There’s something enormously satisfying about getting food for free – if you ignore the personal cost of the bramble scratches, nettle stings and midge bites.
You can make this jelly with a wide variety of hedgerow fruits in addition to the crab apples – try blackberries, wild plums (bullaces), sloes and elderberries. If you can’t source crabapples, cooking apples will do.
1 kg/2.2 lb crabapples
1 kg/2.2 lb other hedgerow fruit
about 1 kilo of sugar (450g/1lb to every 568ml/1 imperial pint of juice)
Pick over the fruit, removing any stalks, leaves and bugs – I gathered nearly as many earwigs as I did elderberries. Rinse the fruit if necessary.
Chop the apples roughly without peeling or coring them: the skins and pips provide pectin to help the set.
Strip the elderberries (if using) from their stems with a fork, trying not to spray them around the kitchen or tread them into your floor. Fail. Wipe the floor and pick stray berries from surprising places – low-cut tops are inadvisable.
Put the prepared fruits (not the ones off the floor or from down your cleavage) into a preserving pan with 1.2 litres/just over 2 pints of water.
Bring to simmering point and cook gently until the fruit is soft and squishy. Remove from the heat.
When it’s cooled down a bit pour it through a sterilised jelly bag or muslin cloth into a large bowl. Don’t squeeze the fruit or the resulting jelly will be cloudy – just let it drip overnight.
Next day, discard the pulp in the jelly bag and measure the juice. Pour it back into the cleaned pan and add 450g/1lb of sugar for every 568ml/1 pint of juice.
Heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved then boil quickly without stirring until setting point is reached – that’s 105C/220F with a jam thermometer or when a spoonful put on a chilled saucer wrinkles, once it has cooled, when you push it with your finger. Take the pan off the heat between tests otherwise you could end up with something resembling tyre rubber. Once you’re happy with the set, skim the jelly, pot into sterilised jars and seal straight away.
I didn’t know you could jelly elderberries – do you ever make booze out of them (not that I am obsessed with booze or anything, you understand…)?
I’ve never tried but IMHO you can make booze out of anything! I know people make wine from them although I have an aversion to home-made wines after sampling the hooch my dad used to make in the garage years ago. Nothing ventured!
Oh, how fun. I wish I was in England. Our hedgerows are a little barren this time of year.
Oh, I wish I could send you some, I’m surrounded by baskets of crabapples and wild plums at the moment. Maybe I should start a foraging service!
Don’t discard the pulp. Decant it into a large kilner jar, add sugar syrup and vodka. Leave for about 9 months, shaking occasionally. Voilà – hedgerow liqueur.
Good tip, thanks!