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Aug 15, 2006 09:41 PM

A Canning Question

I have a recipe from a British cookbook for “Mediterranean Chutney”, which sounds kind of like a tarted-up caponata- ratatouille hybrid. It calls for 2 lbs tomatoes, 3⁄4 lb zucchini, 3⁄4 lb eggplant, 3⁄4 lb onions, 1 1⁄2 lb red bell pepper (which I want to partially replace with more of the other vegs and some hot chiles), 11⁄4 cups red wine vinegar, 2 cups br. sugar, garlic, salt, spices. It just says to “heat process in a boiling-water canner”, no times mentioned. I’m pretty comfortable making/canning jams and fruit chutneys. Is there any reason to be nervous about this one? Does it have enough vinegar per total yield (only given as “about 4 lbs”) to make it qualify as high-acid and therefore safe for processing in a hot water bath? (I know the sugar also acts as a preservative.) Any suggestions on how long to process this? I guess the eggplants and zukes are making me nervous – I’d really hate to kill my family! (I asked at but they were unwilling to express an opinion - understandably, since it's not their recipe.) By the way, the same book also has a great-sounding recipe for a chutney made of squash, which I want to make come fall, but it has a higher ratio of vinegar to veg. so I’m less nervous about it. I think. Thanks for any help on this.

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  1. I don't think it qualifies as high-acid due to all the veggies (zucchini, bell pepper, eggplant, etc). Lay your hands on a Ball Blue Book (mentioned here before; try the public library) and find a similar recipe for chow chow or veggie relish to find a more precise heat-processing time.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Hungry Celeste

      I have that book but the recipes are all over the map, there's nothing similar with eggplant, and there's no consistent veg/sugar/vinegar ratios because they test everything carefully and adjust accordingly. Maybe I'll just make it and stash it in the fridge, it ought to last for ages. Or I'll add more vinegar, less sugar (I like chutneys tart), and process for 15 minutes, like Candy suggested. Thanks.

    2. Pack the chutney in freshly sterilized jars while both the chutney and jars are hot and water bath can 15 minutes. Your vinegar is sufficient.

      I have a tasty red bell pepper chutney recipe which is excellent and good to make when the reds are plentiful. Let me know if you want me to post.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Candy

        Actually, a while back in another post you mentioned making tomato preserves. That's the recipe I want! Is it from the Ball Book? And about the chutney in my original post: Do you think 15 minutes for half pints or pints? And are you pretty confident about this? Thanks.

        1. re: noeldottir

          Half pints, with full pints it seems more efficent but how much are you going to use at a time? If you have a big family and you can go though a full pint quickly, a week or so then I'd process maybe 20 minutes, but I find less waste with half pints. I can post the tomato jam tomorrow if you would like. Awesome stuff.

          1. re: Candy

            Oh yeah, please post. Tomato jam sounds divine!

          2. re: noeldottir

            This makes 1 1/2 jars

            Mix together 3/4 C. sugar and 1 box dry light fruit pectin. Add it to 3 1/2 C. blanched, peeled, cored and chopped tomatoes along with 3 tsp. lemon juice, grated rind of 1 lemon, 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. mace (make sure it is impeccably fresh, it goes rancid easily. I always store mine in the refrigerator), 1/4 tsp. ground ginger. Coook until this comes to a hard boil and boil for 1 miinute and then stir in 2 1/4 C. sugar. Remove from the heat and skim off any foam and pour into sterilized hot jelly glasses leaving 1/2" head space, then wipe the rims of the jar with a damp towel to remve any drips. Insert 1 cinnamon stick into each jar, cad, bad and submerge in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly then invert for about 2 minutes and return to upright to cool. You should hear a pop or ping as the glasses seal. If you don't get a seal on a jar don't worry. Put that one in the fridge and enjoy in a week or so. Store the other jars for best flavor no more than a year.

            1. re: Candy

              Fantastic, thanks very much. Can't wait to try it.

        2. This reminds me of my eternal search to find someone who could tell me how to safely preserve ratatouille.

          There is an acid number which I'm sure you could google that would provide you assurance that your final product was sufficiently acid. What you do is mash up some of the veggies with the brine and drop it on a reactive strip to record the actual number of your brew.

          15 minutes is the conventional time for a water bath. Bathing it longer won't necessarily make it safer. The high temp and sufficient acidity of the food product along with the scrupulous hygiene of the canning equipment is what will do that. The water bath merely forces out the air and there's a limit to how much of that you can do without a pressure canner.

          2 Replies
          1. re: rainey

            Folks, no guessing please.

            There are professionals you can contact. Call the home advisor with your local state's extension service. They are part of your state's land-grant university system.

            They have home economist advisors who are trained to give preserving advice.

            Please take canning of low-acid foods seriously. They're not the same as jams (sugar as preservative) and pickles (salt and/or vinegar as preservative)!

            I found a web page which gives a sample of multi-veegie canning (in this case, soup) Please note that a pressure canner is called for.

            Just google your home county (...."and cooperative extension service") that should get you started.


          2. if you're thinking of adding chilies to the recepie, then remember that they were the primary preservative for incan meat products. i'd keep something heavy on the peppers in a fridge for a couple of weeks before i would get concerned about it. if you're canning it, scrub the squash and omit garlic. cook it for 15 minutes in the jars and seal them normally. if it's off, you'll be able to see the bubbles from its fermentation within a week.

            1. Okay, original poster here, trying to wrap this up, in case anyone is as interested in this conundrum as I am: Following Toodie Jane's good advice, I called the local extension service and they said not to can this chutney using a hot water bath, despite the vinegar and sugar in it. And although she said that vegetables and fruits have to be treated differently when being canned, she was unable to tell me why there are many millions of safe recipes for things like zucchini relish and various other all veg. relishes that are safely made in a hot water bath. So I'm still confused but I guess I'll take the high road and not risk killing my family, who probably wouldn't have eaten this chutney anyway - although I think it sounds delicious (that's pretty much the way it goes for me and cooking for my family, alas). Thanks everyone for all the feedback.