1 October 2014

Green tomato chutney

2014 has been a great year for growing tomatoes. My outdoor-grown tomatoes continued to ripen nicely in the dry sunny weather we experienced throughout September. However, there comes a time every autumn when the longer nights and weakening sunshine mean that the tomatoes stop ripening. In cool wet Septembers that point can come sooner rather than later, especially if the plants contract late-season blight, in which case it is best to cut your losses and pick all the remaining healthy fruit. Last weekend, the last in September, we decided to harvest the remaining tomatoes. I might have been tempted to leave them for another week or so, but we are about to move house, and I thought we should pick them before we left.

There are always a lot of unripe green tomatoes. You can ripen some of them off by leaving them in a bowl (although I do not think they ever taste quite as good as tomatoes ripened in the summer sunshine), or cook a green-tomato chicken curry, which is rather tasty. The best thing to make with green tomatoes though, which has become something of an autumn ritual in the Turpin household, is green tomato chutney. We spend an afternoon making a mass of chutney, filling the house with wonderful vinegar vapours.

Green tomato chutney is a great traditional British chutney, which works well with cheese, ham, pork pies and kedgeree. I have tried a number of variations over the years, including some where the only veg used are green tomatoes and onion. In recent years I have added some Bramley apples and courgette into the recipe, which give a rounder flavour. I like my chutney to have a definite hint of ginger, so use more than most recipes. As with all chutneys, the amounts for the veg are only guidelines, and can be varied up or down. If you change the overall amount of veg significantly, make sure you adjust the amounts of vinegar and sugar accordingly - you need about 175ml of vinegar and 140g sugar for every kilo of vegetables.


  • 1.8kg green tomatoes. I usually also throw in a few red tomatoes, particular fruit which are split or otherwise damaged, with the bad bits cut out.
  • 600g onions 
  • 500g Bramley apples
  • 500g courgette or marrow
  • 150g raisins
  • 150g sultanas
  • 75g ginger
  • 50g garlic
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 red chillies
  • 1tbsp ground cumin
  • 1tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1tbsp cloves, ground
  • 2tbsp pickling spices
  • 1tsp black peppercorns
  • 1tsp sea salt
  • 600ml cider vinegar
  • 500g light brown sugar

Dice the onion reasonably finely. Wash the green tomatoes and courgettes, remove any bad bits, and cut into evenly sized pieces. Peel and core the Bramley apples and quarter (these will break down as the chutney cooks). When making chutney I usually chop most of the ingredients, rather than whizz them in a food processor, as I prefer a bit of texture in a chutney.

Grind the cloves in a food processor or pestle and mortar.

Peel the ginger and garlic, and blitz to a paste with a little vinegar in a food processor.

Add all the ingredients except the pickling spices and peppercorns to a large saucepan. I use a 28cm stainless steel stew pan. If you do not have anything as large, use two smaller pans. If you make jams and chutneys regularly, it is worth investing in a large pan.

Wrap the pickling spices and peppercorns in a piece of muslin. Tie the muslin closed with a piece of butcher's string (or any string which won't melt when heated), and tie it to the handle of the pan. You can buy mixed pickling spice, but if you do not have any you could make your own with a combination of allspice, mace, cinnamon, cloves, coriander and mustard seeds.

Put the pan on a medium heat, and bring to the boil slowly. I usually put a lid on for the first 10 minutes or so, to allow the veg to sweat down a little. After that leave the lid off.

Once the chutney mix has come to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer uncovered for about 2.5 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. As the chutney thickens it will need stirring more regularly to prevent it from sticking.

Green tomato chutney - about 10 mins before done
The chutney is ready when enough liquid has evaporated so that when you pull a wooden spoon through the chutney, you can momentarily see the bottom of the pan. This is known as the 'parting of the waves' test.

In the meantime, sterilise some jars (instructions on how to do this can be found in my post on grilled courgettes under oil). This recipe will fill about 10 medium-sized jars. While the jars are still warm, fill them with hot chutney and seal. Label once the jars have cooled.

Leave the chutney for about two months in a cupboard for the flavours to mellow before using.

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