My Nanna was Ivy Maude Downes.
I always thought her name was soft and she smelt of sweet peas and strawberries.
She was mellifluous. The mind of an 8 year old is a funny thing.
Nanna came from the era of scrimping and saving. An era where women had no voice, no vote, no welfare, no rights. They were silently strong and didn’t just make do, but made the very best out of any situation that they were put in and the welfare of their children and grandchildren was ALWAYS forefront in their minds.
I remember very fondly one summer my Mother, sister and I, spent with Nan in her tiny little cottage near the railway tracks in Stokers’ Siding. We were on a family furlough from PNG and Dad was studying Linguistics in Sydney.
There was the smell of lantana and loud hum of cicadas, stolen chats in messy beds, ABC radio on talkback and cricket with Merv Hughes and Dennis Lillee.
My sister Petrina and I, would go exploring up the railway tracks, ride the neighbours’ horse bareback and dance barefoot through the grass near Nanna’s choko and passionfruit vines.
Ivy had a magical way with chokoes. I watched with admiration as she seemed to enchantedly coax them into any form she chose. She was able to turn a handful of strawberries into jars of jam, an apple that had lost its crunch became a delicious pie to feed us for days, with a deft-handed, sugar crusted pastry and nutmeg whipped cream. Our lamb chop dinners were adorned with the most delicious choko chutney and sausages were kissed with a warm choko and tomato sauce. She boiled them, baked them, grated them into fritters, doused them with butter and white pepper, mashed them, made turnovers, simmered sweet dumplings and pegged them at the brutal magpies.
That choko vine gave and gave and gave.
The warmer weather has brought the choko season on and with it, my nostalgic embrace of Ivy’s cooking. My reminiscence has brought an abundance of chokoes to The Jam Pantry’s kitchen for this fortnights’ flipping boards. We’ve roasted them skin on, poached them in a vanilla syrup for the pancakes and made a delicious choko, apple and lemon jam. I simply couldn’t help my sentimental self and also made a salute to her choko chutney. It’s laced with currants and lemon zest and goes beautifully with smoked fish, corned beef, cheddar and eggs.
Make it one of lifes’ glorious staples. Ivy would be tickled pink.
Choko Chutney makes approx 4 jam jars
3 chokoes peeled and cut in a 2cm dice
1 granny smith apple peeled cored and cut in a 1cm dice
1 red onion peeled and cut in a 1 cm dice
1/3 cup currants
1 cup sugar
the zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tsp salt
1 tsp tumeric
10 grinds black pepper
Place all ingredients in a pot and bring to the boil.
Simmer until choko and apple is soft, about 11/2 hours. Decant into sterilised jars.
This gorgeous chutney will keep for up to 2 years unopened. Use within 1 month of opening (if it lasts that long).