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: Spiced Apple Chutney

I’m working my way through the huge bag of apples from my mothers overladen tree. The next project was this spiced apple chutney. I used this recipe from the BBC Food website. I realised that I had no sultanas or raisins so just left them out.

We have this apple prep tool that is supposed to peel, core and slice the apples. It’s fiddly and the peeling blade is lethally sharp: it gave K a nasty cut a while back, but he nobly set to work preparing the apples.

Ingredients

  • 225g/8oz onions, chopped
  • 900g/2lb apples, cored and chopped
  • 110g/4oz sultanas, raisins or chopped dates
  • 15g/½oz ground coriander
  • 15g/½oz paprika
  • 15g/½oz mixed spice
  • 15g/½oz salt
  • 340g/12oz granulated sugar
  • 425ml/¾ pints malt vinegar

I doubled the quantities (there are a lot of apples to use) and simply simmered all the ingredients together for a couple of hours, stirring occasionally.

By this time the apples had all broken down and the onions were very soft, but there was still a lot of liquid to reduce down. The recipe specified a thicker mixture at this stage but I figured there was enough pectin from the apples to help the chutney set a little bit, so went ahead and poured it into sterilised jars. I ended up with far less than the amount the recipe said: I’d made the equivalent of about 6 jars instead of 8-12. It tastes ok. not over-spicy and the flavour will improve. It really needs a couple of months for the flavour to develop.

This recipe is a good one with cheese. I use a lot of chutney – especially with cheese in a sandwich, so this should be perfect.

What’s your favourite chutney recipe?

Making the Most of Nature’s Harvest: Apple and Mint Jelly

I had another go at using up some of glut of cooking apples this week. With pies in the freezer and Bramble and Apple Gin infusing, it was hard to decide what to do next (I still have bramble and apple jam left from last year so no point in doing that). Apples are rich in pectin, which is what makes jams and jellies set, so going down the jelly route seemed like the obvious thing to do. With large clumps of apple mint in the garden, ready to be cut back, I decided to go for apple and mint jelly. Apple mint has a more delicate flavour than garden mint (we have none of that!), I was hoping that the mint flavour wouldn’t be lost altogether.

I used this recipe from The Cottage Smallholder.

  • 1.8 kilos (4 pounds) of cooking apples (Bramleys are ideal).
  • 20g (3/4 ounce or 3/4 cup) bunch of mint tied with string
  • 50g (1 3/4 ounces or 2 cups) of mint leaves chopped fine
  • 570ml / 1 UK pint (2 1/2 cups) of water
  • 570ml / 1 UK pint (2 1/2 cups) of white wine vinegar
  • Sugar at a ratio of 454g (1 pound) to 570ml of liquid – a pound to a UK pint of liquid (2 1/2 cups)

There’s a bit of maths involved in calculating the exact amount of vinegar and sugar involved after the juice is extracted. The online recipe gives instructions for both using a fruit steamer and a jelly bag to extract the juice. I used my trusty, bramble-stained jelly bag.

You start off roughly chopping the apples. No coring or peeling is needed as those parts of the apple have loads of pectin – I just removed the stalks and any bruised bits. The apple went into a big pan with a load of mint springs.

I added a pint of water, brought to the boil and simmered until the apple had all reduced to a fluffy pulp.

The pan contents were poured into the jelly bag, suspended over a bowl to catch the juice. I weighed the pulp down with a saucer and a bottle of vinegar, to press out as much of the juice as possible and left it to drip through overnight.

I’d used a little more than the prescribed amount of apples and managed to extract just over a litre of juice. I added 4/5 of this quantity in vinegar and calculated the amount of sugar in line with the recipe. The liquid and sugar were added to a large pan and brought to a rolling boil for 20 minutes, then I began checking for a set. I had been concerned that the juice I’d extracted was quite cloudy, but during the boiling stage I skimmed of any scum that formed on the surface – the resulting liquid was very clear.

I use the cold saucer method – a couple of saucers go in the freezer when you start, then you keep dropping a little of the hot mixture on a cold saucer until it wrinkle slightly when you push it with your finger. I repeated the test every couple of minutes, alternating the saucers and replacing them in the freezer. It took another 10 minutes of boiling before I got a set. After 10 minutes I stirred in the finely chopped mint. I also added some green food colouring, but this was making so little difference to the colour of the liquid that I gave up. I poured the jelly nto sterilised jars and sealed them.

I really should have left the liquid a little longer. The mint floated to the top in the jars. I waited a little longer then shook the jars – this time setting had started just enough to keep the mint evenly suspended. The set jelly seems to gather round the mint fragments. If I’d left it any longer the air bubbles from shaking would have stayed in the jelly rather than floating to the surface.

I ended up with 12 jars of various sizes. Some of these I’ve already given away to neighbours in return for their empty jars for my next preserving project. As I predicted, the jelly is not strongly minty, but still tasty. What’s your favourite jelly recipe?

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!