As this chutney matures, the pears mellow but still remain beautifully fruity.
It is such a useful preserve to have in the store-cupboard. It is delicious with cheese and I love to eat it with a strong cheddar, but it really comes into its own when served with a blue cheese such as the Irish Cashel Blue or Bellingham Blue, an English Stilton or a French Roquefort – with a few pickled walnuts on the side or a couple of thinly cut slices of fresh pear – HEAVEN! Pears and blue cheese go so well together and is one of my favourite food pairings.
You do not need to confine the use of this chutney to being just an accompaniment to cheese. I regularly add a couple of tablespoons to my homemade beef stew and sometimes a little does wonders to perk up gravy. I also like to smear a thin layer of it into a blind-baked pastry case before filling with some sweated onions and streaky bacon, a savoury egg custard and sprinkling with some cheese before baking in the oven.
Chutneys are great to give as gifts. I like to make a variety of chutneys, jams and pickles during the autumn and package them up in little baskets along with some homemade gingerbread and fudge as gifts to give at Christmas.
There is nothing difficult about making this chutney… the only slightly tedious bit is the chopping of all the fruit and vegetables, but you are then rewarded with the most beautiful jars of delectable chutney at the end.
Ingredients:1kg pears, peeled cored and cut into 2cm cubes
450g onions, peeled and finely chopped
450g tomatoes, preferably peeled and sliced
2 balls of preserved stem ginger cut into tiny cubes
700g demerara sugar
1tsp cayenne pepper
1tsp ground ginger
750ml cider vinegar
Method:1. Place all the fruit and vegetables in a large heavy based saucepan over a gentle heat until some of their water is released and they are just starting to simmer. Do not cover the saucepan. Tie the peppercorns in a small piece of muslin and pop into the saucepan with the fruit and vegetables. Add the rest of the ingredients and allow to simmer at a very low heat for 2-2½ hours. Make sure to stir the chutney regularly to avoid it catching on the bottom of the saucepan.
2. When ready the chutney should be thick and most of the liquid will have evaporated, but don’t over-reduce it as the chutney will continue thickening as it cools. Remove the little muslin pouch of peppercorns and spoon the chutney into warm sterilised jars and seal with vinegar proof lids. Store in a cool dark place for at least a month before opening. The chutney can be stored for up to6 months unopened, but once opened it should be stored in the fridge and consumed within 6 weeks.