Joan’s Christmas Apple Chutney Recipe

It’s going to be Christmas-with-a-difference this year. We are all going to stay at home and not mix the households. After making this sad decision, it’s full speed ahead to make this Christmas full of our usual food and special treats. We will just be enjoying them in our own homes – and not all together around the same table.

Here’s a recipe my mother-in-law Joan used to make every Christmas for as long as I can remember. The aroma of apples, spice and vinegar instantly makes me think of Christmas preparations. I feel quite tearful, standing here chopping the apples on my own. It only feels like yesterday when I was standing in Joan’s tiny kitchen chatting away, watching her cook. We were the ‘young couple’ then in our 20s, too busy to cook, with such a lot to talk about. Such busy lives. So much to say. We never stopped talking. Now I suddenly realise how silent I’ve become. Still busy lives, but somehow I have become the ‘listener’, and my children and their partners, the ‘young couples.’ I really hope it’s not too long before they can be here, standing in my kitchen, bringing the world into my home, with all their news and conversation again.


900g eating apples

450g onions

225g sultanas

450g brown sugar

1tsp each of ground ginger, salt, cinnamon, mixed spice.

1tbsp whole pickling spice -tied in a muslin bag (optional)

450ml vinegar


Chop the apples and onions into small 2cm pieces. Put all ingredients in a large saucepan or jam pan and bring to the boil. Gently simmer until the apples and onions are cooked ( about 35- 45 minutes). Remove the muslin bag of spices. Pour into clean sterilised jam jars.

This chutney keeps for about 1 year and is a perfect for cheese and festive meals. It’s a lovely quick-to-make present too.

For Joan and Keith, it will be Christmas at the care home for them this year, when they should be sat at the head of a very large table full of children, grandchildren, and two new great-grandchildren- born in the last few months. We are not allowed to visit, and they are not allowed out. Such a sad state of affairs for us, as it must be for many. But there’s hope on the horizon with news about a vaccine. And that’s what I’m holding on to this year. Hope.

What traditions are you keeping this Christmas? Do you have favourite recipes that make you think of Christmases past. Take care, and thank you for reading.

Joan’s favourite Christmas decoration that she’s treasured since she was a child. She’s 91 now. The little bell inside still rings.

13 thoughts on “Joan’s Christmas Apple Chutney Recipe

  1. Karen I am sorry with all my heart that you are so sad. Your heart is too good for this world: that’s why you suffer so much. You love your dear mother-in-law Joan very much while you cook her recipe for Christmas apple chutney that you made with her and you didn’t stop talking because you were and are friends, great friends. And this Christmas is going to be special, weird: we all have to stay home alone and not have family gatherings as usual. You have to settle and join together at dinners with videoconferences, to make them a little more normal. Karen I know how much it hurts you that Joan and Keith have to spend Christmas this year at the nursing home and not with their family presiding over the table. Think that it is for their good, they cannot go out because they would catch Covid, even if you really want to be with them. I am with you by your side giving you my friendship and everything you need, my dear friend. I want to encourage you, give you strength, give hope and take away your loneliness. Videoconference your daughters and talk to them and if you can to Joan and Keith. Make Joan’s recipe in her honor and when you eat it, think that she is by your side in good times. Karen, let us have hope in vaccines, which in Spain say that in April they will begin to vaccinate, first people at risk, health personnel, the police, … And then normal people. The same thing will happen in the UK and we can go out and meet our loved ones: I will continue to keep the security measures and I will wear the mask just in case, my defenses are down. Joan’s recipe is wonderful and very easy to make and must be delicious: enjoy it. A lot of encouragement, a lot of health, a lot of strength, a lot of positive thinking, a lot of hope and a lot of love for your whole family, Mr B and for you especially. Karen you have the Three Musketeers to give you love and give them love. Take care. A hug and I wish you all the best. Lots of love. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita XXX😘😘🙏💛🌼🌼🌼✨✨✨🌻🎇😍💛😊


    • Thank you Cathy. Just had an e mail saying flowers are still not allowed, but small presents that can be disinfected are. So I can send jars of jam and chutney as soon as lockdown ends in two weeks. It’s a comfort to think the elderly relatives – will get the vaccine first. As will my daughters. Lots of love. Karen xx


  2. It will be a strange Christmas indeed and it also the first time I have been grateful that my parents have both died and I could still visit and enjoy their company in a way so many are now denied.
    Who would have imagined that an invisible bug could disrupt so many family ties and make us sad
    In so many ways.
    Stay well and strong. The vaccine is coming and things will get better!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Cathy. Also the first time I’ve been grateful my grandparents are no longer with us. And so grateful they had wonderful retirements, travelling about and seeing all their treasured relatives in Devon and Tewkesbury. Something I had totally taken forgranted until now, as I often accompanied them on their travels. The vaccine is coming- and life will be different. Thanks for your kind words. Keep well, too. xx


  3. Home-made traditional foods from chutney and mincemeat to Christmas pudding are still at the heart of a family Christmas whether it is small and minimalist to large and elaborate. Christmas is also about sharing with friends and family, so for many it will be very difficult. So let us be creative in being inclusive at a distance and stay safe for future family reunions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. That’s so true. That’s uppermost in my mind, how to make the best of the situation we are in. Include everyone, by making all the family favourites and keeping up traditions, but just be at a distance. I’m making small parcels to deliver and post to family next week. Thanks for reading. Good luck with your plans for the festive season.


  4. Christmas will be normal here… always simple in our household and a bit quieter without our little doggie Gina, who died suddenly last week. 🙁 But visiting my parents will also not happen as travel is practically impossible. It has been a tough year for them. Let’s all hope for a better 2021. Hugs to you Karen. 🤗


  5. I hope that their care home does testing before Xmas and you get to visit. I know that had my parents been here with this pandemic I would have lost all of my hair and my sanity.

    I will Make Some Chutney.

    Stay strong lovely Karen.

    Sent from Andrews iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Andrew. I sometimes feel grateful my grandfather never lived to see this pandemic. He would have struggled with all the restrictions. Family was everything to him. I’m upping my video and photo slide shows to the care home – but it doesn’t make up for proper face to face contact. Doing familiar things such as making chutney, collecting foliage to make a wreath and making little gifts from herbs and flowers from the garden is what’s keeping me going at the moment. Familiar things can be done on auto -pilot and lull you into a sense that everything is normal- when of course it is not. Thanks for reading and sending your lovely message. Let me know how your chutney-making goes. Take care. Karen x

      Liked by 1 person

      • Keeping to routines is great. Keep sending those videos and photo slides. I used to get so frustrated at a 3 hr drive to see my mother and she may have slept through half. The other half she didn’t know who I was. But I went thinking she doesn’t visibly recognise me but she may subliminally recognise things. What if she dies and I don’t go. I kept thinking she does and is getting enjoyment. She could recognise people from decades ago so I used to take in old photos. It’s painful. It’s hideous. But deep down we know they love us. Keep smiling. Keep doing what your doing because your awesome. X

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you Andrew. All this is so true. Old photos are a good idea. I’ll take them next time we are allowed. Honestly, who would have thought life could get any more difficult for dementia sufferers- and then covid comes along and makes everything worse. Cuts off the very families they are desperately trying to remember and hold on to. It’s so sad. Thanks for all your kind words. Much appreciated. Love karen xx 😘

        Liked by 1 person

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