Food, wine, travel, music
The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness isn’t far away so collect jars now to have to hand and forage to make the most delicious jars of jams and jellies to get through the next year. Make sure to scrub lids clean and keep them on the jars so they don’t get lost. I find that the smaller the jars are better unless you get through a lot at a time. The less they are opened the better.
Use crab apple jelly to add to tea for a change of flavour, especially when you need some comfort. It’s delicious on plain crackers like Carr’s water biscuits with a little butter. I often add it to the end of stir fries when a little sweetness is called for, but honey would be too sweet. Vegetable stir-fries are particularly good. Add to a gravy served with pork, and for lamb.
Later in autumn crab apple jelly is delicious with game and later with turkey leftovers. The year is over already! Then I like it with rabbit in the spring.
On the sweet side, it’s delicious on bread, but also in cakes such as a simple cream sponge and fairy cakes. Use a skim on a polenta cake or as a glaze for an almond cake.
I often pick up the windfalls of crab apples on the roads which is very satisfying – tidying and foraging! They are small compared to sweet apples and if you bite into them will be too sour to eat. I make loads of jelly and flavour it with whatever is to hand. Best of all you don’t have to peel or core the apples, just quarter them. I use this recipe for cooking apples too.
3kg crab apples
3 litres water
2 large lemons, rind and juice
500g granulated sugar to every 600ml strained juice
Quarter the washed apples, removing any bad bits and place in a wide saucepan with the water. As it comes to the boil pare the lemons with a potato peeler and add in. Cook until the flesh is pulpy – 20-30 mins. Ladle into a jelly bag, or improvise with a clean, old cotton pillowcase or use muslin draped over a bowl and tied with string. The weight of the apples will pull it away, so secure it well.
Ideally leave this overnight to drip. When I make a lot I allow the mix to drip hanging from kitchen cupboard doorknobs into saucepans underneath. Wash and re-use the same pillowcases next year. They will stain and won’t be usable on the bed again.
Measure the liquid and pour into a saucepan with the weighed sugar. Squeeze the lemons and add the juice to the saucepan. Heat gently at first to dissolve the sugar completely, then boil rapidly for 8-10 minutes, depending on the quantity. If there is white/grey scum on top, spoon that off with the flattest, widest spoon you can find. You may need to do this a few times during the 10 minutes. Test for setting by dropping a few drops into cold water on a plate. It should turn to a sticky jelly immediately. Pour into sterilized, warm jars immediately and seal with the lids or jam covers.
I add all sorts of flavours from time to time.
Handful rose petals
You can either boil herbs and petals with the apples as they cook, or add a sprig to the jar. I also add blackberries while the apples are cooking.
I like: Rosemary, thyme, mint. Rosepetals provide a gentle flavour and you can use wild roses. Allow a good handful when they have just fallen from the bushes and before they brown at the edges.