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How to make crab apple jelly without becoming crabby

This is a rather late posting about crab apples. I just had some of my home-made crab apple jelly with a bit of cheese and remember I wanted to post my crab apple jelly making journey which can serve either as a warning or a guide…your preference.

So this year as a fully paid up associate member of the do-it-yourself tribe, I decided to try something with the bounty harvested from the crab apple trees in the garden. This is my second year in my home and the trees were resplendent with red, fiery fruit and I couldn’t stand to see them drop and rot again, if I could help it.

So I looked up recipes — essentially the first page of Google. I viewed Pinterest and there are plenty of pictures of lovely looking jars of crab apple jelly, many linked to recipes that begin in the middle and describe adding 10 parts to one part so I parted company there.

I couldn’t find any recipes or advice suited to this novice such as: This is what a crab apple looks like, they are small fiddly things and you will hate crab apples and yourself after an hour of topping and tailing and cutting the things. Admittedly, I didn’t bother with YouTube, I’m a traditionalist and I need to read recipes. In the end, I winged it and used a couple of recipes as a guide. However, this Mary Wynne recipe was my main guide as it included a way to measure the crab apples from the start.

HOW TO DO IT

 

Step 1: Crab apples come in different sizes. Mine was at the smaller end of the scale. One tree bore fruit as early as August and two only began to bear fruit towards the end of October, early November and the fruit is not only smaller than this bunch below but also green.

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Red, fiery fruit

Step 2: Get your gear together. I realised I needed:

  • a large pot
  • a thermometer
  • jars
  • wax discs for sealing
  • muslin (who has this lying around??)
  • A net for straining
  • Time (lots of it)
  • Patience – you’ll need extra when things aren’t going according to plan

Step 3: Wash, get rid of the stems, slice and cut into half if the apples are on the smaller side. Admission: I got bored after more than an hour (I used up all my patience in the beginning!) and started to cut off the top and bottom then sliced in half. After two hours I just pulled the stems and sliced as realised that muslin net comes in handy in straining since I wasn’t going to use the pulp!

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Pour enough water that you can see but the apples don’t float

Step 4: Add water to your crab apples. Recipes all seem to begin at this point. Warning: recipes also tell you to use enough water to cover the crab apples mine kept floating so where should I stop? Aargh! Mary Wynne to the rescue: Add enough water to be able to see, but no [sic] so much that the crabapples are floating. I interpreted it as the photo shows above.

Step 5: Boil, boil, boil and trouble. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 mins until fruit is soft. The first batch I made, I stuck a spoon in it to stir and boy, oh boy what a bitter brew! I had to throw it out. I fumed, sulked and started again two days later. Be warned stainless steel or wooden spoon!

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Enough juice for jelly

Step 6: Straining: What alchemy is this? I brought a net made for straining fruit. Heavens to Betsy how do you actually get it to strain so it dripped into the bowl? I hadn’t a clue and neither did Google. I just tied it in a knot and left it in a stainless steel bowl and hoped that a fairy would do some magic overnight. The next morning it was still in the bowl but crucially sat in a fair amount of juice. I squeezed the net several times against the sides with a wooden spoon and managed to yield close to the required 4 cups recommended by Ms Wynne.

A belated tip came from a friend who has a farm: her mother simply pegged the net to something deep like a bucket (clean obvs!).

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Note: only a wooden or stainless steel spoon

Step 7: Pour it into the pot and bring to a boil again and then simmer for 10 mins. I added a bit of cinnamon bark which the recipe suggested was optional. Skim the foam off the top and add the sugar. I bought jam sugar even though I understand crab apples are full of pectin.

img_1721

Step 8: Fahrenheit or centigrade? Boil on low until you get to the required temp. Get your bottles sterilised and into the dishwasher or sterilise in the oven. I reused some old coffee jars which had rubber seals. What a mistake…

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Step 9: Should they look that colour? I removed from the heat, finally putting to use those coffee jars I held on to for years EXCEPT the rubber seals refused to stick and kept rising up. I panicked, took the top off and used a plastic wax disc. Then I stuck them in a hot water bath which was pointless as the seal wouldn’t seal!

Step 10: Trial and error. I had hoped to gift these but thought I better try them myself first. They taste better than I expected then again I would say so given the sweat and tears that went into this concoction. Next year the crab apples may very well provide nutrients to the earth because I’m not so sure I can face them again.

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