Preserving has never appealed to me..It's the mention of 'exact measures', 'sterilisation' and 'keeping for at least a month before eating' which doesn't really appeal to my enthusiastic, slightly impatient nature.
So at first, an invite to spend an evening with the girls making chutney didn't really appeal. I said I would join, as they had also, promised, wine and a catch up.
Whilst Lucy and Cat got all prepared, ordering jars, making long trips for exotic spices, I did very little. The offer of some bramley fallers a couple of days later however, got me inspired. I had been narrow in my outlook thinking I don't particularly like jam or traditional chutney so I'm not about to make pots of it. But the thought of having a stack of Spicy Apple Chutney was the spur I needed. The recipe had won our Perfect Preserve Competition and I had just got down to the last of my jar that I had managed to keep.
I joined the girls and they kindly gave me some of their jars. I didn't read the recipe until I started prepping, only to make sure I had the ingredients (fenugreek aside - I reasoned it can't be that important to the flavour and I was bored of trailing around Dorset in pursuit of it).
Glass of wine in hand, gossip in full flow, Lucy, Cat and I had a fantastic time chopping and nattering. If you know you can be easily convinced to be lazy, then making stuff with friends definitely spurs you on. I had in my minds eye the luminescent colour of Fiona's champion green chutney and the pan of spices frying and bubbling. I focussed on getting the frying spices part of it right, as I know from making curries, that if you don't cook the spices properly, you won't get that authentic taste. I managed to catch Pam on the Preserving hotline before we started and she gave me a few extra tips from her own perfect version of the chutney.
The spices bubbled away nicely, with that wonderful aroma of Indian curries and I really started to get excited. I made Cat promise me she would do me labels, as she is a whizz on those things and she very kindly helped me sterilize the jars. Lucy's husband Steve, a deft Preserver, had an essential Preserving funnel which meant the chutney went in to the jars cleanly and perfectly. Had it been left to me, it would have been dribbling down the side of the jar and be making a real mess. We all agreed the taste was good, the spices were there, it looked good, but I had a last minute panic about the overwhelming taste of the cider vinegar. At 10.30pm at night (we had started at 7) Lucy convinced me it was ready! and dismissed my last minute worries about having jars of astringent chutney, never opened or tasted, gathering dust. It was great to have a friend like her to push me over the final hurdle, the final descent into Preserving loveliness. Apparently you should leave chutney a month before you eat it and the taste of vinegar will fade.
My jars of chutney now take pride of place on my kitchen shelves, my friends and family all wanting a jar. Preserving is an incredibly rewarding thing to do, and the idea that jars of my chutney will be opened at Christmas, giving my friends and family pleasure, is just a lovely feeling.