on so many people in all sorts of ways, but the silver lining on the dark cloud has been the enforced slowing down, un-busy weekends, long walks and lots of outdoor time.
Often I end up running out of time to do anything special with the fruit from our garden, (we have one lovely pear tree and a rather raggedy apple tree). But this year there has been time. So we've been pickling, preserving, baking and generally enjoying those fruits we watched growing and ripening during the long, hot summer.
This lovely spiced apple chutney does have a bit of a festive feel - I think that's down to the combination of dried cranberries, cinnamon and ginger. But it isn't so Christmassy that you couldn't enjoy it all year round.
The quantities in the recipe will make 4 medium-sized jars, but always sterilise an extra one or two as you can never quite tell how many you might need until the moment of filling them.
📝 What you need
Cooking apples I used mostly bramleys with just a few eating apples from our tree - you do need the majority to be a cooking variety, which will totally break down into the thick and glossy base of your chutney.
Malt vinegar I've used malt vinegar here as it is balanced out with sweet apple juice.
Dried fruit I used sultanas, chopped dates and dried cranberries which between them are sweet and sharp and give both a lovely flavour and texture to the chutney. But any combination of dried fruits totalling 220g will work well.
Apple juice This really enhances the apple-y flavour of the chutney and gives some sweetness to balance the sharp malt vinegar.
Spices I've used cinnamon and ground ginger - I'm making mine for Christmas presents and like the idea of these spices with the apple. But play around with your own spice ideas - there are some suggestions below.
Caster sugar I've used caster sugar to keep the chutney a pale colour, but you could use light brown sugar or a combination of the two for a more treacle-y flavour.
There are a few bits of equipment I find invaluable when making chutney:
- Preserving pan A large, heavy-based preserving pan is really helpful for making chutney, especially in larger quantities. The liquid evaporates so much quicker than in a smaller, deeper saucepan. Mine is this one from Kitchen Craft*.
- A wide mouth funnel like this jam funnel from Kilner makes such a difference for a stress-free, mess-free potting process!
- Wax discs are important to stop any mould growing on your chutney if you are storing it for a long time. These ones from Kilner are ideal.
- Pretty jars are essential if you're giving these away as a gift. I love these beautiful quilted jars from Ball - not cheap but just so pretty!
👩🏽🍳 Chutney variations
You can use this recipe as a basis to make all sorts of variations on your chutney. How about....
- Making it with pears This would work beautifully with pears, or even as a half-and-half apple and pear chutney. Any variety of pear will work well, they all break down when they cook.
- Changing the spices There are so many spices that work well with apples - how about star anise, nutmeg or cloves?
- Make it nutty I love a nutty chutney - how about adding some chopped hazelnuts, walnuts or almonds just before the end of cooking time?
⏱ How to mature and store
Your chutney will need at least 2-4 weeks to mature before eating, to allow the vinegar to mellow and the flavours to mature.
After that you can store unopened jars of chutney in a cool, dry place for up to a year. Sunlight will have an effect on the colour so a dark place is best. This is assuming you have cleaned and sterilised your jars really well following the instructions in the recipe.
Once a jar is opened, keep it in the fridge and use within a month.
🍽 What else can I make for a homemade gift hamper?
If you are making a homemade hamper of goodies for loves ones this Christmas, some of these recipes might be helpful:
- Cat's Sweet Chilli Jam from Curly's Cooking
- My Beetroot & Chilli Ketchup because everyone loves ketchup, (and this one is awesome!)
- Marcellina's Spiced Dried Fruit with Rum from Marcellina in Cucina
- Cherry Cordial (you can use either fresh or frozen cherries if it is the wrong time of year!)
- Quick Onion Chutney from Peachicks Bakery
- Easy Vegan Mincemeat a festive and boozy mincemeat to make showstopping homemade mince pies
Apple Chutney with dates and cranberries
- 3 medium onions or 2 large
- 75 g sultanas
- 75 g chopped dates
- 70 g dried cranberries
- 250 ml malt vinegar
- 200 ml apple juice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 200 g caster sugar
- 1 kg cooking apples
- Peel and finely chop the onions and add to a large, deep saucepan or preserving pan.
- Weigh and add the dried fruits to the pan.
- Add the vinegar, apple juice, spices and caster sugar to the pan. Bring to the boil then reduce to a gentle simmer. Peel, core and slice the apples and add to the pan as you go, so they don't turn brown.
- Simmer the chutney for 90 minutes - 2 hours, until the liquid has mostly evaporated, the apples have cooked down and the chutney is thick and glossy.
- Whilst the chutney is cooking, prepare 4-5 jam jars. Wash them in soapy water and rinse but don't dry them. Put the jars and lids on a baking tray in the oven at 160-180ºC for 15 minutes. Do this just before your chutney is ready, so that you can spoon it straight into the hot jars.
- When the chutney is ready, carefully spoon it into the hot jars, (a wide-mouth funnel is very helpful to reduce mess at this point!). Cover the chutney with a wax disc and screw the lid on tightly.
- Leave the chutney to mature - ideally for 2-4 weeks to allow the vinegar to mellow and flavours to develop.
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