If you didn’t think you could get excited about chutneys and preserves, think again. Because in a quiet little corner of Steyning, with stunning views of the South Downs, you’ll find the Quirky Mixologist who introduced my taste buds to a whole new set of experiences.
An inauspicious start
In January 2020, the Quirky Mixologist, AKA Jane Johnson, arrived in Sussex after a series of traumatic events, to start a new job. We’re all now only too aware of what an inauspicious time that was going to be and by March, Jane had been furloughed.
Having run her own catering business, Jane explained that she’s always been very creative in the kitchen, and like many, as lockdown took hold last summer, she turned her hand to making chutneys, jams and preserves. Using produce that she’d foraged, grown on her own allotment, or bought from local farm shops as much as she could, her hobby slowly morphed into a passion, and the passion grew into a brilliant idea. Her creations were a sell-out at her first farmer’s market and the rest, as they say, is history. Ginger and Dobbs have already placed an order for their Shoreham store and returning customers demonstrated a growing demand. Now, with increasing confidence, Jane is letting her bubbly personality shine through in her tongue tingling creations.
A taste sensation
Intrigued by such names as Beet the Horse Race (beetroot and horseradish), Quirky Pepper Pot Preserve, Sumptuous Cherry and Brandy Sauce (bring me venison), Refreshingly Courgette and Mint, and Vesuvius (which delivers a sweet punch before a warm follow up), I met up with Jane for a taste testing. I’ll be honest with you, I’m new to chutney tasting but this was a lot of fun and I’ve genuinely never experienced such an explosion of flavours delivered in such small but delicate soundbites.
Blimey oh Limey
First up was one of my favourites, Blimey oh Limey which provides a decent first hit of lime but is at no point too sour. Lime is followed by a warm melting pot of subtle ginger, coriander and cumin. Bring me the cheddar and some cold meats, please.
Mango’d not Tango’d
Next up was one for the curry lovers. Not too sweet like so mango chutneys and it comes with a warming mixture of mustard, nigella, cumin and coriander to tantalise the tongue.
I’d been eyeing up this for a while, as it’s made with vodka. It’s got a rich, deep flavour with hints of spice, cinnamon and ginger. I could literally just eat this from the jar but it would also go brilliantly with quiche, omelette, cheese and meats.
So to the jams!
Advantage Strawberry v Pepper
This unusual jam is defiant and perfect for scones while watching tennis, delivering as it does all the loveliness of strawberry in a way that’s not too sweet.
Very Merry Berry
Again not too sweet but creating an explosion of summer berry flavours, this begs to be included in the layers of a sponge cake or alternatively eaten with cold meats.
A classically delicious jam that should be made compulsory as part of every breakfast and served with every scone, worldwide!
Fruity Caribbean Chutney
And now it’s your turn. This lightly spiced chutney has a touch of citrus that makes your cheeks tingle. But it also has a really sophisticated depth and begs to be added to a big chunk of mature cheddar.
1 – large onion
125 g – light brown sugar
100 ml- white wine vinegar
350 g – fresh pineapple (peeled and finely chopped)
1 – large red finger chilli (deseeded and finely chopped)
2 tsp – curry powder
½ tsp – ground ginger
½ tsp – salt
So now the conjuring begins. Once all the ingredients have been prepared, put the onion, sugar, vinegar, pineapple, chilli, spices and salt into a very large saucepan. “I make massive quantities, so my saucepan is huge!” explained Jane. Bring slowly to the boil stirring often to prevent any sticking and allowing the sugar to dissolve.
Continue cooking gently for the next 20-30 mins … but this may vary. Wait until the pineapple feels tender and the delightful mixture has begun to thicken. You will know when it is ready if you drag a wooden spoon through the mixture showing the bottom of the pan. If the channel fills quickly with liquid IT IS NOT ready. Once the lovely mixture is ready, remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly. Carefully pour into prepared and sterilised jars. Allow to cool before labelling.
Enjoy, this is a wonderful and sweet chutney with a little spark of chilli.
Jane has an ever-evolving range of chutneys, jams and preserves and you can find her at various farmer’s markets including Steyning, Shoreham (farmer’s and artisan’s), Henfield, Danefold, and Palmeira and Adelaide (Hove). Alternatively, you can find out more at Home – www.thequirkymixologist58.co.uk