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Plot to Plate: Spiced Crab Apple Jelly and Crab Apple Fruit Leathers

Crab apples have to be one of nature’s most beautiful fruits – with their rich colours and glorious sheen. And to gather them on a crisp October morning is a real seasonal joy. I’ve loved everything about cooking with these foraged beauties – their sweet smell with a hint of spice, their massed colour and their versatility. Here’s what I did with my basketful – two in one as the leftovers from the jelly are the only ingredient for the leathers. These recipes celebrate autumn and its crab apples in all their glory… 🙂

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These two crab apples were laden with fruit

 

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A basketful of fresh, rich baubles

 

We harvested these windfalls from a couple of crab apple trees around the corner. I left the fruits on the tree as they looked stunning and provided a great source of food for birds. There were more than enough windfalls to fill my basket and leave a river of red still carpeting the grass when we left.

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Washed and ready for boiling

 

Once the apples were washed, halved, the bug infested ones removed and I’d weighed them (2.6kg), they were gently simmered in 5 pints of water with a thumb-sized piece of ginger and 6 cloves until soft which took about 2 hours. No setting agent is required due to the high levels of pectin already present in crab apples.

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Just cut the crabs in half and boil in a large pan

 

 

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Hubble bubble – here comes jelly trouble

 

Then the mixture was strained overnight through a muslin bag strung on a coat-hanger to produce a large bottle of juice.

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After straining we were left with this sweet, rich liquid

 

We added 450g of sugar per pint of strained liquid and boiled it, stirring constantly, until it thickened and wrinkled when placed on a cold plate and gently pushed with a finger. This took us about 25 minutes, but each jelly sets at a different rate.

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Boiling for a second time with the sugar

 

The jelly was poured into sterilised jars. It is a glorious colour and has a distinctive taste with an aromatic apple flavour and floral overtones somewhere between rose and quince.

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The shiny jelly – great on toast or with meat or cheese

The leftover pulp was then strained through a sieve to remove the skins and cores. I sweetened it with a couple of dessertspoons of local runny honey which I mixed in – any sweetener could be used (or none) to taste, then spread it on a baking tray with a reusable baking sheet underneath the pulp.

 

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As I was doing this bit it occurred that you could do the same thing with well stewed cooking apples

 

The pulp was dried/heated at the bottom of a cool oven (about 60ºc) for around 7 hours or you could use a dehydrator. It is ready to cut into strips with scissors once the pulp has dried and can peel it off the baking tray in one big sheet. I love the waste not want not aspect to these recipes – and apart from the spices, honey and sugar it only cost us the price of the heat for cooking/drying. Frugal, seasonal and delicious – a real celebration of autumn joy!

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Fruit leather treats for the kids (and maybe mum and dad too!)

I saw a friend’s crab apple jelly today and it was a lovely orange colour – different variety of apples to mine, I guess. I don’t know what variety my crabs were and I’d be interested to know if there are favourites for jelly and other recipes. What varieties have you used and what is the verdict? How do you use crab apples in the kitchen – I’d love to have more recipes to explore. Do leave me a comment about anything crab apple and autumn foraging related. I love sharing my growing and cooking stories and it’s really great when I get comments about other people’s experiences – I’m learning so much – thanks  🙂

8 thoughts on “Plot to Plate: Spiced Crab Apple Jelly and Crab Apple Fruit Leathers

  1. Beryl says:

    I’m just about to start boiling up crab apple & mint jelly…wish me luck! If I hadn’t already added the vinegar I’d be making your spiced version because it sounds absolutely delicious. Might just have to nip back to my neighbour’s plot tomorrow for more supplies! (am allowed, not scrumping…!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • dogwooddays says:

      Oooo, good luck 🙂 We do a lovely rhubarb and mint jelly – crab apple and mint sounds fab too. And would make yummy fruit leathers afterwards. Or you can use the pulp for chutney, which is what we always used to do with the medlar pulp from a friend’s tree after we’d made jelly and cheese with it 😋

      Liked by 1 person

  2. karen says:

    I haven’ heard of the pulp being used before. What a great idea – so nothing is wasted. I’m buying a crab apple called Jelly King as its supposed to have a great flavour. Thanks for the recipes

    Like

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