Crab Apple Jelly

Crab apple jelly is a staple foraging recipe and really easy to make too. If you don’t have a jelly bag, a coffee filter or a muslin square in a sieve over a bowl will do the job.

Crab apples are ready from late August onwards, depending on what type you can find. If you are unsure whether they are ripe or not, cut one open – if the seeds are dark brown, then they are ripe.

If you don’t have a crab apple tree in your garden, then you can find them growing in the woods and parks or I’ve heard that you can sometimes find them at a farmers market or farm shop, although I’ve never seen them for sale.

Crab apple jelly can be made in small quantities and there is already lots of pectin in them, so you don’t need to go out and buy special jam sugar. However, if you are nervous about it setting, then you can always slice in a lemon (with the pips) which will help.

The final colour of your jelly will depend on what colour your apples are, but as long as you don’t squeeze or prod the bag, it should be crystal clear.

Ingredients:
Crab apples
One lemon
White granulated sugar

I picked up a couple of varieties here, the larger oval ones are always ready in August, but the smaller ones are usually later. I think everything has ripened quicker in the recent heatwave

Method:
Wash the crab apples and remove any spent blossoms (beards) and stems. However, if your apples are really tiny, you can leave them whole, but its best to cut off any bruises and if you are worried about any creatures lurking inside then cut them in half.

Place them in a saucepan, or a preserving pan if making a larger quantity, along with the sliced lemon and add enough water to almost cover the apples.

Bring the pan up to the boil and then simmer gently for around 40 minutes, or until the apples are soft and broken down, you can give them a gentle mash with a potato masher to help this along.

These little jars make great gifts, especially if you dress them up with a fabric cover

When ready, carefully fill your waiting jelly bag or prepared sieve and muslin with the fruit and leave to drain preferably overnight until every last drop has strained through. Just remember not to squeeze or ‘help’ the liquid come through, or your final jelly will be cloudy.

When you are ready to make the jelly, place a few plates into the freezer so that you can test if the jelly is ready to set.

Weigh the liquid and then weigh out three quarters of sugar to the liquid (I do admit to asking Alexa to help me with the sums!)

Place the liquid into a saucepan, add the sugar and stir over a medium heat until you are sure all the sugar has dissolved.

Turn the heat up until boiling and skim off any foam that rises to the surface. This will help your final jelly be as clear as possible.

Boil for around 8-10 minutes before testing to see if its ready to set. You can also use a candy thermometer. When it reaches 105°C/220°F, it should be at setting point, but the wrinkle test will work just as well.

Take a teaspoon of the jelly and drop it onto a cold plate and push with the back of a spoon. If it wrinkles, then it’s ready to pot.

Using a ladle and preferably a funnel, pot into sterilised jars and put the lids on right away.

Keep in a cool dark place until you are ready to use.

The little jars are great to take along on a picnic, but they also make nice gifts or part of a hamper

I served the jelly on a big, craggy fruit scone, just the thing for a late summer afternoon in the garden

The jelly can be served as an accompaniment to roasted or grilled meat, or served on toast, muffins or scones.

Apple Hand Pies

The welcome arrival of September (and my very favourite season) also means the arrival of apple season.  We have a tree full of apples to use in the garden and one of my family’s favourite things is apple pie.

Apple Tree.jpg

These are little hand pies and they are just the thing to have on hand for hungry children.  They are portable too, so great to take with you on a trip to the park or to work.

Apples are available all year round, but it’s really worth looking out for the new seasonal arrivals that have been grown locally, to enjoy apple season to the full.

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Crust:
375g plain/all-purpose flour
165g butter, cut into cubes and refrigerated
2tbs sugar
1tsp salt
Iced water
1 egg and a little milk to make a wash

Filling:
2 crisp dessert apples, peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces
Juice from half a lemon
3tbs sugar
2tsp cornflour
1tsp cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
1/2tsp salt
10 soft caramels (like Werther’s) cut into tiny pieces (optional)

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Method:
Place the flour, butter, sugar and salt into a food processor, fitted with the steel blade and pulse until crumbly, with pieces of butter still visible.

Then add one tablespoon of the iced water at a time, pulsing until the dough just comes together – around 4-5 should be enough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, cut in half and pat each half into a disc.  Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

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For the filling, place the apples into a large bowl and toss them with the juice from the lemon so they don’t turn brown. Then add the sugar, salt, spices and cornflour and turn to coat.

Leaving one batch of dough in the fridge, roll out the first batch evenly on a lightly floured board and cut out circles for the bases (using a cutter measuring approximately 7.5cm/3 inches).  Place them onto a lined baking sheet, re-rolling until most of the dough is used up.  Refrigerate any scraps.

Then place a small, heaping amount of the apple mixture into the centre of each one and top with a few caramel pieces if using.  Take care to leave a gap around the edge.

Caramel apple hand pies

Roll out the rest of the dough and cut out the same number of circles, but use a slightly larger cutter.  Use up the scraps of the first batch if needed.

Brush the pastry bases around the apples with the egg wash and place the remaining pastry circles over the filling.  Crimp and seal the edges together using a fork, dipped in flour to stop it sticking.

When they all have their lids, it is important to chill the pies before baking.  Leave them in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.  This helps stop the pastry shrinking and bursting open in the oven.  They can also be frozen at this point too.

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Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F

When you are ready to bake, brush the tops with the egg wash and cut little vents in the lids to allow steam to escape.  You can also sprinkle with a little extra sugar too.

Bake for around 20 minutes or until the pies are golden and cooked through.

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These are the perfect after school treat, but a personal pie is good at any time and these can be taken on a picnic, or placed into a lunchbox too.

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