ISSUE 90  |  The Modern Root Cellar

Green Tomato Chutney, Courtesy of the Women’s Institute

September 19, 2013 5:00 PM

BY Kendra Wilson

Move to the country and make jam: it’s a bit of a cliché but I did it, before realizing that I was useless at making jam. Besides, there are many top quality jars to be had at village fetes. In this season of gluts and gluttony, however, it seems criminal to ignore the heaps of green tomatoes on offer from my local farm shop.

I cannot hope to improve on the efforts of the village matrons so I go to the source: The Women’s Institute. Almost 100 years old, the WI was set up to organize rural women in producing food for the war effort, during WWI. It has always been associated with no-nonsense cooking (ditto flower arranging and any other domestic accomplishment you can imagine). For my re-entry into the world of canning, I need a firm hand. The instructions are simple enough:

Photographs by Kendra Wilson.

Above: My hoard from the Ashley Farm Shop. Although sun is predicted for some time next week, the falling light levels mean that these attractive specimens do not have much hope of progressing from green to red.

Above: In the vegetable garden behind the shop, tomatoes are sprawling across the path, rained on, stepped on and looking sorry. I do everyone a favor and fill my bag. Does this count as foraging?

Above: I find some apples in my backyard and rummage around for the other ingredients. The only things which are not lurking in the cupboard are red chillies. This recipe is still looking quite simple.

Above: But oh, the chopping. This does take considerable time as I do not use a machine: instead I have a knife and then a mezzaluna. A friend who lives in Italy says that Italian cooks don’t bother with machines either: they mezzaluna everything. This makes me feel more accomplished.

The chutney is divided into two batches. The instructions from the WI are quite casual about the cooking part: Boil until you have the right consistency. My other unassailable source is Good Housekeeping Preserves (used copies are available for £35.29 and up at Amazon UK), which says that after reaching boiling point, cook on very low for as long as three hours. Fortunately my kitchen is my office and I have things to do.

Above: The way to tell that chutney is ready is by drawing a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan. When the ingredients take a while to reconvene then it is time to start bottling.

An advantage in chutney-making is that the glass jars do not need to be sterilized–the vinegar in the ingredients works hard at that–but they do need to be spotlessly clean.

Green Tomato Chutney


“¢ 4 pounds green tomatoes
“¢ 2 pints vinegar of your choice
“¢ 1 pound raisins
“¢ 2 pounds soft brown sugar
“¢ 2 pounds small onions or shallots
“¢ 2 tablespoons ground ginger
“¢ 3-4 cooking apples
“¢ 6 red chillies


Finely chop tomatoes, apples and onions. Boil all ingredients until the “right” consistency. Remove chillies before bottling.

I made a dozen jars of varying sizes and the chutney required the full three hours of cooking time. I’m happy to report that the result tastes unusually good.

Not tired of the kitchen yet? Try your hand at Justine’s Beach Plum Jam or one of the 10 Tempting Shrub Recipes in our Garden-to-Table Recipes.

preserve of green tomatoes

4lb Green Tomatoes
1lb Raisins or Sultanas (seedless)
2lb Soft Brown Sugar
2 pints Vinegar
2lbs small Onions or Shallotts
1oz ground Ginger
3/4 Cooking Apples
6 Red Chillies


  1. Chop and mince tomatoes, onions and apples.
  2. Boil all ingredients till the right consistency.
  3. Remove chillies before bottling.

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