Foraging can become a bit of a compulsion. Perhaps you begin by picking blackberries, and as a result you start to notice them in the hedgerows wherever you go. Next, it’s sloes, and then rose hips, wild plums, elderberries, crab apples… Sooner or later, you can barely leave the house at this time of year without spotting some potential bounty that you really should pick and make the most of. This year, I’ve already made strawberry jam, blackberry jam and bramble jelly (not to mention marmalade) so I have an entire drawer groaning under the weight of preserve-filled Bonne Maman jars. Nevertheless, when we arrived at D’s parents house to find the crab apple tree in the front garden laden down with small pinky-orange fruit, my immediate thought was “Oooh! I must make some crabapple jelly!”
It took no time at all to fill up a basket, and when we got back home, I cooked them up (2kg of crabapples and 1.2 litres of water) and then once again set up my makeshift system consisting of a muslin bag suspended from an upside-down stool, allowing the crab apple juice to slowly drip into the mixing bowl below. The next day, I added 450g of granulated sugar for every 600ml of juice and boiled it up. It took a little longer to set than the Hedgerow Jelly had done, but I checked it frequently using the saucer test because my experience of jellies is that they are done as soon as the tiniest hint of a wrinkle appears. I like my jellies gently set, with a voluptuous wobble.
The flavour is sweetly subtle, but the most marvellous thing about crab apple jelly is its luminous pinky colour. It looks so pretty spread on a slice of toast, and the jar standing on the breakfast table positively glows in the morning sunshine. A lovely way to start the day!