It seems to me that crab apples are growing everywhere at the moment and some of the trees are bowing under the weight of so much fruit. There are numerous varieties. Some look as large, round and red as eating apples (though I wouldn’t advise eating them unless you are a fan of sour). Others are barely recognisable as apples and look more like rosehips. All of them can be used in jams and jellies.
Crab apples are one of the best sources of pectin – essential to make jams or jellies set, so they can be added to your soft fruit jams instead of expensive jam sugar with added pectin. They have very little natural sugar so you cannot eat them raw. However, the jelly they make is beautiful to look at and has a natural tangy spiciness to it that makes it an ideal for using as an accompaniment to meat dishes, especially if you add mint or rosemary to it.
Crab apples were one of the first foods that I foraged for as they were growing all along the meadows where I walk Jinks, and there were many different varieties.
So I picked loads of them, without really knowing what I would do with them at the time. So I got out my trusty River Cottage Guide Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2 and found a great recipe for Crab Apple Jelly. I had never made a jelly before, so I was excited to try. I couldn’t get started right away though because I lacked a pretty essential piece of equipment: a jelly bag / strainer. So I ordered one of these jam-straining kits.
My hoard sat there waiting patiently for the kit to arrive and I read the recipe over a few times until I was happy to attempt it and confident that I had all of the ingredients and necessary equipment.
Happily I didn’t have to wait for long. So here we go…
Crab Apple Jelly: The Recipe
As I mentioned earlier I got my inspiration from the River Cottage preserves book, a brilliant guide to all things pickled, preserved, jammed and bottled. It recommended adding herbs to the jelly, and as I have two gloriously fragrant rosemary bushes growing in the garden it seemed like a good idea to add a little to the mix.
2kg crab apples
1 bunch of rosemary
100 ml cider vinegar or lemon juice
Granulated sugar (lots)
6 sterilised jars and lids (wash in hot soapy water and dry completely in a low oven 120 degrees for 20 minutes)
- Clean and roughly chop the crab apples and place in a preserving pan or very large saucepan (no need to peel or core thankfully!).
- Add enough water just to cover the fruit and bring to the boil.
- Bruise the rosemary using a mortar and pestle to release the aromatic oils before adding to the apples.
- Simmer for 45 mins – 1 hour, until the apples are very soft and turning to mush.
- Pour the whole lot into your jelly bag, and hang over a large bowl overnight. (If you squeeze the bag the jelly will end up cloudy, so be patient!
- In the morning…. after you have walked the dog…. sigh… Measure the drained juice and for every 600ml weigh out 450g sugar.
- Pour the juice back into the cleaned pan with the vinegar or lemon juice and bring to the boil.
- Add the sugar and stir gently over a low heat until all the sugar is dissolved.
- Increase the heat and boil rapidly for 15 mins, periodically scraping the scum off the top, until setting point is reached ( Check this by placing a teaspoon of liquid onto a cold plate and leaving in the fridge for a few minutes. If you push the jelly with your finger and it wrinkles and leaves a trail then it is ready).
- Pour the warm jelly into the pre-sterilised jars (preferably warm), screw on the lids and let it set.
- Label your jars carefully, If like me you would like to give your jelly as a gift to someone, you will find some lovely labelling kits available to buy in most kitchen shops that will transform your jar of jelly into a beautiful home-made gift. I bought this one…
and this is how it turned out!
Can’t wait to try this with my roast gammon joint this Christmas!