Every year I grow runner beans in my garden. I don’t know what variety they are, they were originally given to me by my father from seed that he saved from his garden. I have never bought runner beans, and subsequent generations of dad’s seeds have grown successfully across four different gardens/climates and in two different countries.
We always had runner beans, fresh from the garden, throughout the summer and early autumn months. I used to take them for granted, since they always came, no matter what the weather or growing conditions that year.
After I moved out of home, I only really got runner beans if I was visiting my parents. Back then, I tended to shop in supermarkets, and runner beans were not a popular supermarket choice, maybe because it is hard to get them to be completely uniform, like the Stepford style apples and tomatoes that they prefer to sell.
When I first started to get a veg box, I got some runners, to my delight. Just like Mum used to, I settled in to string and slice them. I was jolted by a powerful memory of Mum doing this, often in front of Last of the Summer Wine on a Sunday evening.
When large amounts of beans were being prepared, I always got a bit excited, because I knew that the next day she would make Green Bean Chutney.
Just as my Dad always grew our vegetables, Mum always made a lot of our food from scratch. Chutneys, pickles and jams were no exception. In fact, I didn’t have factory produced jam until I left home; and frankly, I found it wanting.
I have always loved Green Bean Chutney. I used to have it every day at school, and all of the other kids would say stuff like “eurgh, that’s gross” and “Why do you always have that yellow stuff in your sandwiches?”. I would smile at them, safe in the knowledge that they didn’t know what they were missing, and if they didn’t want to try any, then Mum would be less tempted to give some away.
Now I am older, I make Green Bean Chutney for myself. The Big Guy is a total convert as well.
As you may have seen, I am a bit of a preserving addict, so I am always giving them as gifts to friends and relatives. Despite the fact that we grow extra runner beans, so that we can make this chutney, the Big Guy still severely rations the Green Bean, in order to keep more for himself.
If I am honest, I am a little loathe to give it away, too!
So, I thought that I would share the recipe for Green Bean Chutney with you, in the hope that you can make it for yourselves, and I get to keep all of the jars that I make!
So, here is my Mum’s Green Bean Chutney. She gave it to me, but I am not really sure where she got it from originally. Maybe she can let you know, by leaving her first ever blog comment – over to you Mum?
You can also use French Beans in this recipe, or a mixture of both French and Runners. Next year, thanks to my Seedy Penpal, Charlotte, I am going to grow a few yard long beans too, so I shall be experimenting with those as well.
My bean harvest was a little late getting going this year, but hopefully you will still be able to find some beans to try it yourself.
Do you have any food that evokes such strong childhood memories? I’d love to hear about them.
Recipe: Green Bean Chutney
I have converted this recipe from imperial to metric
3-4 jam jars
700 g runner beans (or French or other green beans, or a mixture)
1 kg onions
Cold water to cover
1 dstsp salt
350 g demerara sugar
600 ml malt vinegar (I can;t get malt vinegar over here, so I use 500 ml white wine vinegar and 100 ml balsamic)
1 dstsp turmeric
1 dstsp powdered English mustard
1 tbsp cornflour
Sterilise the jam jars in a dishwasher, or wash them in hot water, dry them and leave them in a low oven while you make the chutney. Either way, they will need to be hot when you put the chutney in it.
String and slice the beans (or use a stringless variety), making sure that they are roughly the same size – this is especially important if you use a mix of bean varieties.
Peel and thinly slice the onions. Add them to a preserving pan (or a heavy-bottomed stainless steel pan) with the beans, cover them in water, and add the salt. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until tender.
Strain the water, and return the vegetables to the pan. Add half of the vinegar and the sugar. Cook for a further 10 minutes.
Mix together the cornflour, spices and the rest of the vinegar, and mix to make sure there are no lumps. Pour this into the pan, with the vegetables.
Bring the chutney back up to the boil, and hold it there for a few minutes, until the mixture thickens. You need some liquid though, because this will stop it drying out in the jars.
Fill the hot jars with the chutney. Then distribute the liquid between the jars, so that they are full to about 3 mm from the top.
Put a wax disc, wax side down, over the chutney, and seal it with cellophane. Don’t use a lid, the vinegar will corrode the metal, and may leave you exposed to some nasty microbial activity.
Don’t discard any excess liquid, it is great in salad dressings.
You need to leave the chutney for a week to allow it to meld and mellow.
This is a brilliant accompaniment to cheese, cold meats, salads, and is a particular marvel with jacket potatoes, and bubble and squeak.
UPDATE: In a very timely way, I found out that Susan at A Little Bit of Heaven on A Plate is running a Home Made and Well Preserved competition. So I thought that I would share my lovely childhood chutney there too, and maybe win some spices (fingers crossed).