The apples were free, the sugar wasn’t. But those are the only two ingredients, apart from water, so, a pretty economical, homemade, foodie Christmas present. In the cooking process, it turns a wonderful pinky-orange colour, whereas the apples were greeny-yellow, so I don’t know how that happens. I am going back this week to pick up more windfalls which I have spotted near me on common land. The ones I picked for this batch were slightly pock-marked and bruised, because they’d been lying on the ground. I thought they might spoil the end result, or taint the flavour, but they didn’t. Obviously, don’t use actually rotten apples. Crab apples are the tiny ones about the size of a cherry tomato – MUCH too sour to eat raw (I tried) but quite often seen growing wild in the UK.
Recipe: Crab Apple Jelly
Ingredients: (for 3 small jars)
couple handfuls crab apples
- Wash the apples, put in a saucepan and just cover with water.
- Simmer for about 30 minutes till soft.
- Push through a sieve, discarding all the pips, cores, skin and stems. (If you want a completely clear jelly, just drain the liquid off, but I think this loses a lot of the goodness, fibre and flavour).
- Then add the equivalent weight of sugar and pour into the cleaned pan, with the puree (so, 400ml puree + 400g sugar). (Use white sugar for a purer colour.)
- Simmer for 10-15 minutes and test for a good set (put 3-4 saucers in the freezer before you start cooking, then drop a teaspoon of the mix onto the cold saucer, let it set, then run your finger across it and see if it forms a wrinkly skin [set] or still looks juts like a syrup [not set]).
- Wash some clean jam jars and lids on really hot water, then drain in a clean tea towel
- Pour in the HOT jelly. The heat of the hot sugar should kill any bacteria (sugar boils at 104C/220F).
- Put the lids on immediately to create a vacuum seal.
- Add pretty labels when cold. Keeps for several months.
To use: my kids thought jelly meant jelly-on-a-plate, but I explained it’s like a jam but without the bits. Lovely with cold meats, ham, cheeses, ploughman’s lunch etc, but also nice just as a sweet jam on bread or scones etc. I also add a teaspoonful to bolognaise sauce, anything tomatoey, and even some veg soups eg parsnip, mushroom – try it!