OFM editor Allan Jenkins joins film-maker Howard Sooley on a fishing boat pilgrimage to the Lagavulin distillery on the Hebridean island of Islay The pla...
Friday, 31 October 2008
These gorgeous little crab apples were growing in my garden. The branches were laden almost to the ground with fruit. A severe gale one night had me scrambling early nest morning to pick them from the ground. My fingers were frozen and my hair full of twigs but it was worth it for these little beauties. I bought the tree several years ago but unfortunately I have forgotten the name of the variety. They were crying out to be made into crab apple jelly. I want to use the jelly for Christmas gifts as the colour is so seasonal. It's so easy to make. I managed to drip 5 lbs of fruit in a sieve lined with muslin so a jelly bag is not essential. A wash is all that is required. No peeling or removal of twigs is needed as it is all going to be strained anyway.
Crab apples, ( I had 5lbs)
Sugar, 1lb per pint of cooked apple juice
Cinnamon stick (optional) .
To start with, rinse the apples and cut them into quarters. Don’t worry about peeling or coring as you will be straining the fruit later.
Put the apples together with the halved lemon and cinnamon stick into a large saucepan, with a couple of inches of water in the bottom to stop them from sticking when you turn on the heat. You will need a large enough pan to hold TWICE the volume of the fruit and sugar. This is because to get the jam to set, you need to cook it at a “rolling boil”, which makes it double in volume.
Put the lid on tight and boil them to destruction – usually around 45 minutes to an hour is sufficient.
Now you need to strain the fruit. I did this by placing a large sieve lined with muslin over a bowl. I stacked the fruit carefully and then left overnight. You want to get every last drop of juice
Do NOT squeeze or you will end up with a cloudy final product – the aim is to get a completely clear apple juice. The lemon is not completely necessary but gives a nice zing, and makes sure that the juice is acidic to help the setting process.
Once you have your clear juice, put it back in the cleaned pan, and add 1lb of sugar per pint of juice that you have extracted.
Dissolve all the sugar over a gentle heat. You’ll be able to tell when it’s all dissolved if you use a wooden spoon as you can no longer feel a crunch at the bottom of the pan.
Crank up the heat and get the mixture boiling – you need to achieve a “rolling boil”, which means that it is actively boiling (ie more than a simmer) but not rising up the pan. If you can not get rid of the bubbles with stirring, but it’s not rising up the pan, then you are at the right point.
Test for a set after about 15 mins by placing a dribble of the jelly on a cold plate. If it wrinkles to the touch after a few minutes you are done. If not boil a few minutes longer and so on.
This recipe is so good for beginners due to the high pectin content in crab apples. Pectin is a naturally occurring sugar found in some fruit and vegetables, and acts as a gelling agent, in the presence of acids and sugar, to make jam set. With some fruits, the pectin content is very low so you have to mix n’ match, or use additional pectin to get the jam to set, but this crab apple recipe seems fairly idiot proof and sets well.
In the meantime, you need to prepare your jars ready for the jelly.
Wash them and sterilise by popping them in a warm oven. You need them warm for the hot jelly anyway
As soon as your jelly is at setting point, take it off the heat and ladle it into your waiting jars,
I got 1 1/2 pints of juice out of 5lbs fruit which gave me six 8oz jars