A coral and salmon coloured crab apple jelly…..

foraged apples

As I mentioned yesterday we’re lucky enough to live in a spot that is surrounded by hedgerows which are fair teeming with fruity edibles, and although the blackberries don’t seem to have done so well this year as last, the apple harvest is spectacular.

Just up the road from us is a little square of grass which is home to 3 crab apple trees, all of the variety with those red and rosy blooms, as ruddy coloured as a Thomas Hardy farmer’s complexion.  Two big baskets have been picked for jellies and then just round the back from our house are scattered some wildlings, apple trees that have just set in and grown where an apple core has been thrown.  One tree is a fine eater but I find that the others are best added to the crab apples for jelly or sliced and added to regular baking apples in pies and crumbles.

So when the weather is nice I’ll nip out for an hour or so with my old shopping basket and have a look round what I’ve come to think of as a wild pantry, at this time of year it’s very rare for me to come home without something or other that can be cooked or baked or drowned in alcohol.

crab apples and rosemary from the garden

In the past I’ve made sweet crab apple jellies flavoured with leaves from rose geraniums, soft and jewel like on bread and butter or breakfast toast but this year I thought to make a more savoury version that I can stir into Winter gravies, casseroles, and soups.

Crab Apple Jelly for gravies and casseroles

washed and dried crab apples (with some wildings too if you have them)

granulated sugar

freshly picked herbs

white wine vinegar

Making the juice

Wash your crab apples, I tend to tumble mine in the sink, give them a gentle wash in cold water and dry them with a tea towel, and check them over at the same time for grub or wasp holes and discard those to the compost. Cut the crab apples in half and then pop them into a big heavy bottomed pan (the one you usually use for jam).  I remove the stalks but leave the rest of the apple.

When you cut them in half sometimes you’ll find unpleasantness going on through the middle of the apple, compost these rather than use them in your jelly.

For every kilo of apples I then add about 650 ml of water. As this is a savoury jelly I’ve also added a couple of sprigs of rosemary and a couple of bay leaves from our garden, but if you’d rather a sweet jelly then leave those out (geranium leaves if being used instead should be added now).

gently simmer the chopped fruit

Gently simmer the fruit, it helps to watch over it and stir regularly so it doesn’t catch.  After a while the fruit begins to soften and you can press them against the side of the pan with the spoon so they break down even more.

simmer until the fruit becomes all pulpy

After a good half hour the apples will have broken down and become all mushy.  The end result doesn’t look too appealing although the smell is rather nice.

You now need to add some white wine or cider vinegar (but only if you’re making a savoury version…if you want a sweet jelly leave this out) For every kilo of apples used you’ll need to add 100 ml of vinegar.  Allow to cook a little more and keep stirring so the fruit doesn’t catch and burn on the bottom of the pan.

Straining the juice

Once the cooked fruit has cooled a little you’ll need to strain off the juice.  You can buy jelly strainers but I find the best way is to strain the fruit through an old but clean pillowcase. (But you could easily make a double lined bag from cheesecloth or muslin)

Wash the pillowcase in cold water so that the fabric is wet and wring it out well.  Open it up and place in a large bowl and then fill with the cooked fruit.  Using some strong kitchen string (I use mine double thickness) wrap round the top of the pillowcase and tie it tight,  The jelly bag (or pillowcase) needs to be suspended so the juice will drip through, if you have a kitchen stool that you can turn over then use that, however I used a step ladder…it all looked a bit Heath Robinson but worked a treat with the juice gently dripping down in to a big bowl under the supported pillowcase.  Leave over night and resist squeezing the bag to encourage the juice to drip more as this makes for a cloudy jelly.

the strained juice is a gorgeous pink

This was some of the collected juice….the juice was at this stage beautifully clear but I then proceeded to squeeze the bag to high heaven as I wasn’t fussy about the jelly being cloudy. (I’m not planning to enter any village fetes or such like, and cloudy jelly is no less delicious)

I forgot to measure the juice from the un-squeezed bag, but once squeezed I had 2400 ml of fragrant and coral coloured juice.

skim the white foam from the surface of the jelly

Making the jelly

For every 600 ml of juice you need to use 450 g of granulated sugar.  Gently heat the juice and sugar together until the sugar has all dissolved and then turn up the heat so that the jelly has a good rolling boil and then test for a set.

Crab apples have a lot of pectin and while this makes for a good setting jam or jelly, it does seem to produce a lot of white foamy scum, however I leave mine until the set has been reached, then carefully skim it all off while the jelly cools slightly before I bottle the jelly up in to sterilised jam jar.

coral coloured crab apple jelly

And this is some of the finished product, it’s a glorious coral salmon pinky colour, a tad cloudy but still jewel bright.I know it wouldn’t win me a first prize rosette on appearance (ahh but if they were only to taste it they may think quite different).

Come cold Autumn evenings when it’s all wild winds and rain battering against the windows, I’ll be more than a little happy to have this bounty in the pantry, ready to stir into roast onions so they make a gravy all shiny and sticky and full of flavour or adding a couple of heaped spoonfuls into a sausage casserole or vegetable soup.

3 thoughts on “A coral and salmon coloured crab apple jelly…..

  1. It really is a gorgeous colour. In my pre-lupus days I used to make jelly with all the fruit we had collected/been given over the year. I would prep and freeze the fruit as we were given it and then make massive batches of jelly in the autumn! I used to put the pure juice to one side and then squeeze the bag like crazy so as not to waste all that yummy goodness and make that up separately. It was pop socks to strain and a broom handle between chairs with lots of bags tied on to drain! It was such fun and a bit of a family affair as we usually did it when Mum and Dad came up to visit for a few days 🙂 x

    1. Normally I prefer jam but since I’ve had to stop eating bready type foods I’m finding the jam isn’t getting used up half so much so though a jelly for cooking with would be the way to go, though the hedgerows round here are so full of haws and rosehips that I’m going to make up a sweet hedgerow jelly and then save it as Solstice/Christmas gifts.
      I’ve had health problems this last year so really sympathise with you (I have an auntie who has Lupus)…somedays I’m so tired that it’s an effort to do anything but on a good day I cram in as much as I can.

      1. Hedgerow jelly for gifts sounds amazing 🙂 The Lupus does get frustrating at times but it is a case of thinking about what I can do and not worrying about what I can’t, there are so many people in much worse situations and I am surrounded by a fantastic network of family and friends who are always willing to help. At least it gives me lots of crafting time 🙂 I hope your health problems soon improve, take care. xx

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