Archive for October 18th, 2010

On a bright and sunny mid September day my eye was drawn to a small tree of what I thought were probably crab apples, but not a variety I had ever seen before.  They were the size of small plums but the colour of pale red cherries, the tree thick and the ground carpeted with the fallen fruit.  This same day we had made our annual trip to Plum Corner, this year sadly (and literally) unfruitful, so there were containers in the car which I filled instead with the fallen crab apples.  Some research when I arrived home indicated that this was a variety of  Crab Apple (or Malus) called ‘John Downie’.  I don’t remember seeing such pretty crab apples before, usually the ones I see are yellow ( a variety called ‘Golden Hornet’).  I also read that the best place to gather the fruit was, as I had done, from the ground.  My initial intention was to extract the pectin to help with jam making, however I also planted some of the fruit.  Eventually I wouldn’t mind my own little tree, though I’m not worried about growing one that would yield enough fruit for cooking purposes!


Expecting the liquid to be very sour I was pleasantly surprised at its sweetness, with just a slight sharpness, once it was strained through the jelly bag so I wondered if I could use it for something other than just pectin.  In The Penguin Book of Jams, Pickles & Chutneys by David & Rose Mabey there was a recipe for Crab Apple Jelly where the resulting fruit pulp could then be turned into Crab Apple Cheese.  As I love the idea of wasting nothing I had to give it a go, retaining just a little juice for pectin for my jam, which I froze.   This variety of Crab Apple gives a jelly that is fiery red in colour and other varieties will give different shades, but all are delicious with pork.  My only complaint about the jelly is the inevitable small yield from what seems a good quantity of apples, but this is the case with any fruit jelly product.  Under no circumstances should you be tempted to squeeze the jelly bag to extract more juice, as you are aiming for a clear jelly and the squeezing will make the juice cloudy.  In the end be thankful for the small amount you get.  Just enjoy its wonderful colour and clarity.

Crab Apple Jelly (Malus ‘John Downie’ or another variety)

Crab Apples
A small amount of water

1.   Collect a good amount of apples and wash them well.

2.  Chop them up without peeling or coring and put them in a large saucepan with a very small amount of water (just enough to stop the apples from burning and sticking to the pan).  Cook over a gentl heat until they are soft, stirring occasionally.

3.  Stretch a jelly bag over a jug and spoon in the apple mixture.  Suspend the jelly bag above the jug and allow to drip at least overnight, but preferably for 24hours.  Do not squeeze the contents of the bag at any point or the juice will become cloudy.

4.  Reserve the apple pulp for crab apple cheese, if you wish.

5.  Measure the strained liquid and weigh out 1lb sugar for each pint of strained juice.

6.  Dissolve the sugar in the juice in a medium sized saucepan and bring to the boil.  (If you have obtained a large quantity of juice then it may be appropriate to use a larger saucepan.)

7.  Turn the heat down a little and, stirring regularly, reduce the liquid until it starts to set.  (I small amount dripped onto a saucer than has been in the freezer will wrinkle when pushed if it is ready.)

8.  Wash the jars well and sterilise.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.  Shake as much water from them as possible before filling.
Alternatively put the jars in an oven set to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4 for 10 minutes.  Be careful to put them on a dry surface when removing or they could crack.  Lids can be placed in a small pan of boiling water.  Shake as much water from the lids as possible before filling.

9.  Pot into the prepared jars.  Cool and label.


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