Crab Apple Jelly!

There are some lovely things to see in the autumn in an apple growing area, and one of the best is crab apples!  For those of you not familiar with them, they are varieties of apples descended from wild apples, and usually grown as ornamental trees in parks and gardens.  They are also grown as fertilizers for crop apples here in Kent.

The ones I used here are from two very local sources: our own garden, and the church yard.  The tree in the garden was planted by us in 1985, and was a gift from my father-in-law.  The others were planted in the church yard along the Bexon Lane side.  There are four trees, two with yellow apples, and two with dark red ones.  With this years dry weather, the red ones were too tiny to use, but I hope for better things next year.  The pink apples are the ones from our own tree.

I managed to catch the vicar in the church yard this week, after the school harvest festival service, and asked her if there would be any objection to me picking the apples to make jelly to sell at the Christmas Bazaar for the church.  She thought this an excellent idea, so that's what the yellow ones will go towards.


The method I use is as follows:

Pick as many crab apples as you can before it gets dark/you get cold/your helping child gets bored!

Wash them and pick off any leaves or bits of twig.  Put them in the pressure cooker, and fill it about 2/3 full.  Pour in enough water so that you can just see it  - about 2/3 of the way up the apples.  Cook on High pressure (15 PSI) for 30 minutes, and allow to cool without help.  

When they cool to room temperature, strain over night through a jelly bag.

Measure the juice: for every pint (20 fl oz) of juice, you will need a pound of sugar.  Use plain white granulated sugar: there is no need to add pectin or use pectin enhanced sugar, as crab apples have LOTS of natural pectin.

In a jelly pan, bring 4 pints of juice and 4 lbs of sugar up to a nice hot (but NOT boiling) temperature: DO NOT allow the jelly to boil until all the sugar has dissolved!  You can test for this by tapping the base of the pan with a wooden spoon: if you get a crunchy feeling, that's sugar crystals!  Once you get no more crunch, you can bring the pan up to the boil.

You need a good high rolling boil for about 10 minutes to get a good set.

Once at set, pot the hot jam in hot sterile jars, and fit lids as soon as possible.  I wash all my jars in the dishwasher, and 'bake' them at about 115 C: they need to be really hot so they don't break when the boiling sugar solution hits them.  You need to fit the lids quickly to ensure that the jelly and the jars are still sterile so there is no chance for mold to develop, and so that you get a slight vacuum beneath the lids.  This will ensure that you jelly will keep for several years without deterioration.  When cold, clean the outsides of the jars and label carefully.  Store in a cool dark place: light will fade jams and jellies, and they will lose their flavour.

crabapples.JPG (71949 bytes) Here are the two varieties of apple: the yellow are the church apples and the pink ones our garden ones.
This will give you an idea of the size of these tiny apples! churchyardcrabs.JPG (38814 bytes)
gardencrabs.JPG (41754 bytes) The pink ones grow in clusters almost like cherries, and much the same size and colour!
When cooked, the yellow apples turn a rich apricot, and will make a very pretty jelly, though mine rarely comes out crystal clear! cookedchurchcrabs.JPG (41604 bytes)
pressurecooker.JPG (53613 bytes) Here is a slightly fuzzy picture of my ancient pressure cooker!  This pressure cooker is older than me!  It still works perfectly well, which is a good thing, because the handle fell off the lid of my newer one recently, heralding its demise due to replacement part deficit!  The newer one is about 40 years old...
Here's my jelly bag and stand, busy straining the apple pulp.  I see I need to get a couple of new bags!  One is missing altogether, and this one has lost its elastic, which is why it's pegged in place!  This is another of those magic items for which I have to thank Lakeland Limited! jellybag.jpg (68509 bytes)
dribbles.jpg (51614 bytes) This is what the garden ones look like cooked: even darker than the church ones!

Erm...  Please ignore the dribbles down the side of the pressure cooker - this is what happens when you over-fill it and the juice dribbles out of the valve and down the side all over the top of the freshly cleaned hob!

All I do is wash the apples - I don't even try to pull the stalks off! closeapples.JPG (80400 bytes)
jars.jpg (86589 bytes) The oven, loaded with jars.  I 'bake' them at about 110 C while the jelly is cooking, so that they are good and sterile as well as hot for potting
My battered old aluminium jam pan: jam pans do not have to be posh stainless steel to work well, though no doubt one like that would look good in my kitchen (when it finally gets finished!). jamcauldron.JPG (99966 bytes)
hotjuice.jpg (94101 bytes) I never put more than 4 pints if juice and 4 lbs of sugar in together because...
When it boils, it doubles in volume!  This is what is known as 'a good rolling boil' in jam making circles.  For this jelly, it needs to maintain this state for a good 15 minutes. rollingboil.JPG (84295 bytes)
boiled.jpg (119023 bytes) Once it simmers down again when you take it off the heat, it looks much darker than before.  This is all juice from the yellow crab apples: I've added nothing to colour it at all.
And here it is potted up in recycled jars, cooling down ready for labels.  From the churchyard apples I got two batches of 3 1/2 pints of juice each. potted.jpg (124744 bytes)

In the background of these pictures you can see the mess that is the unfinished kitchen, for which I have to thank Kitchens Direct!  Over a year from our original fitting date we are still unable to complete the tiling because we are waiting for them to replace a cupboard damaged as a result of their less than careful workmanship.  By Christmas 2002 we should have had all the white lumpy bits covered with nice blue Italian tiles, but at present the tiles are still stacked in boxes in our living room!

(Please note: KD did eventually come and fix the kitchen, but it took some heavy persuasion on my part!)

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