Jan Bentley’s Old Doverhouse Chutney

I laugh more than I used to. A thing called retirement was largely instrumental. One thing which does make me chuckle is when someone asks me for my chutney recipe. Since I let it be known that I was in the market for unwanted apples in the season, I usually make at least one batch each year. Most years it's not too bad but that's more by good luck than design, and it's never the same twice.

Any thoughts I may have had about boasting of my prowess were totally dispelled by tasting today's delight, Jan Bentley's Old Doverhouse Chutney. Jan's Jam is famous throughout Merseyside. She is the mother of Handsome Chris, who is the partner of H, my youngest. As a result of this happy chance we found ourselves proud possessors of a jar of this truly stunning preserve. Jan tells me she doesn't make any other chutneys now, and I can see why.

Jan modestly gives Delia the credit, but it goes further back than that. The name is probably a corruption of Old Dower House, and we can trace it back to an edition of Good Housekeeping magazine of 1934. A dower house is a decent size house on an estate available for use by the widow of the estate-owner. One can imagine a particular dowager blessed with a good orchard and an exceptional plum harvest. As plums are in season, I hope that Mrs Bentley is keeping herself busy.


700 g Victoria plums; 700 g, cooking apples, weighed after peeling and coring (start with at least 900g); 225g green or red tomatoes; 450g seedless raisins; 225g onions; 700g Demerara sugar; 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped; 110g preserved ginger; 1 small whole chilli; 1½ tablespoons (not a misprint) cooking salt; 570ml malt vinegar.


Cut the plums in half and remove stones. Roughly chop the tomatoes and put these in a preserving pan with the plums. Blitz the onions, apples, raisins and ginger in a food processor or chop them finely. Add these to the pan with the sugar and vinegar.  Wrap the chilli in a gauze and suspend it with string from the handle of the pan so that it sit in the mixture. Cook the chutney very slowly (about 1½ hours) or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Keep an eye on it, stirring from time to time, especially towards the end. You don’t want this masterpiece to burn. Do the channel test*.  Put the chutney into jars while it is still warm.

*We didn't know this handy hint. It's a variation on a wrinkle test. Put some chutney on a cold plate and drag a spoon through it to create a channel. If this channel fills up with liquid straight away then your chutney has not reached the setting point but if the channel remains visible then the chutney has reached setting point and you can bottle it immediately.

Thanks, Jan. Hope the ankle gets better soon. Sorry I couldn't find a photo of you at time of publication.


1 Comment

  1. Jan Bentley on 28th July 2023 at 9:24 pm

    Hi Tom, thanks for the shout. I’m looking forward to making some jam and chutney but due to my Achilles tendon rupture I haven’t been down to the allotment for a while. Helena and Chris went and apparently it’s a jungle down there. I’m planning to go soon so hopefully there will be some fruit to pick. Old Dover House needs at least 3 months to mature and the flavours to mellow. Made in August and September it’s a lovely gift for Christmas.

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