16 September, 2011

What to do with crab apples?

As our apple harvest was somewhat small, I was hoping to find someone with a surplus and get some cooking apples for making preserves. I was in luck and found a lovely gentleman with a huge crab apple tree nearby. We were told to help ourselves to as many apples as we wanted and we were happy to oblige. We came back with a full bucket having barely made a dent in the tree!

I've never cooked with crab apples before, but I had a look in Pam the Jam's trusted preserve book the night before and decided that jelly would be the way to go. It turned out beautifully and made the whole house smell very Christmassy. Maybe I can convince myself to part with a jar or two for Christmas hampers. Or maybe it will get smeared on numerous pieces of toast well before it's time to start wrapping presents.

Spicy crab apple jelly

1 kg crab apples, washed and roughly chopped
600ml water
around 450g granulated sugar
a couple of cloves and cinnamon sticks

Place the apples and spices in a saucepan, pour over the water and bring to simmering point. Simmer until all the fruit is soft and remove from the heat. Pour the contents into a scalded jelly bag (I bought this one for the purpose) and leave to drip overnight at its own pace. If you squeeze it, the jelly will turn cloudy. The next day measure the juice and allow 450g sugar for every 600ml juice. Bring the juice slowly to the boil and add the sugar. Keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Then boil rapidly for 9-10 mins without stirring until setting point is reached. Skim, pour into sterilised jars and seal as quickly as possible. Use within 12 months.     

I had quite a lot of crab apples left after making the jelly, so I decided to use the rest for making fruit leathers. As the mush for the jelly was straining, I pushed a second batch of spiced mushy apples through a sieve and decided to add to the flavour by heating up a mixture of frozen berries. This too was pushed through a sieve (note to self: get a mouli for next year!) before mixing in with the pureed apple. For the leathers I followed this simple recipe.

Fruit leathers

spices such as cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, ginger
sugar or honey to taste

Wash your fruit and discard any damaged or bruised fruit. Chop roughly and add 1 cup of water for every 4 cups of fruit. Add your chosen spices and simmer until the fruit has softened. Rub the mushy fruit through a sieve or use a mouli and return the pulp to the pan. Taste and sweeten if necessary. Pour the mixture onto baking trays lined with baking paper and spread it out thinly. Leave them in the oven to dry for 4-8 hours/below 60°C at your lowest setting, preferably with the fan on and the door open. Alternatively you can leave them overnight in a dehydrator if you happen to own one. Keep the leathers in a tin at room temperature, rolled in baking paper (they will keep for a few weeks) or in the fridge in an airtight container (this way they will keep for months).

No need to buy any sweets for a while then, I'll quite happily munch these tangy strips until we run out!

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