Crab Apple Jelly

2:26 am on 19 September 2009

Crab apples are unlikely to be on sale, but go foraging and you'll find them. Wild trees thrive on country roads and in abandoned homestead gardens and are occasionally found dropping fruit onto city streets. Best check before you venture down a private driveway though.

Raw, the tiny apples are hard and tart and seem more stone than flesh, but boil a potful into jam or jelly and they make a lovely treat for morning toast. Even better on a buttery, rich croissant. And should a wild duck wing its way to your larder come the month of May, glaze the cooked bird with your crab- apple jelly and wait for compliments.

If crab apples are picked from roadside trees, always wash thoroughly before use to ensure any agricultural sprays, petrol and diesel fumes are removed.0


  • quarter-fill large saucepan of washed and dried crab apples
  • sugar (subject to method below)


Quarter-fill a large saucepan with washed and dried crab apples. Completely fill saucepan with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer briskly for 40 minutes until the liquid is reduced by about half (the crab apples will soften and burst). Put a new Chux cloth or similar in a colander over a large jug or bowl and tip in crab apples and liquid. Leave 3-4 hours to drain. Discard crab apples.

Measure juice by the cupful into a large clean saucepan. Add the same number of cups 7/8ths filled with sugar (in other words, not quite as much sugar as liquid). Over a low heat stir to dissolve the sugar. Gradually increase heat and bring to a boil. Boil briskly for 10 to 15 minutes, then test for setting by dropping a spoonful of the jam/jelly onto a cold saucer. If it wrinkles, or better, if it stays separate when you drag a finger through the puddle, it is at the jelly stage.

Pour into clean, warmed jars, drop 2-3 whole peppercorns into each jar, cover and leave to cool. The peppercorns give the jelly a savoury note but this step is optional, especially if the jelly is to be used as a breakfast spread.