OK, so making crab apple jelly took two attempts but I’m glad I stuck with it and am totally chuffed to bits with the outcome. I’ve only ever made jam once and it was in a cheats jam maker from Lakeland that melted so I wasn’t getting off to a flying start.
Recently, whilst taking the beast – Henry, our black labrador – on his early morning meander, I walked past trees laden with unpicked fruit. They were in the grounds of the primary school next door and appeared to be going totally to waste. Ignorantly, I thought the fruit was large cherries but on closer inspection realised they were tiny apples. Crab apples, it turned out, after a quick Google search put me straight.
Having called the school to check it was ok to do so, I headed back out after work with my foraging hat on and filled my pan with goodies. Not being a jam maker, I didn’t have any of the equipment I needed so snaffled a large jam pan and rather nifty little jelly bag contraption from my sister.
My first attempt failed miserably because I was trying to do two things at once. Note to self, don’t multitask whilst making jelly. Whilst boiling the liquid up the next day, I thought I’d call some IT support whilst I was waiting and was put on hold for ten minutes. The jelly reached its setting point whilst I was still on hold so I just switched the heat off and thought I’d have some time before I needed to pour it into the jars. Big mistake. Once I’d finally sorted my IT dilemma and come off the phone, the jelly had set beautifully in the pan. Trying to reheat it to melt it again failed spectacularly, resulting in a mashed up globular mess, so that batch had to be binned and I started again.
Second time round was far more successful, resulting in a batch of jelly that will be gifted to friends who have just moved house, saved in the pantry till Christmas and devoured tonight with our roast lamb. If there’s any left after that, I’ve also read crab apple jelly goes well with cheese, makes a great substitute for a blob of jam in rice pudding, is divine spread thickly over warm buttery toast and is an excellent glaze to brush on meat before cooking. How do you eat yours?
Crab Apple Jelly
Serves 1-6 jars
Time: A couple of hours plus time to strain overnight
4kg crab apples
1kg caster sugar
1 lemon, juiced
- Wash the apples, removing any bruised fruit and the stalks. Put in a saucepan, fill with water to just cover the apples.
- Bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit is soft – about 30 minutes. I’m not sure if you are meant to but my apples were so small they didn’t break down so I helped them on their way with my potato masher! Seemed to do the trick and produced a gorgeous thick pulp.
- Pour the pulp into a jelly bag or several layers of muslin and let drip overnight into a pan. Do NOT squeeze the bag or it will make the juice cloudy.
- The next day, measure the juice, and add sugar in the ratio of 10 parts juice to 7 of sugar. Add a good squeeze of lemon juice, then bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Keep at a rolling boil for 40 minutes, skimming off the froth. The second time I did this, I was much more fastidious about removing the froth throughout the boil and it definitely helped.
- To test the set, chill a small plate in the refrigerator. Put a small teaspoon worth of the jelly on the plate and wait a minute. If when you push the jelly gently with your finger it wrinkles, it has reached its setting point.
- Pour into warm, sterilised preserving jars. I used old jam jars I’d recycled, washing them in hot soapy water, drying them and sterilising them in a fan oven whilst the jelly was cooking.
- Tightly seal the jars with the lids while still slightly warm. If you are using metal screw lids, you don’t need the wax discs on top of your jelly before you seal the jar.
- Store in a cool dark place.