Crab apples are often ignored as a fruit. People plant the trees for the glorious blossom and pretty autumn colour, and then ignore them, mostly I suppose because they don’t usually make good eating as a raw fruit.
I think I probably would be among them if my mother hadn’t made crab apple jelly when we were kids, from a tree we had in the front yard of the house we were renting.
Unfortunately, I don’t have room for a crab apple tree in my garden these days, so I have to rely on the kindness of strangers.
I’ve even relied on the kindness of street trees. There’s a short road in North Carlton where a particular crab apple is featured as the street planting. A couple of years ago I noticed that no one was collecting them, as they had mostly all simply fallen to the ground. So I brought a bag and collected what still looked good, on the basis that obviously no one wanted them. Certainly no one questioned me.
This year, I had a lovely bag full from friends who live nearby, who have a lovely prolific garden, but not much interesting in cooking them up. And I’m grateful.
This time I made it differently (chopping the fruit in a blender) and the result is cloudy, but still the same usual gorgeous colour. If you want it clear, just cut the apples in half instead. Note that they oxidise really fast.
Crab apple jelly
• crab apples
• sugar – one cup sugar to one cup strained juice
Wash them thoroughly and pull off any dead blossom ends (there are often a lot) and stems. They add bitterness.
Place the fruit in a blender and chop roughly. Put all of that in a large saucepan, add water to cover, and simmer gently for perhaps half an hour. Leave to cool, at least a couple hours.
Strain the fruit through a colander lined with muslin or a fine (plain) cotton tea towel. you can leave this overnight to drain it its own pace. Don’t press.
Place your clean jars (preferably small for this, it doesn’t produce a lot) in the oven, set at 100C.
Add the sugar to the juice — one cup of sugar to one cup of juice – in a large pot and bring to a hard boil. Cook to setting point (see story “abundance” on this blog — https://elderflowerandrum.com/2016/03/25/abundance/ — for a detailed description of testing for a jelly set). Make sure the pot you’re using is really big, because it can boil over quite easily, and you want a hard boil.
Crab apples set quite quickly, so once it’s really boiling hard, you’ll probably only need about 5 minutes to reach setting point.
Pour the jelly into the hot jars and seal with their lids immediately.