For those of us who don't mind a warm, vinegary fug in the kitchen, chutney is a soothing thing to make. It's such a satisfying way of using up gluts of home-grown, or seasonal bargain vegetables - with the added bonus that it will make great presents later in the year, as chutneys are best left to mellow for a few months before using. Jams, on the other hand, can be eaten whenever you like - they last longer when full of pectin and sugar, but taste better when they're less glutinous and over-boiled. A fresher, fruitier, less firm set (with no added pectin) may not keep as long as a stodgy shop bought jam, but then it will be too delicious to keep for long anyway...
There are various methods for this, but I tend to wash jars out with soapy water, rinse well and then place in a low oven (gas 3/160c) for 20 minutes. If you do this just before you start cooking, you can spoon the hot jam or chutney straight into the hot jars and leave to cool.
Beetroot is incredibly easy to grow and this is a simple chutney to make - tie a ribbon round the jar and give it away as a present if even the sound of beetroot puts people off. But even the beetroot haters (there are many I gather) should like this - there's no earthy undertaste, it's not too vinegary and the mustard seeds add a wonderful 'pop'.
The natural sweetness of the carrots is offset by the addition of chilli and the addition of flaked almonds gives this chutney a good texture with a bit of crunch. It's also a wonderful colour.
The ratio for more acidic fruits is to use equal parts of sugar to fruit, but for sweet fruits like strawberries and raspberries you may want to use less sugar. Raspberries have a medium pectin content and soft set jam made without added pectin will have a lovely consistency. To aid setting, add the juice of a lemon (if you're really worried, use jam sugar, which contains pectin). If you haven't got a preserving pan use a wide, shallow pan to make the jam in, as this will help boil off some of the liquid and help with the consistency. It will cut down the boiling time too and ensure a fresher flavour - the shorter the cooking time the better the jam. Gently warming the sugar in the oven before adding to the fruit will also cut the boiling time.
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