Thursday 1 October 2009
Very simple crab apple jelly
If you spend a lot of time hanging around farmers’ markets or fancy food shops, you will have seen that there are several companies now offering fruit jellies. In our neck of the woods, the market leader is Ouse Valley Foods who make excellent jellies (well, that was the case until they had a bad fire in the kitchens a few weeks ago – hopefully they’ll bounce back from that soon). They can be seen at food fairs cunningly displayed with a light behind them so that you can see the lovely colours of the jellies.
But at around £3 to £4 for a half pound jar, you might baulk at stocking your shelves with a wide array. Fear not! For I have a dead easy recipe for making crab apple jelly and, as the crab apples are in season at the moment, now is the time to make it.
- crab apples – as a guide, when I fill our 24cm diameter pan with apples, we get around four pounds of jelly.
- sugar – ordinary sugar, not fancy stuff with pectin added.
- things to add flavour (chilli, sage, garlic – use your imagination).
- you will also need some muslin or a jelly bag – available from any decent cookery store – as well as some jars.
- First, gather your crab apples. Befriend a neighbour with a tree. Check out family members who might have some. Generally these things just fall to the ground and rot, so if you tell the owner of the tree that you plan to put them to good use and perhaps promise a jar of the resulting product as payment, then I’m sure you can find some. It doesn’t really matter what variety of crab apple you use. I’m lucky that my parents have two large trees of the variety
John Downey John DownieDartmouth which has large (3cm diameter) red skinned fruits. Larger fruited varieties are certainly easier to deal with, but smaller ones can be used – you just need a bit more patience to prepare the fruit. Generally speaking, red skinned varieties give red jelly, yellow skinned varieties give amber coloured jelly. Windfalls are just fine so long as they are not too badly damaged. If you are short of crab apples, you can bulk them out with a little Bramley apple, peeled, cored and chopped.
- Sort your fruit. Give it a good wash and chuck away badly damaged fruit. Cut the fruit in half – you certainly don’t need to peel them and it is barely worth removing the stalks.
- Place the fruit in a large pan and add water so that it comes up to the same level as the top of the fruit. Simmer over a low heat, with a lid on the pan, until the fruit has turned to pulp. This will take at least half an hour, maybe twice that (depends on your particular apples).
- Happy that it is pulpy? Good. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool a little. Then place your muslin or jelly bag over the top of a sieve and rest it on top of a large bowl. Ladle the apple pulp/juice mixture into the muslin-lined sieve and let the fluid drip through into the bowl. You’ll need to do this in batches to stop the sieve getting clogged. You will also need to be patient – this takes quite a while.
- Some recipes caution against getting behind the pulp with a wooden spoon and forcing it through the sieve – they say it makes your jelly cloudy. Not so, in my experience, but I may just be lucky in my choice of apple variety.
- When you have strained all the juice, discard the pulp. It almost seems a shame to waste it, so if anyone has a suggestion for uses for the pulp, let me know.
- Measure the volume of juice and place it in a clean pan. Add sugar at the ratio of (Imperial units alert!!) one pound of sugar to every pint of juice. (For those with only metric measuring equipment, that equates to 800g of sugar for every litre of juice). Yes, that is a lot of sugar. Trust me (and don’t tell your dentist).
- Stir the sugar into the juice until it is dissolved and then, over a low to medium heat, simmer the juice. This will take at least 45 minutes to an hour, perhaps more (again, this may vary according to your apple variety). If you get any scum on the surface of the mixture, just carefully skim it off with a soup spoon.
- Whilst this is going on, put two saucers in the freezer. You’ll need them in a bit. Also, sterilize your jars. You do this by washing them with hot soapy water and then, without drying them, placing them inside your oven at a low heat (80 Celsius is enough) for about five minutes. No hotter and no longer, or else the jars will break. I use the fancy jars with the metal clip-down seals and rubber seal rings when I’m giving jelly away as a gift – but for domestic consumption, recycled jam jars are just fine.
- Now you need to test if your juice has reached the setting point. When I first read about this, I was quite put off as it seemed so difficult to judge – the thought of un-set jelly in my jars was not encouraging. But a quick search online and a peek in old Delia Smith cookbooks gives some handy easy-to-follow tips. Take one of your (now really cold) saucers from the freezer. Put a spoonful of the juice onto the saucer and then put it in the fridge for two or three minutes. Then, take it out of the fridge and gently push at the mixture with your finger as if you are trying to push it across the surface of the saucer. If the surface of the jelly “crinkles” as you push it, then it is ready to put into jars. If it doesn’t, simmer your mixture for another ten minutes before having another go (I’d wash that saucer and shove it back in the freezer – some days, it seems to take an age to reach the setting point, and you’ll need to do this test several times). It’s hard to describe the crinkling – the surface sort of wrinkles up like skin as you push against it – more than just a “bow wave” in front of your finger. But once you see it, you’ll be in no doubt.
- Carefully ladle your mixture into your sterile jars – perhaps wait for it to cool a little so as to avoid shattering the jars. If the mixture is very eager to set and is setting in the pan (this happened to me once when making redcurrant jelly), then just keep the pan on a low heat and keep stirring it to stop it setting until you get the last bit into a jar (you might need an assistant to do that).
- Let the jelly cool in the jars. As it does so, it will begin to set, but you need to do the next bit before it completely sets – and that is to add your flavouring. The crab apple jelly is lovely on its own, but it is even better (in my view) if you add some flavouring. My favourites are chilli and sage, but you could use almost anything – garlic, rosemary, star anise – whatever takes your fancy. I tend to stick to savoury flavours (we use the jelly with cold meats, sausages and cheese) but it could be sweet too.
- Prepare your flavouring. Wash it. In the case of chilli, chop into thin rings. For sage, individual leaves. And then push it into the nearly-but-not-quite set jelly using the back of a tea spoon. This allows you to get the flavouring spread evenly through the jelly (if you add it when the jelly is runny, it sinks to the bottom; if you wait until the jelly is totally set, it either sits at the top of the jar or you spoil the beauty (not the flavour) of the jelly by pushing your spoon in).
- Leave overnight to cool and set completely. Label.
- Admire your handywork. Hold the jar up to the bright light and survey the lovely coloured jelly with the chilli/sage/whatever sitting in it.
Now head off to the local market and flog it. Alternatively, you’ve just got yourself a bunch of cheap Christmas gifts. It keeps really well – we’ve just finished last year’s chilli jelly having stored it in a dark, cool cupboard.
links for 2009-10-01
Simple puzzle game.
Friday 2 October 2009
links for 2009-10-02
List of recruitment agencies based in and around Lewes.
Monday 5 October 2009
links for 2009-10-05
Looks like eatsussex.co.uk is down. Useful tool. (Edit: Eat Sussex has gone bust, it seems. Shame).
Tuesday 6 October 2009
links for 2009-10-06
I suppose I should state that all commercial products and services endorsed or mentioned here are presented here without any payment, knowledge or authorisation from the organisations concerned. But then, who would pay to be here?
Covet. Covet. Covet.
Interesting. If this is true and comes to pass, then, firstly, sell your dollars. Secondly, buy euro. And, probably, abandon Sterling. I’ve long held that it makes little sense for the UK to retain Sterling and sit outside the euro. If the dollar collapses (which it surely would if the Arab states and China sold off their massive reserves), then the pound would be fatally weakened.
Wednesday 7 October 2009
links for 2009-10-07
Interview with The xx.
Utterly fantastic on last week's Jools (even though they were in the shadow of the awesome Gladys Knight – chalk and cheese, though)- like a cross between early Cure, the Delgados, Lullabies-era Cocteaus and a whole bunch of other good shoe-gazing, new wave, electro stuff, but somehow with added soul. Their cover of Womack and Womack's Teardrops (long one of my favourite songs) is just stupendous.
Thursday 8 October 2009
links for 2009-10-08
Hurrah! New Russian missions to Venus.
Friday 9 October 2009
links for 2009-10-09
Early days, but hopeful.
Complete list of species included in the CITES appendices.
Monday 12 October 2009
On the Peelification of Tom
This morning, as Tom demolished the last spoonful of his second breakfast…
me: do you want some music on?
Tom: [muffled through egg] yeff pleef
me: try this. It starts quietly and gets louder.
Tom: [hands over ears] will it hurt when it gets loud?
me: no, just listen.
At this point, Tom runs off and fetches his guitar (a toy) and starts plucking the strings (not his normal random strumming) whilst nodding his head and looking at his feet.
There’s hope yet. I think it may be time to move him onto The Fall.
Wednesday 14 October 2009
links for 2009-10-14
Film shot from the forward gunners position and from behind the pilot of the BBMF Lancaster doing a flypast for last year's 65th anniversary of the raids on the Ruhr dams. Note the use of mark 1 map (no GPS), the cramped conditions and the sheer noise. Brilliant.
Thursday 15 October 2009
links for 2009-10-15
This should probably also be true with PVR too.
Tuesday 20 October 2009
links for 2009-10-20
How handy. I have to type a lot of non-English words in English language documents (mostly proper nouns) some of which are rather close to English words – but not exact matches. Using this tip, I can make sure that they are highlighted for manual checking if I get them slightly wrong.
It's a rare event for me to agree with Peter Mandelson. But on this issue, he is right. So far this week, I've received five emails from companies telling me not to worry about deliveries from them – they have switched to courier companies to avoid the strike. For my own part, I'm encouraging my contacts to send documents by email instead of by post. The postal workers don't want to work harder than they do now – at this rate, they won't have any work at all.
Hopefully, if the conservation organisations can use the wild apples as flagship species, then efforts can be made to preserve tracts of the mountainous terrain that are also rich in other species.
Wednesday 21 October 2009
links for 2009-10-21
WIPO advanced course on trademarks, industrial designs and geographical indications. I actually quite enjoy this stuff.
WIPO trademark geekery.
IP technical stuff. Nothing to see here, move along.
Thursday 22 October 2009
links for 2009-10-22
Too silly for words.
I didn't know that Ralph (Mr Upton to you) had died, although I did know that he hadn't the best of health. I'd met him a couple of times when purchasing pumpkins and squashes from his door (and also knew his son Andy when he was postmaster in my parent's village). I wonder what the long term future for the pumpkin patch is?
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (not known for being left wing) suggests that rumours of the Dollar's death may be premature.
Tuesday 27 October 2009
links for 2009-10-27
Winter vomiting disease. Winter poo like there is no tomorrow disease. Winter feel like utter crap disease. Winter how can three people manage to do all this in the bathroom simultaneously disease. Contagious for 48 hours, apparently.
Wednesday 28 October 2009
links for 2009-10-28
Article on the Waldseemuller map.
I've used the baking soda and white (distilled malt) vinegar tricks before, with some success. My car took a direct hit from Small Boy With Norovirus and, although I've used lots of commercial products, the odour is lingering, rather unpleasantly.
Thursday 29 October 2009
links for 2009-10-29
Best thing on last week's Jools (excluding Smokey Robinson, of course).
We visited this yesterday, although we only walked around the parade ground and the gun platform (which you can access free of charge). Honestly, Eastbourne should make more fuss about this building – it's utterly splendid and the external appearance gives no clue to what is inside.
Saturday 31 October 2009
links for 2009-10-31
I'm considering going to this in 2010. I shall go in full Radio 4 regalia, I think.
Seriously good new music, with podcast presented by Tom Ravenscroft.