dear thanksgiving night drunk driver,


Dear Drunk Driver,

Thanks for the added tension on the roads this evening.  Like many others we were just driving home from a family Thanksgiving dinner and encountered YOU on 76 West (Schuylkill Expressway).
When you sober up in the morning  and you wonder HOW all that driver’s side damage occurred, I can tell you. You bounced off the center concrete barrier on the westbound side of the Schuylkill. MORE THAN ONCE.  We played dodge ball with what we believe was your driver’s side mirror as it flew by our car, narrowly missing our windshield.
If you look at the above drunk driver, that fuzzy bright ball in the center is YOU.  At different points of time, until we lost track of you, whether you were in front of us or behind us, or next to us (and we had to drive on the shoulder at one point  so you didn’t hit us), you were not just weaving a little, but sailing left and right as well as riding the center line like a slot car.
I did something I have never done before drunk driver because it had been so long since I had seen such a horrific drunk driver – I called the PA State Police. 
It was a busy night for PA State Troopers on the Schuylkill Expressway. Once past City Line Avenue, we passed several accidents east and westbound. So dear drunk driver, I don’t know if they caught you but I sure hope they did.
More than anything else, I hope you did not hurt yourself or anyone else.

on the eve of thanksgiving 

The day before Thanksgiving and I’m starting preparations for dinner tomorrow. I’ve learned little tricks over the years like making the broth for the turkey out of the turkey gizzards and neck is easier done the day before.  Once that broth starts cooking my kitchen is filled with the smells of Thanksgiving for the first time.  

Along with the smells of Thanksgiving come memories.

Memories of Thanksgivings past.

I actually woke up this morning thinking about Thanksgivings of my past.

When I think of the holidays I always think of my late father as well as my late brother in law because they both loved Christmas and Thanksgiving. When they were both alive Thanksgiving could almost be exhausting because they were perfectionists, but the meals were awesome!  

I have some very fond memories of Thanksgivings at my sister’s house in New York before my brother-in-law died. They have a beautiful dining room that is almost a square in shape so my sister uses two small tables that are round versus one large table.  I think after both my father and brother in law being lost within a few short years of each other it has taken us a while to get our Thanksgiving groove back.

When my sister and I were really little I remember going to my Uncle  Jackie’s and Aunt Connie’s house for Thanksgiving.  

All of my cousins, us, aunt and uncle, and Mumma and Poppy. Due to family drama I don’t have very many memories of very many of these Thanksgivings. But those I remember being much more fun than the Thanksgivings we spent at my father’s sister’s house.

My aunt, my father’s only sister, has never been an easy woman to read. I have always felt she didn’t like me very much or my mother and was jealous of my late father. She did seem to like my sister. Her daughters well, they were fine to get along with when we were little, but as we all grew up we did not have much to say to each other and still don’t to this day.

I have a distinct memory again of when we were very little, and my Aunt Theresa and Uncle Serge lived in Paoli.   Paoli was still a bit rural in spots.  I remember they lived down a really long driveway in a white farmhouse. It was a really cool farmhouse and I seem to recall it was Victorian in nature. I don’t know that anybody has photos of it anymore but I have a distinct memory of a Thanksgiving there.

It was a big crowd for dinner and I remember that the kids had their own table set up outside the dining room in the front hall by the staircase. I remember that we ate black eyed peas as one of the dishes.  My uncle is Cuban, and I also remember his mother was still alive.

Many years later we all tried the Thanksgiving together again with them when my grandmother – my father’s mother – was still alive. At this point my aunt and uncle had settled in Chestnut Hill where they still live today. I remember that Thanksgiving is being technically beautiful but emotionally cold. And I remember their dining room in their house in Chestnut Hill was quiet and dark, even in candlelight.

I remember other Thanksgivings we spent with our family friends the Cullens. They had been our neighbors in Society Hill when we were really little and they first moved to Bethesda because Mr. Cullen’s job took him to Washington DC, and then later they moved to Summit, New Jersey because his job eventually took him to New York City.

Growing up the Thanksgiving dinners we had with the Cullens are among my happiest memories of Thanksgiving as a child. Those were the holidays that were alive and boisterous and fun. Mr. Cullen was a tall Irishman with a big chest and a wonderful voice. And he was funny and he would say funny these things and you could just see the twinkle in his eye. Mrs. Cullen is still one of my favorite people on the face of this earth.  She is one of the brightest people I’ve ever had the privilege to know and she is also probably the closest thing to Julia Child I will ever know as a home cook. 

The thing about Thanksgiving dinners with them is it bought out the best in everyone. Although Mr. Cullen like my father, died years ago now, the family remains dear friends.

I especially liked the years they lived in Maryland because we would go down there for the weekend pretty much, and I would be able to wander around Georgetown while we were there and discovered fun things like Kemp Mill Records. That was this awesome record store in Georgetown where I listened to artists like Al Stewart for the first time.

We had other Thanksgiving dinners that were just our family and smaller that were equally memorable. It was always fun getting the table set with my mother and laying out the flatware and the china, making sure the crystal glasses were all sparkle and no smudges. The good smells eminated from the kitchen all day until dinner time.

Other memories of Thanksgiving include when I was in my early to mid 20s and my girlfriends and I would always go to West Chester for years the night before Thanksgiving. We would go to the Gobble Off at the Bar and Restaurant in West Chester.  I have written about this before, it was just that much fun. Now we’re all purported grownups with our own families and that seems so long ago and far away. There were other night before Thanksgiving nights out with my friend Pam in Manayunk. I forget what the name of the restaurant is where we all used to meet in those days but it was a lot of fun as well. Pam would get all sorts of people together from high school and she made the evening fun!

Along with the Thanksgiving memories are the years that were like being banished. It was because of a prior relationship that I used to have to go into Central Pennsylvania basically. It was like being a stranger in a strange land and sadly these were the people that were almost my in-laws. I just never quite fit. That made it hard before any of the other stuff.

They weren’t bad people. One sister-in-law probably because she wasn’t related to the siblings by blood I liked in particular, still do. Before she divorced her husband (my ex’s brother) I honestly did enjoy going to Thanksgiving at her house up around Mechanicsburg. She and her mom were all about tradition and it was festive and warm. But the majority of the years I spent going to another almost sister-in-law’s house outside of Allentown. That was not so much fun.

The entire car ride up my ex would berate me about one thing or the other. Usually he yelled. Why was I wearing what I was wearing? What I could say and what I couldn’t say, and basically the entire duration of our relationship he didn’t want me getting too close to his family and didn’t share the few friends he had.  It was always an unpleasant ride up. By the time I got to his sister’s house I was a bundle of raw nerves.

When we got to his sister’s house, which was a townhouse development on the edge of a golf course, we would circle around for parking and eventually find the spot he deemed suitable. Then we would haul in my contributions to the meal. And we generally speaking, well that was me.  

When you got inside the townhouse you had the welcoming smell of a Thanksgiving dinner.  Unfortunately you were also met with some pretty somewhat bitter and somewhat dissatisfied middle-age women all divorced older than myself. The nieces and nephews were nice when they were in town, but I couldn’t hang out with the kids I was one of the grown-ups.  

One of the most amusing part of those Thanksgiving dinners in exile was the way every year the one sister magically made photos of my ex’s ex-wife fall out of the drawer or a book somewhere.  And I also never understood why they went to the trouble to cook a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner and have people around the table and not put the food out in nice containers. They put the disposable aluminum pans and plastic containers and what not right on the sideboard.

The Thanksgivings I spent in exile so to speak made me appreciate my friends and family all the more.  Not every Thanksgiving is perfect, we’re human they are not supposed to be. And even on the Thanksgivings that don’t quite end up the way you envision there is always good. Or at least humor. 

I think we all have this goal to become like a Norman Rockwell painting for one day. The problem is we can’t help but fall short because we are actual people not subjects of someone’s artistic mind’s eye.

I love hearing about my friends’ traditions.  I woke up this morning thinking of someone I used to know who always spoke about making creamed onions in a sherry cream sauce every Thanksgiving.

Now sprinkled in between all the homemade Thanksgiving dinners were a couple club and restaurant made Thanksgiving dinners.  Those were beautiful dinners and we had a lot of fun, but it was sort of anti-climactic because you didn’t wake up the next day to Thanksgiving leftovers and that is part of the fun of Thanksgiving.

I think Thanksgiving is a holiday is something I enjoy more the older I get. I don’t know if that makes any sense. I think part of it has to do with feeling somewhat like I have come into my own. But I do love Thanksgiving and even more so, Christmas. I am the crazy person that likes to put out the china, iron and do up the old table linens,  and decorate and cook.

We all have a lot to be thankful for, even if it is not always immediately apparent. Hearth and home are powerful motivators. My wish for this Thanksgiving is as a country we start to put aside all the political divisiveness of this recent presidential campaign, and remember what it is to be an American.  

I don’t know about you but I am tired of all the hate and violence. I am tired of the protests. I am tired of the anger. It’s exhausting even to avoid. I hope everyone takes a breath tomorrow and enjoys the company they are with. tomorrow literally is the day to be grateful for what we have and who we have in our lives.

Well I have to get back to my meal preparations, because when you’re a kid you don’t realize the preparing Thanksgiving dinner actually takes a good couple solid days of work!

Wishing all of you my readers, a safe and happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

preparing for thanksgiving 

I purchased some absolutely beautiful cranberries from Pine Barrens Native Fruits this year and today I made the Cranberry Sauce.

Cranberry  sauce is so easy to make. All it is for me is 2 dry quarts of cranberries, 2 1/2 cups of orange juice, cinnamon sticks, crystallized ginger minced, 2 cups sugar , other assorted spices including cardamom,ginger , nutmeg , and powdered cinnamon. True that I add a pinch of salt, and to quartered navel oranges skin on. I also add a couple tablespoons of fruit pectin to help at jell  even more.

I cook it down by close to half and then I remove the orange peel (The fruit by this time has basically cooked off each quarter of  orange ) and cinnamon sticks and then I jar it.

I don’t do the canning bath for this. When the jars are cool I tighten the lids and refrigerate it.  I basically only make enough to get through Thanksgiving and Christmas and then I make a fresh batch the following year.

childhood christmas memories

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Thanksgiving is now behind us and this is the weekend where for many Christmas shopping and decorating begins in earnest. It also begins the memory season for a lot of people.

I am not a big Black Friday shopper, but yesterday I did spend some time in one of my favorite places, Chester County Book Company. I had a terrific gift certificate waiting for me there having won the County Lines Magazine “Capturing Chester County” photo contest.

I love book stores, and always have. As a child I also loved my school’s annual Christmas Book Fair.

I went to St. Peter’s School in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia at 4th and Pine. It was a wonderful school to be a child in, and Society Hill at the time was being reborn, so while some will allude any child who spent any time growing up there was sniffing rarified air in a snotty sort of way, well sadly for them, they just don’t get it. Yes the air was rarified in a sense, but the sense was that of a very cool and historic place.

Anyway, after Thanksgiving as a child always meant in addition to annual things and pilgrimages like the light show and lunch in the Crystal Tea Room at John Wanamaker’s, the enchanted colonial village at Lit Brothers, the other Christmas displays at Gimbel’s and Strawbridge’s, and picking out a Christmas tree on sometimes snowy visits to what I think were rail yards with my father, it meant the Christmas Book Fair at St. Peter’s.

One nice thing about being a child growing up through the 1960s and 1970s is it was not politically incorrect to call things “Christmas Book Fair” or “Christmas Pageant” or “Christmas Festival”. And the Christmas Book Fair at St. Peter’s was as festive as it sounded. The school was festooned with decorations and greenery….it literally smelled like Christmas in every corner of the school. It was wonderful and everyone no matter what religion, loved it.

It was at the Christmas Book Fair as a little girl that I met a Philadelphia author my mother loved. As a matter of fact when I asked my mother about this today, she laughed and asked me if I remembered her bursting into tears when she met this children’s book author as an adult. I didn’t. But I do remember meeting an older magical woman with white hair who for a few years autographed one of her books to me annually.

The author’s name was Marguerite de Angeli. She was born in Michigan at the end of the 19th century, but moved with her family at the turn of the 20th century to Philadelphia. Her mother, Ruby, was best friends with the mother of my headmistress, Caroline Seamans.

Because of this lucky connection, as students then, we not only were able to become exposed to the wonderful writing and illustrating of Marguerite de Angeli, but to meet and spend little bits of time with her.

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I don’t know if any of you have books from your childhood, but I have some. Among the ones I kept were the books of Marguerite de Angeli. Thee, Hannah. Henner’s Lydia. Elin’s Amerika. Skippack School. Bright April. A Door in The Wall. I have loved and cherished these books, and read and re-read them. To me these books meant Christmas.

These books written by Marguerite de Angeli are still magical and timeless. I think every child should read them, and you can still find them on eBay and Amazon. I found copies of the books hidden among my step son’s book shelves a few years ago. They had been the copies that my sweet man’s own mother had read when she was a child, passed to him as a child, and he had passed them along to his son. I have always found that very cool.

These books remain as cherished books in our library. (Probably more cherished by me the closet sentimentalist.) Today, I took my copies off the shelf to dust them and I stopped to read the inscriptions Marguerite de Angeli left for me. Almost instantly I was a little girl again at the book fair waiting for my book to be signed. What a wonderful memory to be revisited by.

Thanks for stopping by today.

pumpkin pecan pie

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Pre-heat oven to 425°

This is sort of a complicated pie, so if you want to buy premade rolled piecrust sheets, have at it! I have never really written this down, but I think my proportions will work fine.

Line TWO 8 or 9 inch REGULAR not deep dish pie plates with plain pie crusts , crimp your crust edges and toss in the refrigerator to chill.

Next is the pumpkin filling….

You basically follow the pumpkin pie filling recipe on the back of the pumpkin cans (except I add an extra egg):

One 15 ounce can of pure pumpkin (unsweetened packed pumpkin)
3/4 of a cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 large eggs
1 12 ounce can of Carnation evaporated milk (use the whole evaporated milk)

Mix sugar, salt, spices in a bowl. Add eggs and pumpkin and beat with a handmixer. Gradually add in the milk and beat together until sort of frothy. Cover bowl and put in refrigerator to chill until you’re ready.

Next is the pecan pie part of the pie filling….it will go on top of pumpkin mixture.

2 1/2 cups of pecans. I prefer chopped pecans for this particular recipe.
1 cup of shredded coconut – sweetened
1/2 cup of dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons of flour
4 tablespoons of butter melted
1/2 cup of black strap molasses

First mix the butter, molasses, sugar, salt, flour, spices. Add the coconut and pecans. The mixture will be sort of crumbly mushy and just come together. Set bowl aside.

Remove your pie crusts in their plates from the refrigerator. Take the pie filling out of the refrigerator as well. Give the pumpkin filling a little whip with a hand whisk and divide evenly between the pies. Cover your crust edges with either those pie rings you can buy in a cooking supply store or lightly with tinfoil so it doesn’t burn. The pie plates should be side-by-side and your other not on different shelves. If you can’t bake the pies side-by-side, bake them one at a time.

Bake pies with JUST the pumpkin filling in the crusts for 15 minutes at 425°. Reduce the heat to 350° and bake another 30 minutes longer.

Take the pies out of the oven and evenly distribute the pecan topping on both pies. Do not smush down too tightly. Just sort of layer it on evenly covering the entire pumpkin surface. Bake pies another 18 to 20 minutes at 350°. They should be cooked perfectly at this point.

Remove from oven, cool, and serve. Unused portions should be covered and kept in the refrigerator.

pumpkin bread 2.0

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INGREDIENTS:

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup canola oil
2/3 cup apple cider
2 cups white sugar
Scant 1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup mixed raisins light and dark
1/2 cup candied minced orange peel
1/2 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
One cup chopped pecans or black walnuts (today I used walnuts because I used my pecans on hand in my pecan pumpkin pies)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350°

Grease and flour three loaf pans. The ones I used I think are 8″x 4″ (I should measure them but I haven’t)

In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, molasses, eggs, oil, cider, and sugar until well blended. Add the spices. Add baking soda, salt, baking powder. Stir the flour into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Fold in the raisins, coconut, nuts, candied orange peel.

Pour into the prepared pans. Make sure you split the batter evenly. Dust the top of the batter in each pan with a couple tablespoons of table sugar. It just gives a sort of sparkly crust when the loaves come out of the oven

Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven.

Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let the pumpkin bread cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes to half an hour before removing from pans. Then leave loaves on a baking rack to completely cool before wrapping up until ready to serve. I make these a day ahead of serving.

thanksgiving snow!

It’s snowing in Chester County! And it IS pretty!! Great day to bake and sew and get ready for Thanksgiving!

I will tell you I am glad the days of working in New York City are behind me because Amtrak the night before Thanksgiving becomes Cramtrak, and if you add snow it becomes a travel horror show.

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grocery store insanity

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No matter how well you plan for holiday meals and gatherings, the dreaded few-days-before-grocery-store-run seems to be unavoidable and inevitable. And if we are comparing the holidays, I think the pre-Thanksgiving grocery store runs are the worst.

So yes, today I made my pre-Thanksgiving pilgrimage to Giant. Getting through the parking lot safely was a challenge in and of itself, but I think complimentary sedatives should be offered at the door before you enter the madness.

When you enter a grocery store Thanksgiving week you definitely start with a prayer for survival and a deep breath. Today was no different.

As the doors opened and I entered the grocery store, it was a sea of people. As I was at the Giant next to Hershey’s Mill, the store was not only a sea of people, but a sea of people half of whom were in slow motion.

The aisles were also full of “sight seeing” shoppers. You know, the people who rest their elbows on the cart and steer aimlessly often into people and aisle displays? (And speaking of aisle displays, why do the marketing teams of grocery stores let the aisles get so crowded with displays that literally block the grocery items we are shopping for?)

Having experienced the people who run into the rear of your ankles, today I wore boots. I still got run into twice. The thing that irritates me about that is I feel compelled to apologize although I was the one who got my calves and shins run into. And have you ever noticed how irritated looking some of the people who run into other people with their carts can be? It’s fascinating. It’s like they are not so much sorry they ran into you with the cart, but are irritated that you are in their way.

But it wasn’t all bad. The craziness of the Thanksgiving week shopping trips also breed a certain camaraderie among strangers. I did share a couple of giggles with strangers.

One of the giggles stemmed from overhearing a woman comment about this other woman under her breath. It was like she was reading my mind. You see the shopper she was commenting about was the trifecta of poor grocery store etiquette. Oh yes, that bad.

Trifecta Lady was this woman who was on her speaker phone of her cell phone having reality show high volume conversations. If that wasn’t bad enough she was also an aimless sight seeing shopper who blocked aisles…..because she was so into her cell phone conversation she should have been having someplace private and not on speaker phone….in the middle of an insanely crowded and crazy pre-Thanksgiving grocery store. And no one needed to hear that conversation.

Shouldn’t there be some sort of “Dummies Guide to Grocery Store Etiquette”? Not just on pre-holiday shopping weeks but all the time? I guess I just don’t get and never will get those who have the compulsion to have what should be very private conversations in public, on their cell phones. I don’t need to hear the conversation and neither does anyone else.

I survived my grocery store run. But I admit today is even worse because we are expecting snow tomorrow. So you not only have the pre-Thanksgiving shopping craziness, but the oh-my-it-might-snow milk and bread run.

My final comment on the pre-Thanksgiving grocery store craziness is how nice the people who work in the Giant were today. It made the in store craziness easier to deal with.

The holidays are hard on people, but sometimes I think people make it harder on themselves. I have seen the good in people this Thanksgiving season, but I have also seen the worst.

There are people with no sense of personal accountability who blame all around them for their shortcomings. It’s sad. It’s also so sad how angry some people become during the holidays, starting with Thanksgiving. But they are the people who feel they are “owed”. These are the sad people who can never see the good in anything….unless it benefits them. Hopefully some day they will get what it is all about .

Thanks for stopping by today. Practice safe shopping, hear?

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be thankful

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It is that thankful time of year. Only I keep seeing people that are NOT particularly thankful and are just plain cranky.

I went to the Giant to pick up a couple things, and stopped by the customer service desk to see if I had enough points for my turkey. While I was there, a woman came up to the desk holding a newspaper. A Philadelphia Inquirer. She asked if she could just leave the money on the counter or if it had to be scanned. The older lady behind the customer service desk running the lottery machine said “We have to scan it.”

This woman with the paper basically went off about having to wait essentially another 60 seconds so her newspaper could be scanned. I and another person were somewhat incredulous watching this.

Yelling at people about scanning an item that they have no control over is just such a waste of energy. And it’s not their fault that they have to scan the newspapers.

The holidays are hard for a lot of people. But we should try to be nice, shouldn’t we?

I went from that odd scenario to learning that my friends Samantha and Gregory just had their second baby. He is a beautifully perfect little boy and I’m so happy for them! What an awesome Thanksgiving present!

I am really thankful that I am in the safe happy and loved place that I am today. A few short years ago my life could’ve turned out quite differently.

I remember Thanksgiving meals past where I was with a group of people who weren’t tremendously happy people. You actually feel quite sad for people like that during the holidays . It used to be fascinating to watch this bunch of people on the day of the year when we’re all supposed to be thankful and grateful and about family, and perhaps their greatest familial tradition was ripping into people who were not present to defend themselves and sometimes even ripping into people who were present.

None of us lead a perfect existence. I do not pretend that I do. But I am very grateful for what I have. And I am very grateful for the love that surrounds me. I guess it’s about deciding whether you’re going to look at life as a glass half-full , or a glass half-empty.

So I hope people hang onto the feeling of thankful as the holiday crazies literally begin to swirl all around us. And I really wish that people would be kinder to those who work in the stores. Whether it’s a small retail shop, or a grocery store, it doesn’t matter.

We all have bad days, but at this time of year especially we should be more mindful of how we treat others.

Have a great weekend everyone! Thanks for stopping by!

chutney season

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Today when I was taking down what was left of my tomato vines in the garden I had a bunch of green tomatoes left over, and I decided to make chutney.

Chutney is basically something that is semi-pickled that has a sweet and vinegary finish to it. In other words it’s spicy condiment made of fruits or vegetables with vinegar, spices, and sugar. Chutney has its origins in South Asia/India.

There are many recipes available that are easy to follow. I have been making chutneys much like fruit butters for years that I pretty much do it in my head.

This chutney consisted of eight medium and small sized green tomatoes small chopped / minced, two large apples peeled cored and minced, one chopped red onion, 1 cup golden raisins, 1 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 1 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons mustard seeds, 1 tablespoon pickling spice, couple of dashes of ground allspice, cloves, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, two whole cinnamon sticks, some grated fresh ginger, a couple teaspoons of salt, three ribs minced celery, 2 cups of minced sweet orange peppers that I had gotten at the farmers market, one minced jalapeno pepper seeded, and one minced medium hot pepper that I grew in my garden.

Tossed everything into a pot gave it a stir and turned on the stove and brought up to a boil and then reduced the heat, covered and simmered for 50 minutes.

I then put the chutney into sterilized jars. I did not give them a hot water bath. When my jars have cooled I will refrigerate and they will last a few months in the refrigerator, but realistically will be gone by the end of the holiday season.

I like to serve chutney not only with main courses of poultry and pork, but with cheese and crackers as an appetizer. Green tomato chutneys are especially delicious with turkeys at Thanksgiving.

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