Saturday, September 02, 2006

Autumn Harvest: Blackberry Jelly, Crabapple Jelly

Anne Scott-James is right about wanting a terrace life in August. One needs to gather one's strength for the great autumn harvest.

Blackberry Jelly

Pick as many beautifully ripe blackberries as you can. When you get back home, weigh them and for each kilo / 2lb add one lemon's juice and a roughly chopped apple, skin and core included. Tip into your preserving pan, or any heavy based pan, and add enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, then turn down heat and simmer for about half an hour until the fruit is soft and pulpy. Mash to extract as much juice as possible. Allow to cool slightly, then pass through a jelly bag, overnight if necessary. DO NOT mash the fruit once in the jelly bag, or you will force tiny bits of pulp through the jelly bag causing the jelly to cloud - we are aiming for a clear, jewel-bright jelly.

Measure the juice collected, and 750g sugar to each 1l - 1lb sugar to each 1 pint for those of us working to old money. Return to the pan over a low heat and gently stir to dissolve sugar. Bring to a rolling boil. Skim any scum. Boil hard until setting temperature is reached (105 C) – or until a little of the mixture, dropped onto a chilled plate, sets with a slight wrinkle. Pour whilst hot into sterilised jars. Allow to cool slightly then screw on the lid.

Spiced Crabapple Jelly:

Proceed exactly as above really. Collect as many crabapples as you can, wash and coarsely chop, maybe just chop in half. The Good Housekeeping Institute doesn't bother cutting out the blossom ends, and neither should we. Throw apples into your preserving pan and cover with about an inch of water - we are not bobbing for apples here. Add spices as set out below if you wish. I've made all three versions, and they are equally good. Bring carefully to the boil, then turn heat down and simmer for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and boiling over. Don't stray too far from the pan whilst simmering, as the fruit does mash rapidly and can form a thick crust that bubbles up and all over the hob. Allow to cool slightly then pass through a jelly bag for 24hrs.

Return to pan and measure juice; for each 1 pint add 1lb sugar. Bring gently to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then boil rapidly for 10 minutes until setting point is reached. Pour whilst hot into sterilised jars, cool slightly then seal. Makes a lovely amber-glowing jelly, so place on your kitchen window sill over next couple of days to enjoy the sun reflecting through your stash! Gastronomic stained glass windows...

Spiced Crabapple Jelly 1.

Add a teaspoon of whole cloves with the water. Proceed as above.

Spiced Crabapple Jelly 2.

Tie 2 broken cinnamon sticks, 1 tablespoon cloves and 1 teaspoon allspice into a square of muslin and add to the apples. Remove the spice bag after apples have boiled for 5 minutes. Proceed as above.