A beautiful crisp Autumn day saw C and I getting out into the countryside to enjoy the sunshine and hunt for hedgerow treasure, we found crabapples and blackberries in abundance and all for free!
For succesfull foraging you will need:
- a good pair of seceters
- tubs to fill with your loot
- old clothes- you need to get stuck in and be prepared to get stung by a few nettles!
- To not be scared of spiders (as I am)!
- And lastly, though it may sound rediculous, you do need to know what you are looking for- especialy if you are hunting for mushrooms and berries, a mistake can make you very unwell!
A few nettle stings, blackberry prickles and altercations with very large spiders later, we had collected 1.5kg of crab apples and a kilo of blackberries which we then washed ready to become blackberry and crab apple jelly.
To Make 4 jars of our blackberry and crab apple jelly you will need:
- roughly 1.5 kg of fruit in total- add the crab apples whole, don’t worry about peeling or coring them, this will be removed later.
- 2 saucepans, one large- up to 5 litre capacity with a heavy base, one smaller but capable of holding up to 2.5 litres
- 100ml cold water
- a fine wire colander
- a square meter sheet of muslin or similar loose woven fabric to strain your jelly through
- a length of string
- a jam thermometer, these are available fairly inexpensively.
- roughly 1kg caster sugar- crab apples are very high in pectin so there is no need to use preserving sugar
- a measuring jug
- 4x 250ml- 300ml capacity jam jars and lids- or thereabouts, I like to recycle old jam jars, this makes jam/jelly making a much cheaper activity!
- silicone paper circles, cut to the size of the mouth of your jam jars
place the fruit and water into your large sauce pan and boil steadily, stirring occasionally until all the fruit has cooked down, then allow the fruit mix to cool.
Place the smaller saucepan into a sink (this can get messy!) place a fine wire colander over the saucepan and spread the muslin over the colander. Carefully pour your reduced fruit mix into the muslin, then gather up the 4 corners of the fabric and tie with some string. The juice from the fruit will strain through and the pulp, seeds and apple cores will be caught in the muslin and discarded. This now needs to be left to strain for several hours, I like to leave it overnight……………..
Once the juice has strained overnight squeeze out any remaining juice from the muslin and discard the pulp left inside. pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees c. Pour the juice into the measuring jug to see how much liquid has strained off, weigh out an equal amount of sugar, (e.g. for 900ml of fruit juice weigh 900g sugar.) Transfer fruit juice and sugar back into a saucepan, attach the jam thermometer to the side of the saucepan and boil until the thermometer reads 104 degrees c (This will be clearly marked on your thermometer with a red arrow as ‘Jam’) keep a close eye on the jelly as it boils and stir regularly. It takes around 20-30 minutes for the jelly to come up to temperature.
Take your jelly of the heat as you prepare your jars.
Thoroughly wash your jars and lids in hot soapy water. Rinse clean and place the jars on a baking tray. Transfer the tray into your pre-heated oven for 5-10 minutes. Scoop off and discard any froth that may have settled on the surface of the jelly with a spoon- these are impurities from the sugar and may crystallise as the jam cools down in the jars.
Decant the jelly into the measuring jug and pour strait into the prepared jars while they are still hot. Place a silicone paper circle onto the top of the jelly to create a seal and then screw the lid tightly onto the jar.
Adding the jelly to the jar whilst both are still hot creates an airtight vacuum, sealing the jelly as it cools preventing any bacterial contamination (ie mould!) Leave your jelly to cool completely- I left mine overnight. If sealed properly the jelly will last 6-8 months stored in a cool dry place.