My kind friend saved these wind-fallen crab apples from her husband’s lawnmower. I cut them into quarters and put 4lbs into a pan, including the stalks and pips – the whole shebang. I like to work with 4lbs of fruit for this kind of jelly* so that I can know approximately how long it will take to set and how many jars I am likely to need , although it varies according to the type of fruit and its ripeness. I shook the raindrops from half a dozen stalks of rosemary from my garden to add to the pan, aiming for a subtle rosemary infusion rather than a strong flavour that could interfere with the rich sweet tartness of these wild apples. I barely covered the fruit with water and cooked it gently for about an hour, and then I strained it overnight through a jelly bag.
I poured the beautiful clear amber juice into the preserving pan with one pound of preserving sugar per pint of juice, pro rata, managing to extract three and a half pints for this batch. Any type of sugar works but “preserving” sugar dissolves easily. I dissolved the sugar in the juice and brought the mixture to a rolling boil. It took about a quarter of an hour to reach setting point, which I tested by putting a half teaspoonful on a saucer chilled in the freezer and pushing it with a finger. When the surface of the blob wrinkled it meant it was setting.
I ladled the jelly into sterilised jars and pushed a small sprig of rosemary into each one. This was tricky because the sprig wants to rise to the top but there is an optimum moment when the jelly is cooling and becoming firmer, and won’t let go of a pushed-down sprig, but hasn’t solidified to a point where the sprig will spoil the smooth texture. The covers are circles cut from a lovely, fabric-like, hand-made, Indian wrapping paper from the Fair Trade shop.
There were sufficient crab apples to make a second batch of jelly. This time I scrubbed and sliced 2 unwaxed lemons and added them to the pan of quartered apples to make a gorgeous Lemony Crab Apple Jelly. The yield from this batch was lower due to operator error during the straining process – the wrong knot tying the jelly bag to the kitchen cupboard door handle resulted in the bag of fruit collapsing into the juice receptacle and spilling a good half pint of juice. In my mind I heard faint hoots of derision from my brothers, knot-certificated Sea Scouts long ago when scouting was not for girls.
*a note for US readers: here in the UK “jelly” is used to describe only clear preserves made from strained fruit and “jam” is a preserve where you can see the fruit.
PS I took a pot of the Crab Apple and Rosemary Jelly into the White Stuff shop in Leamington Spa and it has won the local heat of their “Top of the Pots” preserves competition! http://www.whitestuff.com/