There are more than four seasons in the life of a small homesteader. It is never just winter but rather seed catalog season, sugaring season, mud season and fake spring. Summer is like that too. I name my summer days by what’s ripening. Strawberries, asparagus, raspberries and tomatoes all have a time when they come to peak and our lives revolve around harvesting, preserving, selling and, of course, eating that particular gift.
Right now, we are in harvest preservation season. Apples are coming in, peaches just past. I spend my evenings looking for new ways to preserve mountains of plums and pecks of pears. I will pickle and brandy and spice and sauce. I buy sugar in 50 pound sacks and jars by the pallet. The basement shelves will need some support to handle the weight of our abundance. The cooler weather has slowed the string beans, finally, but there are still pods out there, demanding attention after a slow start this spring.
Recently, I taught a canning class for the Northeast Organic Farming Association. I was bemoaning the un-local nature of mangoes as I adore chutney when someone suggested I could substitute plums for mangoes. Perfect! Plums have a similar texture and taste and pair well with the ginger and other spices that make a good chutney. I can add some dried cranberries and use up the last of the amazing cider vinegar a friend gifted me last fall. Who knows? Maybe this new recipe has a blue ribbon in its future. It’s Fair Season too.
Peel and pit about 6 ripe plums. Chop them into chunks. Don’t make this too fine or the chutney will lose its tooth. Add I cup of dried cranberries. If you can’t get cranberries yet then substitute dried cherries. Raisins will work too but the color will suffer. Now add ¾ cup of sugar, ½ cup cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons grated ginger, ½ teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of cloves. Heat to boiling and then reduce heat to low and simmer for about an hour. You will need to stir it very often or the chutney will stick and burn.
This makes about 4 ½ cups of chutney. You can process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes or keep in the refrigerator for a week or so. It’s best served warm. I love it with turkey.