I've been busy collecting rose hips, hawthorn berries and apples to make a zippy chutney for Gather's Wild Foods Walk this Sunday. The weather may be soggy and I'm thinking something a little spicy may be appreciated. This was actually pretty easy to make once you get past the painstaking process of picking, cleaning and processing of a gazillion beautiful hawthorn berries, it's pretty smooth sailing. It's recommended you wait to harvest the berries and hips after the first frost, but with the mild weather here in the Pacific Northwest, you're better off to keep an eye on things and collect them when they look ripe.
For this batch, I added a wee bit of fresh hot pepper that was gifted to us by a hot pepper-loving family member and I'm excited to try it on Sunday. Really, a chutney should mellow out for at least a month before eating it, but what can you do? I've squirreled a jar aside for Christmas. We'll see how the taste compares.
I don't really have an official recipe to share as I kind of winged and eyeballed it, but here's the basics.
Recipe (of sorts)
Ripe hawthorn berries collected from a clean source
Ripe rose hips also collected from a clean source
Apple cider vinegar - to taste
Cooking or firm apples - 2 or 3 (to taste), peeled cored & chopped in cubes
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 shallot, chopped fine
Hot pepper, chopped - a little goes a long, long way
Dried Cranberries, 1/2 cup, chopped
Fresh thyme, a few sprigs
Cloves, allspice, black pepper, dried ginger, cardamom, nutmeg & salt
Gather as many ripe hawthorn berries or "haws" as sanity will allow. Wash them, and remove the stems and pick out any dried out or rotten ones. This will take forever. Enlist friends and foes alike to help with this. I wound up with around 3 cups of berries. Put your haws in a pot with a equal parts water and apple cider vinegar—just enough water to cover the berries. Bring to a boil and simmer until the fruit softens.
Same thing for the rose hips... I had about 2 cups of rose hips. Remove blossom remnants and stems from rose hips. Put them in a pot with just enough water (this time no vinegar) to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer until they're soft. Rose hips can take a while.
While the fruit is taking it's sweet time softening up, heat the onion, apple and shallot in a large pot with a little oil. Just long enough to warm everything up a bit.
When the hips and haws are soft push the fruit through a sieve and into the same pot as your onions & apples. If you're smart and lucky you'll own a food mill. If you're like me you'll find your finest, sturdiest metal sieve and get to work. Once you've sieved all that you can sieve, and all you're left with is seeds and skins, stir the fruit paste and onions and apples to combine. It should be starting to look like chutney now.
A word about the apples. Since you're really adding them for texture and sweetness and not to achieve a set, you can add as little or as much as you like. That kind of applies to everything in this recipe. Go for the look and texture that appeals to you... I do apologize for the loosey-goosey business. These kind recipes tend to drive me nuts, but I promise you—it's very forgiving.
Add 1/4 cup of apple cider. If you have a lot of paste, you'll want to add more.
Add the cranberries to the pot along with the thyme, hot pepper, sugar and spices. Adjust your amounts by taste and based on the amount of berries and hips you collected. Add a little more apple cider vinegar now if you want it tarter. Cook for 10 minutes on medium heat until the sugar dissolves and it's heated through. Keep stirring because it would be really, really terrible if you burned your lovely wild chutney.
Taste it once more. Add what you think is missing. If you've made enough to preserve, spoon the chutney into sterilized jars and process them in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. Let them sit for 24 hours and then place them some place dark and cool for a month before you crack them open. It's October, so if you make some now you're looking pretty good for holiday snacking and/or gift-giving. If you've only made a bit, you can store it in the fridge. With the vinegar and sugar, it should keep a good long while.