Autumn has arrived at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Yesterday was a beautiful hazy September day, and walking around the cookery school gardens, the signs of the new season were all around! The apple trees in The Memory Arboretum and The Ornamental Fruit Garden were heavy with delicious looking fruit and the ground was strewn with windfalls. Of course, we love to leave some of these as a treat for the birds who inhabit our gardens and farm, but we also make sure to collect plenty for use in the school. One of our favourite things to do every year is make crab apple jelly - a favourite with students, visitors and staff alike! There are lots of different ways to change up a basic crap apple jelly recipe with herbs or spices, or by combining with other autumnal fruits. Here are a couple of our favourite variations taken from Darina Allen's Irish Traditional Cooking cookbook, especially for our followers on Facebook and Twitter!
Crab Apple Jelly
This recipe comes from the 19th-century Bruen papers.
Get the crabs fresh. Wash them well but do not peel them. Put them into a preserving pan, cover with spring water by two inches. Boil them quick they will fall in a few minutes. Put the whole into a flannel bag the juice will be got in a few minutes. Into a clean preserving pan put a pint of juice to a lb of sugar if a small quantity is made 20 minutes will make it, if a large lot it will take from 35–45 minutes but watch it and when it jellies dish it immediately if it stands two minutes after it is taken off the fire the jell will not be sound.
Crab Apple and Sweet Geranium Jelly
We love this jelly flavoured with sweet geranium to serve on scones or toast. Either sweet or savoury; it can be flavoured with cloves, rosemary, mint, sage or chilli.
Makes 6–7 jars
2.7kg (6lbs) crab apples or windfall cooking apples e.g. Bramley Seedlings
2.7 litres (4 1/4 pints/generous 10 1/2 cups) water
juice and rind of 2 lemons
chopped sweet geranium or mint or 3-4 cloves (optional)
Wash the apples and cut into quarters. Do not remove the peel or core. If you use windfalls, make sure you cut out the bruised parts. Put the apples into a large saucepan with the water and the thinly pared rind of the lemons. Cook until reduced to a pulp (about 30 minutes).
Turn the pulp into a jelly bag. Allow it to drip until all the juice has been extracted (overnight is best). Measure the juice into a preserving pan and weigh out 450g (1lb/2 cups) sugar to each 600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) of juice. Warm the sugar.
Squeeze the lemons, strain the juice and add to the preserving pan. Bring to the boil, add the sugar (and the sweet geranium, mint or cloves if using). Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly without stirring for about 8–10 minutes. Skim and test to see if setting point has been reached by placing a teaspoonful on a cold plate and pushing it gently with your finger (if the jelly wrinkles, it is ready). Pot immediately into clean, sterilized jars.
Apple and Elderberry Jelly
Add a fistful or two of elderberries to the apple and continue as above. Up to half the volume of elderberries can be used (1/2 pint of elderberries works very well although it’s not essential to measure – it’s a good starting point). A sprig or two of mint or rose geranium or a cinnamon stick further enhances the flavour.
Source: (Irish Traditional Cooking Revised Edition 2012)