Kate Matthews had never made a preserve in her life, until she received a cryptic note in the post inviting her to a secret meeting.

“I got this invitation in the mail which said I was invited to the inaugural meeting of the Chutney Club,” Matthews recalls. “There was a picture of Debbie Harry licking Iggy Pop’s armpit and it was really incongruous. It was kind of obscure; it had this punk image and it was about chutney.”

Too intrigued to ignore the bizarre invitation, Matthews turned up to find a group of other confused people, most of whom had never made chutney in their lives.

Ten years on, the Chutney Club has evolved from a scattering of bewildered strangers to a tight-knit group of friends who get together four times a year to taste and swap. Matthews is now one of its core members and counts her homemade chilli sauce as a club speciality.

The club may have initially united over a meagre condiment, but the simple act of coming together over a love of preserves has allowed a group of strangers to become friends for over a decade now.

“The Chutney Club is really about coming together with friends who have all gotten better by preserving together,” Matthews says. “It started 10 years ago, when we were all in our twenties, coming to meetings hung-over, eating bad chutney. Now we’re in our thirties and it has more of an ‘eating good chutney and playing with children’ vibe!”

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Kate Matthews and founding member Dell Stewart will be judging Melbourne’s best preserves as part of the Chutney Club Preserves Challenge at the Shadow Electric Bikefest Village Picnic on Saturday March 9.