Friday, 15 September 2017
crab apple is my new quince
After many years of walking past a crab apple tree laden with fruit every September I worked up the courage to knock on the owners doors to ask if I could pick some. Turns out I know the family living in this house and they were more than happy for me to take as many crab apples as I wanted. I filled two dog poo bags to the brim. The bags by the way were new and not perfumed. I also stole a few crab apples from a different tree. These were rounder and redder. I ate one of each variety because I had no idea what crab apples might taste like. They both tasted the same - a little too tart for raw eating. I was thinking to play a prank on the little ones and put a crab apple in their snack bag but I didn't.
I decided to make jelly. I washed the crab apples, chopped them roughly and popped them in a large pan, then I added water until the fruit was just covered. For good measure I threw a handful of rosehips in the mix. I gently boiled the fruit until it was really really soft but not completely disintegrated. Many years ago I bought a strainer with a muslin that can be attached to top of a saucepan. This is a nifty gadget - once a year. I let the juice drip into the pan over night, then measured the total amount (1.5 litres). For each 600 ml I added 450 grams of sugar. This seems like an odd way of figuring out how much sugar is needed but I guess the numbers come from the old imperial measures, pint and pound. Plain sugar is good, crab apples are rich in pectin. I think it is always a good idea to dissolve the sugar on a low heat so it doesn't burn. Once dissolved, I brought the syrup to a rapid boil. On that note, why is it called a rapid boil? I stayed nearby to prevent sticky disasters. I am not very scientific when I make jam or jelly, never use a thermometer to test for set. I do test for set on a cold plate but I don't think this works very well. I have made jelly that was literally a rubber ball because when I tested for set it didn't. To be honest, I only do it so I get to lick the plate. My method is vague to say the least: I check how the syrup behaves when it is running of the back of a spoon. If it is sluggish, I call it a day. For this particular jelly it was roughly 30 minutes of rapid boiling.
I sterilised the jam jars and lids in the oven. Again, not not in a very scientific way, just hot a for a reasonably long period of time. I think it may have been 200 degrees centigrade for not quite an hour. When I pour the jelly in the jars, I screw the lid on tightly and pop them upside down. I don't why, it is a habit of mine. I usually check if the lid is sealed. I never had any spoilt jam and I assume my method works fine. I know some jam makers use a canning pot to sterilise the potted jam for a second time but I think this is overkill (literally).
The jelly has a beautiful wobble, I am really pleased. I have a confession to make. Today I invited a friend for coffee and scones mid morning. I made plenty of scones and I ate them all. With jelly. At the time of writing (5 pm), I have eaten nothing but scones with crab apple jelly. I am not joking. I will pick an apple from our tree for a my daily vitamin intake, promise.
The flavour is delicate and quite similar to quince jelly but the fragrance is different. Good enough for me. I miss my little quince tree, which had to make way for builders skips and building materials last year. Now I have a suitable substitution, my not quite neighbours crab apple tree. I'll bring them a jar next time I walk past their house.
It is the weekend! I need to do some housework and we have two birthday parties and one camping planning meeting (local vernacular for 'partying with friends'). Have a lovely weekend! xx