Making The Most Of Nature’s Harvest: Apple And Rosemary Jelly

Question: what do you do when you have a glut of cooking apples and the rosemary bush needs cutting back?

Answer: Make apple and rosemary jelly.

That’s exactly what I did this week, along with apple and chilli jelly. Apples are so full of pectin that they make wonderful jellies – I tried apple and mint jelly last week and that worked well too.

Ingredients

  • 1200g apples, roughly chopped, including cores and peel, which are rich in pectin
  • 1 litre water
  • A bunch of rosemary sprigs
  • White sugar, 800g per litre of juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • a handful of rosemary sprigs

The first stage was to make the rosemary and apple juice. I added the apples, bunch of rosemary and water to a large pan, brought to the boil, then simmered for about 30minutes, by which time the apples had all broken down to a soft pulp. I then strained the mixture through a jelly bag over a bowl overnight, adding a weighted plate to press out as much juice as possible from the apple/herb pulp. You could use a muslin-lined colander or sieve.

Before I began making the jelly I put a couple of plates in the freezer and sterilised jars in the dishwasher. I then measured the juice into a heavy based pan and added sugar (I wanted to reduce the sugar slightly from what I used in the mint jelly) I used 80g sugar per 100 mls liquid. I added the lemon juice, and heated gently, stirring until the sugar had dissolved then brought to a boil, allowing it to continue boiling, testing until setting point was reached (when a drop is rapidly cooled on a plate out the freezer and pushed with a finger, wrinkles start to form) – I did this every five minutes and it only took about 15-20 minutes. I turned off the heat and skimmed all the scum off the surface. Placing a small sprig of rosemary in each jar, I waited until the mixture had cooled a little before filling the jars. I found the easiest way to do this was to ladle the liquid into a glass jug (not plastic – this stuff is very hot) and pour it into the jars. Then I sealed the jars firmly.

If you keep an eye on the jars as the liquid sets and invert them briefly when they are almost there you can suspend the rosemary sprig in the middle – otherwise it floats. When I did this I added chopped fresh rosemary at the end too, but the leaves are quite hard so next time I’ll leave these out .

The jelly is beautifully clear, even though the juice extracted at the first stage is quite cloudy. As you boil it up with the sugar it clarifies and the impurities that cause the cloudiness form a scum on the surface which you skim off. The sweet apple has a delicate hint of rosemary – it would be good served with cold meat or as a glaze on lamb.

I also made apple and chilli jelly, following the same recipe, omitting rosemary and adding 70g whole red fresh chillis, each split in two, to the apples in the initial boiling stage to flavour the juice , then in the second stage, as setting point is reached stirring in about the same amount of chillis, this time with seeds removed and finely chopped, and 8 dried birdseye chillis, also finely chopped. Again, you allow the liquid to cool, stirring again before filling the jars and agitating them as they set to ensure the red chilli fragments are evenly distributed. This is deliciously hot and sweet and would be great with all meats or cheese – or even seafood.

You could say I’m on a bit of a jelly roll!

Making the Most of Nature’s Harvest: Bramble and Apple Gin

Bottling up the Sloe Gin the other day reminded me of some photos we took a few weeks ago. Even in late August the beginnings of a bountiful hedgerow harvest were in evidence. Back then the sloes were turning from green to blue-black.

They seem to briefly take on an interesting turquoise shade when they are half ripe

It doesn’t seem that long ago that the blackthorn bushes were laden with blossom rather than fruit. In this strange year time has passed in an odd way. Somehow the hours pass slowly and the days pass quickly. This was taken in March.

Dog rose featured in one of my Wildflower of the Week posts . The roses were replaced by bright orange hips.

In the same way, the hawthorn blossom of May has given way to berries that will be enjoyed in the weeks to come by the birds, especially hungry new arrivals migrating here for the winter. In August the hawthorn berries were just starting to ripen and are now turning a darker red.

The blackberries/brambles have been amazing too. We pick some every year, but the crop seemed particularly prolific. We picked almost 3 pounds of fruit in a relatively short space of time, getting our fingers stained in purple juice and covered in tiny prickles. The fruit has been in the freezer since then.

It’s not just the hedgerow fruit that is abundant right now. The apple tree in my mother’s garden is so laden with fruit that the branches are drooping under the weight, even though several bags of apples have already been picked. We have an apple tree with plenty of fruit too, but they all seem to be near the top, well out of reach!

With last year’s sloe gin bottled, that freed up some Kilner jars. With this in mind and such a plentiful supply of apples and blackberries, I decided to make some bramble and apple gin.

There were quite a few recipes online. Some had added vanilla, but this one from Larder Love involved bayleaves. It made me think of the Jo Malone Blackberry and Bay fragrance which is rather nice. The apples didn’t need peeling or coring either – I’m all for that!

I increased the quantities proportionately as I had a litre of cheap gin instead of the standard (750mls) bottle used in the recipe.. This was enough to fill two 1 litre Kilner jars, which had been sterilised. I used

  • 300g blackberries (mine were straight from the freezer)
  • 300g apples, unpeeled, uncored, roughly chopped
  • 266g sugar
  • 2 small bayleaves
  • 1litre cheap supermarket own brand gin

I split the fruit and sugar between the two jars and added a bayleaf to each, then topped up with the gin. Then I sealed the jars and shook them to dissolve the sugar, repeating every so often until fully dissolved. Within a few hours the brambles were releasing their juice into the mixture, turning it red. The jars will now stay in a cool dark place, to be shaken up every so often (light makes the gin turn brownish). In a couple of weeks it will be ready to strain, bottle and drink – much much quicker than slow sloe gin!

I’ve already made some apple pies, frozen some and given a couple away. But what else shall I make? Chutney? Jelly and jam? All suggestions welcome!