life between the pages

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Monday, August 23, 2010

Preserving Summer Harvest

Chutney is a delectable, spicy preserve-like concoction that is made to be served with slowly-roasted beef, chicken, or pork but is also delicious embedded in an omelet or folded into a piquant casserole. Best when the freshest ingredients are used at the height of their summer goodness, it takes time and patience to chop, peel, skin, and dice all the fruits and vegetables that go into it, but when savoring your own prudent industry over a leisurely wintry meal, there’s simply nothing better to recall to mind the warmth and goodness of long summer days.

Last August 23rd, dear husband and I managed to put up a very good batch of Peach Chutney that we adapted from a recipe in Linda Ferrari’s classic Canning and Preserving, and I took pictures intending to share the results with folks here at the blog. The local peaches and the peppers from the garden were especially plentiful - and juicy - last year. However, real life being what it is, I never got around to making the blog post. Some people may wonder why I’m bothering to do it now, but I’m of the mind that it really is never too late to recall and make a note of good things like this. Jason & I used to make Chutney a lot; in fact, one of our family jokes was to make this very British preparation in early July, and tongue-in-cheek to call it “Fourth of July Chutney,” ‘cause we’re awesome like that. But I digress.

Being in the kitchen is one of my favorite memories of life with this man, who is much more at home around the stove & countertop than I am. While at times it may have been a little awkward as we worked around each others’ idiosyncrasies (random grumbles and mutual harrumphs notwithstanding), as I look back over the years I feel a warmth rise in my chest remembering the way his hands moved, assuredly and with the skill of long practice, and the delectable meals he’s prepared. So - here ‘tis, a year late, but still kind of wonderful – and I’m not just talking about the tangible results. There’s something magical about working together and producing something fine that goes beyond the immediate; it’s a shared experience that underscores the importance of living in the moment while affirming that even when it’s a bit of a challenge, the future is an opportunity worth preserving. Try it with someone you love.

Peach Chutney

7 lbs. fresh peaches, blanched, skinned and chopped
1 large onion, minced
1 c. dried currants
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 large gingerroot, peeled and finely chopped
Several red, green, and yellow peppers, sliced, seeds removed, and minced
2 c. cider vinegar
2 c. brown sugar
½ c. granulated organic cane sugar
1 tsp. ground peppercorns
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. whole cloves
½ tsp. ground mace
¾ tsp. ground allspice

Prepare fruit and vegetables carefully. Blend vinegar, sugars, lemon juice, zest, ginger root, and spices in a large heavy pot placed on the stove. Add peaches, onion, currants, and peppers. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until slow boil is reached. Lower heat and simmer until thickened to correct consistency.

Ladle into hot, prepared jars, seal, and process for 10 minutes in a water bath. Cool for several hours or overnight and check for complete sealing of jars.

Makes approximately 7-8 pints. Store in a cool, dark place.