Green Tomato and Lime Chutney – because we have frost at last
Choosing the date for “first frost” is always tricky – do I count a tiny brush of wilt on the lowest dahlia in the lowest spot? Or do I wait for the day when the basil turns black, summer squash – what’s left of it – goes transparent and the zinnias are no more?
Either way, this year “first frost” is now in the record books.
Previous title holder for the light version was October 6th; this year it was the 9th or 10th (I was out of town). The complete squash-killer, never later than the 14th, didn’t arrive until two days ago and even now the upper garden still has untouched dahlias and cannas, among other improbables.
On the good side, ripe peppers galore, for two solid months.
On the bad side, no green tomatoes. The plants gave out before they gave up. To say this too is a first is the understatement of the Western World, and while it’s pretty low on the catastrophe scale it does mean we’ll be hoarding the last of the last batch of Green Tomato and Lime Chutney.
Have to be sure there’s enough for Thanksgiving, so although it’s usually standard with everything autumn from smothered pork chops to roast winter squash, it’s going to be on the rare side this year until the harvest festival is safely behind us.
GREEN TOMATO AND LIME CHUTNEY
A look at the ingredient list suggests this should be “Green Tomato and Apple Chutney with raisins and candied ginger,” but lime is such a powerful flavor it earns its star billing.
For about 3 pints – and a taste*:
2 ½ c. white vinegar
1 large, smooth skinned lime, plus 1 lime for final adjustments
3 ½ lbs. green tomatoes, coarsely chopped if large, cut into wedges if small
1 ¾ lbs. apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
½ lb shallots, minced
10 oz. white raisins
¼ lb. candied ginger, cut in small dice
3 tbl. yellow mustard seeds
2 tsp. salt
1. Put the vinegar and sugar in a large non-reactive kettle; halve the lime and squeeze in the juice.
2. Remove the stringiest central membrane from the lime shell, then cut the rest – pulp, pith and all – into matchsticks. Dump them in a large pot of boiling water, turn off the heat and let them sit 2 minutes. Drain.
3. Put the lime sticks in a very small deep pan, cover with an inch or so of water and simmer over low heat until they’re soft enough to be cut with the edge of a fork – this may take 15 or 20 minutes; lime rind is tough. Drain and rinse.
4. Add the lime to the kettle along with everything else and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until tomatoes and apples fall apart and the chutney is thick.
5. Cool a spoonful, taste and add sugar or lime juice as necessary to make a nice balance of sweet and sour.
6. Store in the refrigerator pretty much indefinitely or can in a boiling water bath.
* This is a minimum, the amount I’ve gotten with large tomatoes that although green are mature enough to give off some liquid and an assortment of apples from the sweet end of the spectrum. Quantity will vary with the juiciness of the fruit and the pectin in the apples, so if your produce is low in juice and high in jelling material you could get well over 4 pints – or more.
Photo note: The batch in the picture was an experiment that omitted the mustard seeds. Bad idea. It’s much tastier with and it looks very nearly the same, just with more yellow dots. I should also note that the canning jar was strictly for presentation and was not used for canning. Old fashioned bail-topped jars sealed with rubber rings are less reliable than modern jars (although now that modern metal lids have been found to contain traces of BPA I suppose the bail-tops may be in for a revival).