About this blog

My photo
Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Crab apple jellies

Whilst out for a walk with my neighbour on Sunday, we came to a place where the footpath was liberally strewn with crab apples. Not to let a good thing go to waste, we picked them out of the mud and gathered up as many as we could. Just a little further on, she spotted a rowan tree:

Rowan tree. It was a lot more visible in real life, and less blurred. How did I manage to blur half of the photo?

With a bit of mountaineering on my part, we collected a fair few rowan berries too. My neighbour tells me that the combination of these two fruits make tasty jelly that's a good accompaniment to roast turkey. Well, we only have roast turkey one day a year, but I'm sure it goes with other things too. She gave me all the fruit as she's too busy this week to do anything with them, so the task of jelly-making was mine.

I checked a recipe or two online and learnt that the recommended ratio of crab apples to rowan berries is roughly 1:1. I had considerably more apples, so looked for other ideas, and came up with herb flavoured crab apple jelly. Mint is favoured, but others can be good too.

I had just over 11 oz of rowan berries, so I combined those with 12 oz of crab apples (after washing the mud off, halving, de-stalking and cutting out obvious brown bits) and stewed. While that was cooking, I washed and picked over the rest of the apples, including a handful I gathered in the midlands a while ago. I also picked out seeds when they hadn't been sliced in half, as I'd like to include crab apple trees in a new hedge (this is a long-term project). This gave me just over two pounds of fruit.

By the time I'd prepared the rest of the apples, the rowan and apple mix had stewed pretty convincingly (small quantities are much quicker) so I strung that up to drip and started stewing the rest of the apples, then strung those up too. That required a second cup hook screwed into the kitchen beam - this is getting serious!

The next day...

Hmm, not going to get much jelly out of that. There are more than two pounds of crab apples there!

You've probably heard the dire warnings against squeezing jelly bags, Don't touch it - the jelly will go cloudy! Um, what's so bad about cloudy jelly? These bags were clearly in need of a good squeeze. If you have a similar set up, bear in mind that the weak point is the string. Hold tight to the top, or fruit pulp will squeeze out and make a terrible mess.

That's more like it.

Though considerable froth was produced, squeezing turned a few spoonfuls of juice into an amount that could feasibly be turned into jelly. It was hard work, and clearly left my arms in a state unfit to hold a camera steady, but I think you get the idea.

Next I decanted the pink juice into a measuring jug to see how much there was; 3/4 pint. The recipe I consulted said one pound of sugar for each pint of juice, so that's 12 oz sugar. I added it in the jug, so I could see what the total volume would be; 1 1/4 pints. Then began the hunt for jars - surely I had a load of smallish jars? Oh yes, I remember - I put jam in them. Some rationalisation of jam ensued, until I had a suitable number of jars. These went into the oven on low, sugared fruit pulp went into a pan on the hob, on high, and a small plate went into the freezer, on chilly.

Sugary gloop duly boiled (scary stuff. DON'T BLINK.), wrinkle test conducted to my satisfaction (it took a few goes, and I definitely saw wrinkles), jelly poured into jars, but not as many of them as I'd thought I'd need. Obviously this reduces quite a lot while cooking. Oh well, that's a couple of jars I don't need to find for the herb jellies.

Process repeated with the rest of the apples, but with the added complication of what herbs to add. In the end it came down to what I've got in the garden; plenty of mint (with fresh new growth, too), some rosemary, and a little sage. I think sage and apple would be good with pork, don't you? Taking a tip from Boboff on the 'Ish forum, I soaked the herbs in sugar solutions to start with, to stop them floating to the top of the finished jelly. The logistics of all this were quite a challenge, but I managed somehow. Once the apple gloop was ready, I poured the sage syrup into a heated jar, filled with apple gloop, and stirred in the jar. Next was rosemary, mixed in a basin then poured into two jars (I got the quantity exactly right for two jars - go me!). Finally mint, mixed in a saucepan in case it needed reheating (which it didn't) and poured into three jars.

Four jars of rowan jelly, three of mint, two of rosemary and one of sage.

Aren't they pretty? Who cares if they're cloudy, they're lovely colours, especially the rowan. The herb jellies all went quite exactly into jars with none left over, which was very pleasing, but meant I had none to taste. I did manage to salvage a teaspoonful of the rowan jelly, though. I can't really describe the taste - there's certainly a bitter edge to it, I suppose a bit like cranberries. On its own, I wasn't sure I liked it, but then I tried some with a bit of cheese. Oh, wow! That is something special. I don't care what it's like with turkey, I am not at all sorry that I have four jars of crab apple and rowan jelly.


  1. I have just been to collect a bucket of various hedgerow bits and bobs including some particularly manky looking crab apples, a few sad hips and a decent amount of haws. There are hardly ANY sloes, though I have already managed a small bottle of gin. I'm going to have a bash at some herb jelly too - my friend said that rosemary jelly was amazing. I think she just made it with normal apples. I made some sloe jelly last year which I thought was a waste of time - kind of too dry and sharp to be edible on its own and it never set properly so it was more sricky sludge than jelly but have found it works incredibly well in a red wine saucy gravy for game (or chicken probably too). Slurp.

    1. Er, I meant MADE a small bottle of sloe gin rather than drunk one. Just to be clear. (Hic.)

    2. Haha, that wasn't just to stave off your disappointment at not finding any sloes? The sloes are rubbish around here too, but I picked some when I went to visit my sister in Sussex and I have a batch of sloe wine on the go (though without elderberries this year). I don't think I'd want to waste sloes on jelly. On the other hand, I haven't yet tried rowan wine - I hear it tastes a bit like dry sherry.

      That sauce sounds excellent. I did something similar with a spoonful of damson jam and some (very rough) elderberry wine. I imagine the flavours would be roughly the same.


I don't know why Facebook thinks this is the most interesting text on the page - it's not, I assure you!

If you'd like to leave a comment, but it asks you to "Comment as" a load of options that don't relate to you, choose "Name/URL". You can type in your name and leave the URL blank.

Do leave a comment (unless the main point of your comment is to advertise your business, in which case it will be deleted). It's always nice to know I'm not talking to myself ;-)