With forty two productive fruit trees in our orchard and garden, there is one crab apple tree, planted two years ago. It’s a popular variety, a John Downie, just one of forty nine different crab apple trees featured on the RHS website. In Spring an impressive white blossom precedes inverted pear shaped fruit tinged with red, orange and yellow. A John Downie should grow up to 6m and it’s a variety that can be eaten raw although much better if cooked and preserved.
This year our tree produced a 1.4kg fruit, sufficient to make jelly. As with many apple jellies, the flavour can be enhanced by adding spices( ginger,cloves, cinnamon) or by combining apples with another fruit. I decided to mix them with damsons, two tart fruit, both high in pectin yielding 1.8litres of juice. Unless you have a very large jelly bag I recommend straining the cooked pulp in two batches or use two jelly bags. The jelly is best served as a sweet preserve with crumpets, scones, toast or as I have discovered, Sticky Buns.
Crab Apple and Damson Jelly
1.4kg crab apples
1. Wash the fruit, halve the crab apples and place in a large pan with the damsons. Pour over the water, bring the pan to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer gently until the fruit is pulpy, about an 45-60 minutes. Mash the mixture and check all the fruit has broken down.
2. Pour the contents of the pan into one large jelly bag (or two small ones) suspended over a large bowl and leave it to drip overnight.
3. Measure the liquid, pour into a pan and add 450g of warmed, granulated sugar for each 600ml of liquid. For best flavour and short boiling time to a set, work with no more than 900ml juice and 675g sugar.
4. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar then boil to setting point, about 3-4 minutes.
5. Remove any scum with a metal spoon. Pour the jelly into small, warm and clean jars and seal with new screw top lids. Leave the jars upright and undisturbed to set.