There seemed to be a lot of sloes left in the hedgerows this year and since I just couldn't drink any more sloe gin without becoming a nuisance I thought I'd take the opportunity to make a chutney. Sloes add a rich colour and a very sharp fruitiness to chutneys. Since quinces are also in season it seemed a good idea to combine the two things especially since I'd just got hold of some Berzycki quinces. (I had some spare quince which I added to pork braised in perry and that was rather tasty too).
I used 300 g of sloe pulp in this chutney but you need at least twice the weight of sloes to
produce that amount of pulp – in fact I picked about 640 g of sloes. All you do is wash the sloes, put them in a pan and heat them very gently until they break down. If you do this gently enough, you shouldn't need to add any water, although a little will do no harm. You will need to stir frequently, though. Strain the sloes through a fine sieve and you will have a brightly-coloured, very sour pulp. (If you're not ready to use this at once, it will freeze well.)
As with all chutney recipes, the ingredients are pretty flexible and can be altered to taste. This recipe will make at least 5 standard jars – actually I got 5½.
500 g quince - peeled, cored and chopped
300 g sloe pulp (see above)
500 g cooking apples – peeled, cored and chopped
500 g courgette or marrow – chopped (discard any large seeds in the marrow)
350 g onions – peeled and chopped
450 g light brown soft sugar
3 tsp dried chilli flakes – this makes it pretty hot and you may want to use less
500 ml white wine vinegar
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
3 cm fresh ginger, grated
Combine everything in a large, non-reactive pan. Bring to the boil with plenty of stirring. Simmer gently, stirring every so often until the mix looks like chutney – this should takes 2 – 3 hours and could take up to 4 hours if you're really being gentle.
I'm always a little unsure how thick a chutney is going to be while it's in the pan, but the rule I use is that when I drag a wooden spoon through the mix it should leave a gap through to the base of the pan and the gap should only close after a brief moment's thought. Although, if it's been cooked for a few hours and looks well mingled, then it's really a matter of taste how thick you make it.
The chutney will mature and the flavour will improve after at least a week or two in the jar (though that would never stop me opening one immediately).