It's that time of year again when we are having to harvest and preserve all our crops to see us through the winter. Crab apples are often left on trees and not used as they are small and very sharp tasting but it is very easy to turn them into a delicious jelly, jam or wine. We love their taste so much my husband bought me some trees as a gift a few years ago, so we can now harvest our own from the garden.
After harvesting, I usually wash and chop the apples in half to check they are good and not full of insects or rotten inside. Place all your apples into a large pan and add enough water to just reach the top of the apples, the juice of a lemon can be added to help prevent browning of the apples although it's not compulsory, then boil until the apples turn to a pulp.
I leave the cooked apple pulp mixture to cook slightly as it's much easier to get cooled apple into a jelly bag or muslin bag to strain and you are far less likely to burn yourself in the process.
The straining may take some time, maybe even a few hours and I usually tie my jelly bag onto the handle of the kitchen cupboard so that I can leave it and come back to it later. It is important not to squeeze the jelly bag if you would like clear jelly.
You may notice that I haven't given you exact weights and measurements so far... that's because the measurement that matters most is the ratio of sugar to strained liquid. Learning the basic rules like this mean you can make a little or as much jelly as you want, depending on your quantities of apples available.
Once your apple liquid has finished straining measure it and return it to the cooking pan, use a like for like ratio when you add your sugar. For example if you have a litre of liquid add 1 kilogram of sugar. Notice I've used both metric measurements here, if you are using imperial it would be the same ratio but in pints/pounds.
Apples have a high pectin content so it's not necessary to add any further pectin, bring your liquid and sugar to the boil stirring constantly. To check if your jelly will set a plate which has been in the freezer for a little while should help, spoon a little jelly onto the cold plate a leave it for a minute or two to cool. Once cooled, slide your finger through the jelly, it should wrinkle up if it's ready to jar up. If not boil a little longer until you have reached the wrinkle stage.
Pour into sterilised jars and leave to cool, I always find this jelly has a very firm set even though it looks like it will never set. This is one of my favourite jellies and tastes amazing on toast or scones.