Bardsey Island Apple and Plum Chutney
Its that time of year in the Beach House garden, when you step outside, you’ll probably find some form of fruit landing on your head. Its raining fruit! Jane very sensibly converted a load of our plums and apples into small pots of gorgeous chutney, I have to say my favourite bit is the label, all hand designed. Family and friends, may we introduce you to your Christmas pressie! Chutney bubbling is such a British autumnal pursuit, it seems heavily engrained in our consciousness, we were born here; on this fare island to conserve and pickle at will, then spread it all on a seeded cracker…….with a brew (cuppa tea).
Mum bought me a Bardsey Apple tree for my birthday back in May. We are preparing a rockery out the back for it to live, but it has thrived this summer after missing the storms and gales that robbed the blossom from our more established apple trees. Bardsey apple trees are very special, all can be traced back to the ‘Mother’ tree on Bardsey Island, off the rocky tip of the Llyn Peninsula (the eyebrow of Wales when you look on the map). The Llyn is like Devon or Cornwall 20 years ago, especially the North Coast and Jane and I love to camp over there on the beaches and do some seal watching (they’re massive and quite sociable). The Llyn is a special place and all roads over there lead to the mythical Barsdesy Island. I wrote an article on my other blog about it, Bardsey Island – Island of 20,000 Saints and there is plenty of info here about Ian Sturrock and his single handed resurrection of the Bardsey apple tree. Ian discovered it growing beside an old house on the isolated outpost and ancient pilgrimage site. After testing the tree, he realised that it was completely unique, nothing like it in the world. Since then Ian has grafted and grown probably thousands of the trees and exports them as far a field as the U.S. and Japan. It amazing to think that we are eating almost extinct apples!
The original Bardsey ‘Mother’ Tree
The Bardsey Apples themselves are succulent and golden and a very good ‘all rounder’. They go great in a pie and a have a lovely sweet and sour twang to them, nice crunch too. Our little tree has done a great job this year, its young branches heavy laden with apples for most of the summer, it has even survived the regular gales we get up here (even in summer!), Jane and I have had to pick it up a few times after finding it blown across the front garden! Proper gales up here on Tiger Hill!!!!
Other than the apples, this year has seen a bumper crop for fruits of all varieties. I have never seen or tasted blackberries like it, huge and super sweet and fragrant. Our plum tree has gone made, its branches full of plums, reminding me of an abundant Mediterranean grape harvest, not a craggy, long suffering plum tree cowering behind a dry stone wall. Add to that a huge raspberry harvest earlier in the year and from a fruity perspective, we’ve had a ball!!!!
I’m not sure how Jane dreamt this chutney up, we have been experimenting whenever we have gluts of things in Spain and Wales. Whatever happened in the pan, it worked, this chutney is well balanced between sweet and sour and had gorgeous occasional chunky surprises like the soft raisins or a lump of plum.
Good organic apples are essential here as apples grown non-organically are normally treated with high levels of pesticides which you cannot get rid off, even after a good rub on your jumper. Heres an article we wrote about the ‘The Dirty Dozen’ – The 12 worst foods to buy non-organic, not exactly a light read, but worthy information that we regularly incorporate into our fruit and veg foraging escapades. Organic apples also have a habit of tasting loads better. As usual, we are lucky sorts, having a bumper crop down at Trigonos has also meant that we can keep things local this year. I absolutely love apples and Judy’s Discovery’s are up there with some of the tastiest, crunchiest apples I’ve ever scoffed.
I think its probably worth making this all organic actually, especially if your giving it to loved ones as a gift (that seems to be what we end up doing with chutneys and jams). Our bodies love organic food and non-organic food puts serious pressure on our digestive systems, liver and kidneys, to try and deal with the poison. Its a strong word I know, but pesticide is undoubtedly a poison and when we eat non-organic, we have to deal with it somehow. We fully appreciate that unless you are rather wealthy, very devoted or have an organic small holding/ farm, being 100% organic in life is a tall order. We are mainly organic and there is something intangibly wonderful about starting the day with a 100% pure organic juice/ smoothie. It probably all in the mind, but I am (almost) literally floating around the place after one of those beauts, charged with energy, it certainly cleans out your tubes.
Our little Bardsey Tree (thanks Mum!) – Awaiting a proper home in the back garden
If you live anywhere near a farm or even better, someone with an orchard, knock on their door with a hefty chocolate cake and get into some gentle chatter about how you enjoy apples and wondered if they liked cake. Trade could happen and you may end up with bags filled with proper apples to make into things, eat whole or have a go at Apple Hooch (basically crush or juice the apples, leave in a clean bucket with a light covering and taste after a week, then everyday after that. Eventually it will ferment and become alcoholic and you have just made the easiest and probably one of the healthiest forms of booze known to humankind.)
You can buy pickling spice from most shops, even the supermarkets have it. If you are just making this as a one off, you can use roughly 1/2 teas of the following whole spices (namely, not ground): coriander, cloves, mustard, dried ginger, chillies, all spice and wrap them in a bit of muslin. If you don’t have them all, add a little more of the others although I would go easy on the cloves and all spice unless you love ’em dearly.
If your planning on keeping this chutney for a while you will need very clean jars. We keep a stash in the garage, a decent jar for us is a real gift! Janes method of jar sterilising works every time and we regularly keep chutneys for months without any obvious microbial issues.
Big BHK Love to all happy chutney bubblersX
The Bits – 8 Medium Jars
750g tomatoes (peeled and chopped)
500g apples (hopefully from a local tree – chopped into small chunks)
120g Onions (chopped)
400g plums (stones removed)
15g pickling spice (tied in a muslin bag)
150ml apple cider vinegar
130g light brown sugar (unrefined)
Some of the lovely assembled bits
Put tomatoes, onions and apple into a pan and stir, on medium heat, until they start to soften. Add a little water to stop it sticking if you need to. Then wrap the pickling spice in a muslin bag and add to the mixture, stirring as it simmers.
Blend the mustard and salt with a little vinegar and stir it into the mixture. When the ingredients have softened add the sultanas, sugar and remaining vinegar.
Continue to simmer, stirring often until you have a thick smooth chutney.
While that is going on, sterilise your jars. Give them all a good wash in hot soapy water, rinse and dry. Put your jars on a baking tray and place in an oven, turn on the heat to 180oC. Leave for 10 minutes and then pop in the lids (make sure the’ye not plastic!) and leave to warm up for between 5-10 minutes. Remove them and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
The jars will still be hot so use a kitchen cloth to handle them. Pack the chutney into the hot jars, wiping away any spillages around the lip. Screw the lid on tightly, pressing the ‘button’ down on top. This should make an airtight seal as the chutney cools. Store for 2 months or longer before opening. If you can resist its fruity charms!
Chutneys go with almost anything, but we found that this went like a dream with home-made loaf toast, or a breakfast pan-bread. Try it on the side with salads, or generously lathered on crackers with fresh sliced tomatoes and salad leaves as a midday snack! We have also paired this chutney, with great success, with a Goan style curry (one with tamarind/ lemon in to make it a little tarty). Bascially, you’ll find any excuse to eat this type of chutney!
We Love it!
Sweet and sour, can be eaten at anytime of day on almost anything, we can find little to not like about chutney, especially when its falling from trees! Money does not grow on trees, but chutney does and it tastes alot nicer than a fiver (that’s 5 British pounds).
Danger – Plums falling!
“An apple (or two) a day……..”
Apples are part of the rose family, a surprisingly comprehensive family of fruits and nuts including almonds, apricots, plums, cherries, peaches, pears and….roses.
We all know that apples are beautifully sweet, but this does not mean that the sugar is doing us harm. Apple contain phyto-nutrients that actually regulate our blood sugar levels. Apples have good levels of fibre, but due to the unique mix of chemicals within apples, this decent level of fibre is transformed into benefits that would normally be associated with foods containing vastly higher levels of fibre (long winded description, but cool non-the-less!) Apples also allow us to absorb more goodness from our foods in the large intestines. Apples do contain vitamin C, but not loads, they do however boast a load of polyphenols (which actually act as a sunscreen and are the main reason why apples brown so easily) and most of these chemicals acts as strong antioxidants. Regular munching of apples will also lower bad cholesterol.
The coolest story we know about apples is that of Johnny Appleseed (aka Johnny Chapman) who lived in the U.S. in the 1800’s. He spent a large portion of his life wandering barefoot around the country, some say 100,000 sq kilometres, sowing apple seeds as he went which provided early settlers with food. He was a generous and caring nurseryman who placed huge significance on the symbolism of the apple and conservation of nature. Folk who plant many trees and conserve nature are surely worth remembering, in our eyes they are the real heroes.