Thursday, August 18

Crabapple Jelly

Late summer is here and trees are beginning to groan with fruit. Don't let it all end up as windfall, get out there and pick it, cook it, freeze it or turn it into jams, chutneys or jellies.   Here is my grandmothers crabapple jelly recipe, a real blast of nostalgia for me.   I left a third of my jelly plain for toast, scones etc then tinkered with the rest adding rosemary and peppercorns into some jars and super-hot red chilli flakes into others, absolutely fantastic with cheese.    For those of you that like exacting recipes, this is maybe not for you.   As long as you get the proportions of sugar and juice correct and check that the jelly sets properly (instructions below), you should be fine.

Crabapples - enough to fill your largest pan plus a few more
Caster Sugar
Lemon Juice - 1 or 2 depending on volume
Rosemary, Hot Chilli Flakes, Black Pepper Corns

Roughly blitz the crabapples in a food processor (in batches if necessary) and fill your largest pan with the pulp.    Just cover with water then bring to the boil and simmer for 30 mins.    Find a large clean vessel that will hold all the juice, line with a couple of clean tea towels.   Fill with a load of pulp and juice and carefully tie at the top to make a sack full of juice and pulp.   Hang over the vessel and allow to drain overnight - I had to hang 3 'sacks' as I did a lot of crabapples.   Don't be tempted to squeeze the tea towels to speed things up as this will cloud the juice and ultimately the jelly.

Next day carefully pour the juice back into a clean pan.  Some sediment may have settled at the bottom, discard this as best you can.   Now onto sugar, you want 7 parts sugar by volume to 10 parts juice.  Use the same cup or jug to measure the juice as sugar and all will be well.   Add the juice of 1 or 2 lemons (I used 2 to 4 litres of juice).   Bring to the rolling boil and skim any scum.   The more you skim, the clearer your jelly will be.

There is a science to getting your jelly to set.   We all know that water boils at 100c, when you add sugar this temperature can exceed 100c.   To activate the gelling agents in the jelly (namely pectin from the apple skins) you need to get the jelly up to 110c or above.   Depending on how sweet the apples and how much water used when you boiled them, this may take more or less time on the stove.   What you need to do is boil away sufficient water to concentrate the sugar solution to the correct degree and therefore allow the boiling temperature to exceed 110c.   Got that?    The way to check you are there is either to use a thermometer or to keep a cold saucer in the freezer and keep testing the jelly until it sets after a couple of minutes chilling.    Be patient and keep boiling away until it sets......and thats it! 

Decant into sterilised jars (I baked mine in the oven at 120c for 10 mins) and add a sprig or rosemary or some chilli flakes before you seal the jars.    If you want even distribution of chilli flakes, you need to give the jars a little shake after 20 mins or so.   You need to try and trap the flakes in the rapidly setting jelly before it sets too firm.    Jelly should keen unopened for several months or longer - basically if it is not mouldy when you open the jar for the first time, it is fine!

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