Crab apple jelly is probably the most delicious thing you can do with these common British fruits.
Crab apple jelly is one of our favourite recipes to use up the little crab apple as it’s delicious spread across toast and pastries. Naturally grown in the UK between the spring and summer months, crab apples are smaller and more sour than traditional red apples. They're ready to harvest around August and September. They’re tart and tangy with a strong apple flavour, which makes them perfect for jellies and jams. This recipe for crab apple jelly is a must-make for those with trees in their garden and fans of the fruit.
- 2 kg crab apples
- 1.5 litres water
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Approx 750g granulated sugar
- Cut the apples into chunks without peeling or coring and place in a preserving pan with the lemon, cinnamon and water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 1 hr until the apples are very soft and pulpy, stirring occasionally.
- Cool for 10 mins then spoon the fruit pulp and liquid into a jelly bag and leave to strain into a large bowl for at least 12 hrs or overnight.
- Discard the pulp remaining in the jelly bag. Measure the strained juice and pour it into a large pan (or the clean preserving pan) with 450g of sugar for each 600ml of juice.
- Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 15-20 mins. Remove the pan from the heat and test for setting point by spooning a little of the hot jelly onto a chilled saucer. Leave for 2-3 mins then push your finger through the jelly - if it wrinkles it is ready. If the jelly is still runny, boil for a further few mins then test again.
Tips for making crab apple jelly:
If you don’t have a jelly bag and stand to strain the fruit pulp you can improvise by using 2-3 layers of clean muslin cloth tied to the legs of an upturned stool. Don’t be tempted to squeeze the bag or the jelly will end up cloudy. Use small jars for the jelly as, once opened and used, the jelly can start to break up quite a bit and soften.
Where can I find crab apples?
If you're not lucky enough to grown your own, crab apples are usually quite easy to find in British hedgerows and parks. The trees are usually laiden with fruit from August to October, as few people pick them. They're not sold in shops, but we have occasionally seen them at farmer's markets or independent greengrocers.
How can I tell if crab apples are ripe?
Crab apples ripen from late August. When the little apples turn yellow on one side and pink/red on the other, or red all over. To check, cut one in half and the pips inside should be dark brown. Then they're ready to go.
What else can I make with leftover crab apples?
While they're not as versatile as they larger cousins, you can add crab apples to pie and crumble fillings. Core them first and adjust the sugar if you need too, as they can be quite tart. You can also make a crab apple liqueur. Add about 40 apples to a jar with a litre of vodka and 200g white sugar. Turn every day for 2 weeks and then strain the liqueur and enjoy all winter.
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