Mulled Apple Jelly – Autumn In A Jar
Windfall Apples – Treaure For The Thrifty Cook
I spent a thrifty half hour this week foraging for free apples and damsons in a park not far from the city centre. I have missed the rush this year, sadly. An early spring and warm summer have brought the harvest forward by a few weeks this autumn so the trees were almost bare. The damp grass beneath the trees was still full of windfall apples though: tiny, ugly crab apples lay around my feet in varying states of nibbledness and decay. Now, much as I love a source of frugal fruit, I usually draw the line at eating food from the ground. Apples are an exception. A fruit that is beginning to rot is easily spotted by the softness of its flesh: one that has a few insect or animal bites but is still firm is fit for preserving with – as long as you cut off the parts that have been “pre-loved”.
I am not, of course, suggesting that you pop them in anyone’s lunch bag but, chopped up, with the offending parts removed, these are the perfect fruit for making jelly. Not convinced? To make jelly you first chop up and boil your fruit before straining off the liquid – so any blemishes or bite marks are removed by the chopping and disinfected by the boiling. I will make a mixed damson and apple jelly (using Pam Corbin’s recipe) with some of my 4kg of free fruit. The rest is going to be transformed into one of my personal favourites – Mulled Apple Jelly.
In Praise Of Mulled Apple Jelly
My mulled apple jelly is currently bubbling on the hob and my whole home smells like apple pie. Potted up in jars it will be sweetly spicy enough to serve with buttered toast on a day when the wind blows too hard and cold to go outside.
Or in a warm croissant with thick cream for a treat when the Glasgow rain wears us down next February. On the other hand it is mellow enough to partner cheese and oatcakes or roast pork.
I will be hiding ours until Boxing Day this year, when it will perfect our Christmas Ham sandwiches. After that, the Tartan Family can eat the rest of the jars, as the fancy takes them, with my blessing.
Mulled Apple Jelly How-To
What You Need…
- apples, lots of them, crab for preference, cookers are an acceptable substitute – you need at least a kilo to make it worth your time
- granulated sugar – how much will depend on how much liquid your apples give up
- cinnamon – either ground or a few sticks; whole cloves
- a sugar thermometer or a plate in the fridge to test for setting point
- a jam funnel – not essential but makes life much easier
- jars, and lids or waxed disks and cellophane circles
- a pot with a thick base and high sides or a maslin pan
…And What You Do
- Start by cleaning your apples and cutting off any damaged parts. Now chop up your fruit into rough chunks and weigh them. (Together, not each individual chunk…)
- Put your fruit in a large pan and for every 100g of fruit, add two tablespoons (60ml) of water. Add 10ml of ground cinnamon for every 600ml of water and 2 whole cloves. Put it over a low heat, stick on a lid and leave it alone. It will gradually come to a gentle boil and the fruit will soften to a pulp. When all the fruit has softened, switch off the heat.
- Leave the pulpy fruit to cool completely and then spoon into a jelly bag. Hang the bag up over a large bowl or pot and leave for a good 10 hours or so until it has dripped its last. On no account squeeze the bag or otherwise try to speed the dripping up – this will make your jelly cloudy.
- Wash your jars in warm soapy water and put them upside down in a warm oven to dry. Get your lids or cellophane covers ready. If you are using a funnel wash this too and pop it in the oven. REMEMBER TO HANDLE IT WITH OVEN GLOVES LATER! (Voice of painful experience…)
- Measure your liquid and for every 100ml measure out 75g of granulated sugar. Put the juice into a high-sided and heavy-based pan and put over a medium heat. Bring gently almost to boiling point. Add the sugar and keep gently stirring as it comes to the boil until all the sugar has dissolved. Boil rapidly until setting point is reached. When it is approaching setting point get your jars and funnel out of the oven. Take the jelly off the heat the minute it reaches set point.
- Skim any scum off the top of the jelly with a slotted spoon and quickly pour into your waiting jars. If you like, you can pop a piece of cinnamon stick and a clove into each jar so that they are suspended prettily in the amber jelly. Get your lids or cellophane disks on as quickly as possible.
- If you have a little dribble left, pour it into a shallow dish. Now fill your pot with hot, soapy water and put any implements used into it. Wash the lot now – you do not want to be cleaning that jelly once it has finished setting.
- Now, and this step is the most important, make yourself a round of buttered toast and spread it with some of the little dish of leftover jelly. Eat with the butter dripping between your fingers and the jelly still a little warm. See? That’s why this is one of my favourite preserves.