In Annie Adde’s beautiful garden, at her family home in Berkshire, there stands a mature damson tree, from which hundreds of plums are borne every year. It is from this glut that, one day, Annie decided to start making chutney. One thing led to another, and before long, seeing her obvious skill and talent, friends started giving her their apple, pear, rhubarb and strawberry gluts too. The preserving bug bit her, she went out and bought 500 glass jars and the brand “No-Adde-tives” was launched.
Her chutney and preserves business is still quite small, but Annie is enthusiastic and confident that it is only a matter of time before a sizeable retailer, or delicatessen, or two, will come knocking at her door.I don’t doubt it for a minute. Since tasting her wares a year or so ago, I have become completely hooked.
I am standing in her large farmhouse kitchen, and Annie is telling me all about how one of her best sellers “Rhubarb and Clementine Chutney” is made. She softens onions in white vinegar with cinnamon, cloves and raisins, and adds white granulated sugar, so that the pinkness of the rhubarb is left vibrant. She then mixes in chunks of local rhubarb, and the whole mixture is left to simmer on her Alpha cooker for about one hour.
There is a special wooden spoon that Annie uses for mixing, and it has a hook on the back so that it can be secured against the side of the heavy pan.
Annie washes her glass jars in hot soapy water, and then places them in the top oven in order to sterilise them.
She spoons the chutney into the glass jars when it is cooled down, and she says that it keeps for months and months, and all the flavours amalgamate and marry while the chutney is maturing. She also suggests taking chutney out of the fridge at least an hour before eating, so that, like cheese, it comes up to room temperature.
With her apple, damson, apricot and cranberry chutneys, Annie likes to serve strong farmhouse cheddars or blue cheeses. With her pear, orange and ginger chutneys she serves roast duck or venison and she finds that the rhubarb and clementine chutney goes very well indeed with the barbecue season, especially with grilled chicken and pork.
Annie says that making chutney is a wonderful way of eating all of nature’s seasonal bounty, so that, in the colder months, you have something to remember the warmer season by. Chutneys are extremely personal, and when she sells them directly to the public, at fairs, people relay their preferences to her, telling her their likes and dislikes, in a way that affirms her belief that most people are rarely persuaded to try something new and different.
She sells her jars in a variety of places, but mainly at Prosperous Home Farm (off the A338, south of Hungerford), the Village Shop in Shalbourne, Wiltshire, and Bastable Brothers Butchery in Kintbury. She also supplies the greengrocer’s shop in Hungerford. She also sells a few jellies, the bestseller being her plum, grape and chilli jelly.
Annie’s top ten tips for making chutney are as follows:
1. Make sure you buy small glass jars if there are only a few of you in the family, as the smaller the jar, the faster the flavour of the chutney will mature.
2. Make sure you give the chutney making process the time it deserves, as it cannot be rushed. Block a good portion of the afternoon off, so that you can concentrate on all the different processes, especially patient mixing.
3. You can use a food processor to cut your produce, and you can use fruit peel (like clementine, apple and pear) as it cooks down to a soft consistency, enhances the colour of the finished product and adds fibre and nutrients.
4. Buy only local, seasonal produce. There is no need to buy really expensive tropical fruits (like mango and papaya) because the food air miles are high and the whole point of preserving is to use seasonal gluts.
5. A very good book for the beginner is “Good old-fashioned jams, preserves and chutneys”, written by Sara Paston-Williams and published by The National Trust.
6. You can buy a very useful spice ball made out of a meshed stainless steel sphere, sold by Lakeland Plastics, for putting your spices in. This will save on muslin bags.
7. Use a heavy cast iron pan, if you can, or buy a special preserving pan.
8. Barter with your foodie friends: if they give you some of their orchard glut, they can have some jars of your finished preserves, or you could buy them lunch in the local pub. You don’t need to waste lots of money buying produce, as most people in your village, allotment or road will probably have enough to give away.
9. When you start making chutney for the first time, always follow the recipe. Then taste the end product and decide how you want to tweak it and make it your own, by adding or subtracting specific ingredients that you like or dislike.
10. Once you have collected boxes of seasonal glut, say apples, you do not have to use them all at once. You can wash, quarter and core the apples, then weigh and bag them, labelling the plastic bag with the total weight. Then you can freeze them and cook them whenever you want to.
Annie may well start doing chutney making courses in her kitchen, as so many people have shown an interest in what she does.
Over a lunch of cheese, walnut breads, salad and three different types of chutney, we laughed at how Annie’s Swedish husband, Svante, and her son, Theo, absolutely hate chutney. Her daughter Louisa, however, loves it, and takes some with her whenever she goes back to school.
I know which camp I am sitting in: I absolutely adore chutney, and Annie’s are bursting with flavour, spiciness, sweetness, fruitiness and a small edge of acidity cutting in at the end. For me, a ploughman’s lunch with a generous portion of Annie’s chutney is a meal fit for the gods.
Annie Adde: [email protected]