Apple and Green Tomato Chutney

One of my favourite old Sussex terms is ‘brencheese friend.’  A brencheese or ‘bread and cheese friend’ is a friend who’ll stick with you whether you feed him a feast or share with him your simplest provisions.  Likewise a true brencheese friend is one who will tear off a hunk of bread and cut you a good slice of cheese even when that’s all he has and his stomach is rumbling.

There’s a celebrated story (one which I’ve probably only remembered half correctly) about Mad Jack Fuller, one time squire at Brightling, MP for Sussex, a drunk and a supporter of slavery, that on one occasion he invited all his ‘friends’ for dinner and that to test the sincerity of their friendship they arrived to be served plates of bangers and mash.

‘Mad Jack’ Fuller

Needless to say the fair-weather friends stood up and walked out in low dudgeon, whereupon Jack Fuller invited those who remained to a sumptuous feast which awaited them upstairs.

But I reckon that a good loaf and a nice bit of cheese can be a feast in itself, especially accompanied by the right pickle or chutney. I’m a fan of some of our local Sussex cheese-makers.  Blessed they are indeed.  Two particularly fine ones are the Traditional Cheese Dairy just down the road in Stonegate and the High Weald Dairy a ways away near Haywards Heath.

Now I don’t pretend to have tried everything they’ve made but ‘Burwash Rose’ and ‘Lord of the Hundreds’ from the Traditional Cheese Dairy and ‘Brother Michael and Ashdown Forrester’ (a smoked cheese) from the High Weald Dairy are all sublime.

The joy of them is that a little goes a long way.  A skim of Burwash Rose or Brother Michael on a good bit of bread gives you an explosion of flavour that you wouldn’t get from a cannonball sized lump of greasy supermarket cheddar.  They’re all cheeses fine enough to make a Frenchman flail around in disbelief while declairing that the perfidious cheesemakers of Albion must have torn the labels of France’s finest and added their own.  Then all I needed was the pickle.

Frankly it was a minor miracle, given the weather, that any tomato which had the misfortune to sprout in Britain this year, ripened at all.  Mine got blight again, though, when one thinks how cold and wet it has been, I lost remarkable little of the fruit to it.

Nevertheless I decided earlier this week that leaving the rest of the tomatoes to ripen was simply tempting fate.  I chopped them all off and earmarked them for green tomato and apple chutney.

Not that there were so many apples either.  Last year might have given up a glorious crop but this year, phtttt.  Bramleys there were none.  The trees were bare.  The Blenheim Orange, the cider apples, most of the eaters including the russets, nada.  Only the Arthur Turners were any good and they really don’t keep.

But this chutney doesn’t call for huge quantities of apples.  It’s quite simple, a variation of a few recipes I’ve seen and the results were pretty good.


1.5kg green tomatoes roughly chopped.

300g onions finely chopped

20g salt

650ml vinegar (pickling or malt)

300g soft brown sugar

300g apples chopped small

150g sultanas roughly chopped





Cardamom pods

The first job is to chop the tomatoes and onions, the former roughly, the latter finely.  Put them in a large steel bowl or pan, mix in the salt and leave to stand overnight.

Every recipe I have read stresses the importance of doing this.  Why?  Because in the morning you’ll find that the salt has drawn an impressive quantity of water out of both and that’s liquid you’ll not have to boil off later.  It really does save a lot of time on the hotplate.  Remember: don’t rinse them.  You want as little water as possible in the mix.

Then put the vinegar and sugar in a pan and bring to the boil, lowering to a simmer and stirring until the sugar has dissolved.  I add the spices at this point, stir them in and then add the apples and sultanas.  When the apples have softened and the sultanas started to swell then throw in the tomatoes and the onions.

Bring back to the boil, reduce to a simmer and stir just often enough to stop the mixture catching on the bottom of the pan.

I’ve seen recipes suggest boiling for as little as an hour.  Mine took three.  Keep an eye on it.  You want the fruit to go pulpy and the mixture to thicken.

The result was five jars of a chutney worth of decent bread and cheese and, almost as if it knew its fate, the loaf I pulled out of the over is probably the best I’ve yet made.  It would hardly test the loyalty of one’s brencheese friends to lay all that before them.

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14 Responses to Apple and Green Tomato Chutney

  1. Su Stock says:

    How much of the spices do I need for the green tomatoe chutney. Only made a green chutney once and it was disgusting. Thought I would have another go using your receipe. Su

    • Jonathan Kent says:

      Oooh! That’s a bit of a how long is a piece of string question Su! I tend to see baking as a science and saucing as an art – in as much as it’s according to taste, mood and feel. I used the spices I had on hand. Others will use things like cloves and or chillies or mixed spice.
      My best advice would be to try to form a mental taste picture of what works with the tartness of the tomatooes, the sweetness of the sugar and the sourness of the vinegar. If there are spices you don’t like then don’t use them. Of course some spices are treated as virtually compulsory in some circles (for some reason Americans seem almost compelled to use cinnamon whenever an apple presents itself) but rules are there to be ignored – you can make your own.
      I’d go fairly easy on the spicing – I probably used less than half a teaspoon of each of the spices I added. If I were to adjust the recipe I might chooose to add something a little hot, perhaps cayenne oor some chopped chillies. I lleft them out because Luca, who is five, doesn’t like anything even gently hot and I had hoped he’d like the chutney. Actually he’s not wildly keen.
      If the above is way too vague I’ll stick my neck out. Despite my slightly scepticism when it comes to apple and cinnamon it does work well here. I used freshly grated (largely because my father returned to Zanzibar, having lived in Dar-es-Salaam in his 20s and came back with lots of cinnamon sticks!) and a teaspoon of freshly grated cinnamon goes a long way. Black pepper works well. Nutmeg I always approach gingerly as it’s easy to overdo it – (talkiing of which I would have added ginger if I’d had it to hand – preferably freshly grated again) and I only popped in four or five cardamom pods. You can of course taste it after you add the spices and adjust accordinglly – just don’t go overboard at the outset! Good luck and kkeep me posted.

      • Su Stock says:

        Well I did it and I have to admit its pretty delicious. I was making some bacon sandwiches for lunch and spread some of the just finished, still warm, chutney on the bread. Lovely!
        Has just the right amount of sweet and sour. I am going to make some more tomorrow to use up the last of the tomatoes.

      • Jonathan Kent says:

        Hoorah! Great news. I’m so glad you made something you enjoy.

  2. Christine Ward says:

    On my second batch.. a total winner! I live in the Italian Alps where chutney is a wonderful novelty. This recipie is now fast becoming the talk of my village, may pop up in a few hundred years time as an delicacy of the Aosta Valley 😉
    It’s an absolute treat with the local Fontina, and not only. I threw in a mixture of 4 types of green tomatoes left hanging on my plants until the first snow fall came to town last Saturday, followed your recipie to the letter, added a couple of tsp of fresh grated ginger, use a good tsp of crushed cinnamon sticks, a few anice stars and this time round mixed in a vintage barolo vinegar that was sitting on the shelf, it’s on the hob and smells divine! Thank for for this little jewel!

    • vintage Barolo vinegar! – I’m sorry but I don’t think I can match that (though part of me is slightly appalled that Barole is turned into vinegar!)
      Very glad that you’ve had such success and even more impressed that you’ve become a chutney ambassador to Italy.

  3. Christine Ward says:

    Very proud to ambassador Jonathan! Quick question; over here everyone steralises the jars beforehand by boiling them,then when the jars and compote are piping hot, lids on, cool them off then re-boil all of the jars up again and leave them to cool off in the same water.. Do you think the second boiling is necessary for chutney? How long do you think a jar of chutney should last normally?
    ps. this second batch is a winner! Just filled all the jars, have transformed 4.5 kilos of green tomatoes this week 🙂

  4. When I sterilise jars I just make sure they’re properly clean and then pop them in the oven at 100 decrees C for fifteen minutes and put the preserve (sweet or savoury) into them while they’re still hot. That also has the virtue of preventing any thermal shock to the jars as trhey’re closer in temperature to the hot chutrney that’s going into them…

  5. Gaynor says:

    Beautiful chutney I put it in a blender, and made it into relish. Ps I added mustard seeds

  6. Bernard Knight says:

    I’ve just made this chutney (my first ever). Stuck pretty much to the recipe but added stem ginger and garlic. Tastes great from the pot. Even my partner who doesn’t go for chutneys pronounced it “very delicious”. So it should be good in a few weeks. Thanks for posting the recipe.

  7. Christine Ward says:

    Hi again Jonathan.. well it’s that time of year again, pulled out your priceless recipie this week and converted a good 6 kilos of green tomatoes into a world class chutney. A bit earlier this year as our first snow fall hit us for six yesterday (added one bright red chilli from the veg plot this time round) Finished a batch thismorning just before going off to a friends “vendemmia” where we all get together to harvest the grapes in their nearby vineyards for wine making. At the usual group lunch back at the winemakes home I presented my still warm pot of freshly made chutney. What a sucess. I am now officially translating it into Italian to ditribute to all of the locals of the land. I warned you last Autumn that this recipie would soon become an Italian mountain heritage! Local Fontina with your amazing chutney is the new aperitivo over here. Happy harvesting! All the best, Chris (Officail Italian Chutney Ambassador)

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