Preserving the pick of the crop

Now that pickles and preserves are no longer a necessity to get us through the winter when native fruits are scarce, they’ve become something of a delicacy. Homegrown and homemade enjoy a cachet that that can’t be matched by anything bought, however expensive.

If you’re lucky enough to have an apple tree or perhaps some brambles in your garden you can bottle up something delicious for next to nothing. So harvest the best of the fruit before it spoils, leaving some for the birds, and turn it into autumn treats and Christmas gifts.

 

Blackberry and apple jam

Ingredients

1.4g cooking apples

675g blackberries

1 lemon, juice only

300ml water

1.4g granulated sugar

Method

Quarter, core and peel apples. Slice and put in a preserving pan with the blackberries. Add lemon juice and water and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionall until fruit is soft.

Warm the sugar in the oven then add to the hot fruit. Heat gently, stirring occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved.

Increase the heat and boil rapidly for 20-30 minutes until setting point* is reached.

Spoon into warm, dry Kilner jars (www.kilnerjar.co.uk). Cover with waxed discs and seal with the lid. Label and leave to cool completely.

NOTE: Delicious sprad for toast.

Spiced apples

Ingredients

600ml red wine vinegar

450g granulated sugar

1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces

1 tsp cloves

1 tsp whole mixed peppercorms

1.1kg small cooking apples

2 tbsp cassis, optional

Method

Put the vinegar, sugar, spices and peppercorms into a large saucepan and slowly bring to the boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved.

Quarter, core and peel apples. Add them to the vinegar mixture, cover with a small plate so that the apples are kept below the surface on the vinegar and simmer gently for 5 minutes until tender.

Lift the apples out with a slotted spoon and pack into a warm dry Kilner jar with the spices and peppercorns.

Boil the vinegar mixture rapidly for 10-15 minutes. Add the cassis and pour the syrup over the apples. Cover and seal. Label and leave to cool completely.

NOTE: Spiced apples are an exotic accompaniment for cold roast beef, lamb or even Christmas turkey.

Hot spiced apple chutney

Ingredients

1.8kg cooking apples

900g red or green tomatoes

2 large onions

2 red peppers

225g sultanas

600ml distilled malt vinegar

675g soft light brown sugar

1 tbsp peppercorms

1 tbsp coriander seeds

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp salt

4 tsp tumeric

2 tsp chilli flakes

Method

Quarter, core and peel apples. chop apples, tomatoes and onions. Halve peppers, discard core and seeds. Put the fruit and veg into preserving pan with sultanas. Add vinegar and sugar.

Crush peppercorns, coriander and cumin seeds with a pestle and mortar. Add to the pan with salt and remaining spices. Mix together well.

Cover pan with a lid and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring once or twice until soft.

Uncover and cook over a medium heat for 1 1/4 hours, stirring occasionally until very thick.

Spoon into warm, dry screw-topped jars. Cover with a waxed disc and jar lid. Label and leave to cool.

Store in a cool place for two weeks before seving, so flavours mellow.

NOTE: Use this chutney with a kick to lift a plain chese sandwich or turn an ordinary ploughman’s lunch into a treat.

Apple and mint jelly

Ingredients

1.8kg cooking apples

900ml water

4 tbsp cider vinegar

bunch or fresh mint

600-700kg granulated sugar

few drops of green food colouring

Method

Wash and thoroughly chop apples, including core and pips.

Put apples, water, vinegar and four sprigs of mint into a pan and bring the mixture to the boil.

Reduce heat slightly and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally until apples are pulpy.

Suspend a jelly bag over a bowl, scald with boiling water then ladle the apple mixture into the bag and leave overnight to drip through.

Discrad pulpy fruit. Measure liquid and return to the pan. For every 600ml of liquid add 450g of sugar. Slowly bring to the boil until sugar has completely dissolved.

Boil rapidly without stirring for 10-15 minutes until setting point* is reached. Skim with a slotted spoon if necessary.

Chop remaining mint and stir 3 tbsp mint and a few drops of green colouring into the jelly.

Ladle into warm, dry jars, cover with waxed discs and Celophane tops. Label and leave to cool immediately.

NOTE: Fruitier than a traditional mint jelly, this can be served simply as a condiment for roast lamb, or used to give it a tasty glaze by simply brushing it onto the meat 15 minutes before cooking is complete.

Blackberry and apple jelly

Ingredients

1.4kg cooking apples

1 lemon

450g blackberries

900ml water

600-700kg granulated sugar

Method

Wash and roughly chop apples including core and pips.

Peel lemon rind thinly and squeeze the juice and put into a pan with apples and blackberries.

Add water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat slightly and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally until fruit is pulpy.

Suspend a jelly bag over a bowl, scald with boiling water then ladle the apple mixture into the bag and leave overnight to drip through.

Discrad pulpy fruit. Measure liquid and return to the pan. For every 600ml of liquid add 450g of sugar. Slowly bring to the boil until sugar has completely dissolved.

Boil rapidly without stirring for 10-15 minutes until setting point* is reached. Skim with a slotted spoon if necessary.

Ladle into warm, dry jars, cover with waxed discs and Celophane tops. Label and leave to cool immediately.

NOTE: The perfect afternoon tea preserve to serve with scones and clotted cream, toasted teacakes or crumpets.

* Setting point

You can test for a good set by stirring the jam and lifting the spoon out and holding it horizonally – if jam runs off quickly then it’s not ready, but it slowly forms a blob that stays on the spoon, then setting point is reached. Alternatively try the saucer test. Spoon a dessertspoon of jam onto a saucer, then let it cool in the fridge for a few minutes. Run a finger through the jam: it should leave a clear path showing the saucer, with the spoonful of jam wrinkling visibly. If the jam runs back into the original shape, it needs more time boiling.

 

For a perfect jelly…

Always cut away any bruised areas from windfall apples before weighing.

Add skin, core, pips and fruit for the first cooking.

Use a specialist jelly bag. Scald it and allow to dry before using and wash thoroughly after use, making sure that it is thoroughly dry before storing.

Test jelly frequently to see if setting point is reached. Over boiling will make the finished jelly very darl

Skim jelly thoroughly before ladling into jars so finished jelly is crytal clear.

Don’t be tempeted to add more water. The water shoud barely cover the fruit – too much and the jelly will take ages to bring to a set once the sugar is added.

Don’t squeeze extra juice from dained fruit, or you’ll make the jelly cloudy.

Don’t skim the jelly more than you really need to or you’ll waste a lot of the sugar syrup.

Don’t move jars before they are completely set or you’ll disturb the set.

 

 

 

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