The wonderful thing about Jams is the amazing variety of flavours there are. There is one to suit everybody. Summer and Autumn are the best times for making Jams and Jellies as there are plenty of fruits available. On Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way, the Skellig Coast is exposed to wild winds and big storms. It is amazing that any thing grows here at all, but our unique position and the influence of the warming waters of the Gulf Stream make for sub-tropical conditions which allow an incredible variety of wild plants to flourish.
You can't get a better taste than Crab Apple Jelly. The vibrant red is a beauty to behold!
This Jelly is Autumnal and again harks back in time. Native to Ireland and found in old ancient Oak woods and along hedgerows, in Brehon law times (AD800+) it was classed as one of the 'Nobles' of the wood such was its importance as a fruit. The pinkish-white fragrant blossoms attract a myriad of pollinating bees.
Foraging for wild food is fun. Crab Apple trees flower in May. Fruit is ready for picking by September into early October. If there are no trees nearby, you can always try source crab apples at a local farmers market.
The flavour is really unique. It has a sweet and slightly sour quality that is unrivalled. As for the colour, its jewel-like ruby and garnet shade is just gorgeous. This jam is one that is so delicious and unusual in flavour you will be trying very hard to make it last, or for that matter give away as a present!
TIP Have ready a Jelly bag or Muslin cloth for straining the juice.
Sterilised Jam Jars and tops/lids are essential.
Freshly picked Crab Apples (I use a pot full )
METHOD Making the Juice from the Crab Apples
1) Wash but do not peel the apples
2) Add to pan, cover with water and boil them quickly. Wait for them to collapse in on themselves, making sure not to handle them (if you want a clear jelly).
3) Line a collander with muslin, place collander over a suitable pot and place pulp within.
4) Leave for a couple of hours or overnight to allow juice to drip through muslin. Do not squeeze cloth if you want a clear jelly.
Making the Jelly
1) Into a pot put a pint of Crab Apple juice to 450g / 1lb of sugar and stir sugar until dissolved.
2) Bring to the boil and leave on a rolling boil skimming off froth. (If a small quantity is made allow about 20 minutes. A large amount will take between 35 and 40 minutes. Keep watching you must not leave Jam alone).
3) When it starts to jelly add a knob of butter and stir in for extra clarity.
TIP for when the jelly is set
A good tip to see that the Jelly is set is to chill a number of teaspoons in the freezer. Take out a chilled spoon and pour a little liquid onto the cold spoon surface (a cold saucer can also be used). Repeat this process until the liquid starts to wobble. Then you know it is set.
TIPS for jars
Wash and rinse jars thoroughly and place them on a baking tray and put into a 140ºc / 284ºf oven and dry out completely.
4) Remove liquid from the heat and pour into the warmed sterilised jars. Seal tightly while jelly is still slightly warm. Store in a cool dark place.
Trying other Apple varieties is great too. The variation in colour, taste and consistency is striking.