If I were to take December and its connotations of Christmas out of the equation, September would be unequivocally my favourite month of the year. I’ve always had more of an affinity with the colder months, I put it down to the fact I was born in a snowstorm. September is the month that bridges the gap between the final days of summer and the undoubtedly soggy October that lies ahead. There’s a fresh nip to the mornings but a blazing sunlight to the afternoons. The light manages to hold on until the early evening as the mornings slowly but very surely get that little bit darker with each passing day. We all know it’s coming, but September breaks it to us gently.
Ultimately autumn is about comfort. Spending entire days in doors, hiding out from the showers and keeping warm. Catching up on all those little things you’ve been meaning to do all summer but haven’t quite got round to yet. Those books you never got round to reading, or the film you keep saying you’ll watch but never seem to be able to settle enough to put it on. The term ‘hygge’ seems to be a little too commonly used of late, but nonetheless belongs in these time of the year. Find something to do, take it slowly and most importantly, enjoy it.
And so to chutney. September is fig season, potentially the best of all the fruit seasons. For those of you who have more important issues than to spend a Sunday contemplating your favourite fruit harvest, I can assure you it’s a good one. Figs find their way to my toast and onto my granola, grilled with honey and almonds and served with coconut yoghurt, caramelised with balsamic vinegar and tossed into a salad; in short, I can find a home for them just about anywhere. Nothing is quite as satisfying as making a warm sticky fig chutney however.
There’s something so peaceful about chopping onions I find. My eyes have become so accustomed to it now I don’t even emit a sniffle, let alone a tear. Chopping the onions and layering them beneath mounds of sliced figs, dolling out lashings of all spice and gently smashing peppercorns to pieces for the final flourish before dousing the whole thing in vinegar – it’s a Sunday well spent.
As a child my Grandma had to hide the bottle of vinegar in the highest of cupboards, I was known to try and drink it. Yes, I’m aware it’s quite bizarre, but even now as a pool of balsamic vinegar sits at the bottom of my salad bowl, I know I could drink up every last drop if I wanted to. That sweet, spicy smell of the vinegar mingles with the all spice and juicy sultanas to result in the most comforting of September feelings. It’s not quite the baking of the Christmas cake, but it’s a very close second.
I always turn to a Nigel Slater recipe for my fig chutney, taken from potentially my favourite cookbook of all, The Kitchen Diaries II. Whilst several blogs have chosen to write up the Sticky Fig Chutney recipe, I can’t help but feel that isn’t right? If you’d like to make it the recipe is easily Google-able; my only amendment to the genius of the original recipe is to throw in some bay leaves. If you don’t have the book – I whole heatedly recommend it.
The jars are now neatly lined up on my the shelves awaiting some kind of minimalist labelling technique that I’ve yet to fathom. I recommend sloshing it on crusty sourdough, topped with goat’s cheese.