There is nothing like the satisfaction of producing your own preserves! Apples make a beautiful and sweet clear jelly that can be served on toast, used in gravies or added to any bake!
I grew up with parents who were very self sufficient when it came to putting fresh garden produce on the table. We ate very well over the summer months and what could not be eaten was either stored over winter in our garage or frozen straight from picking. The garden was large and had a multitude of fruit trees and shrubs, from which my Mum would produce the most wonderful array of jams and jelly’s. This has spoilt me as you cannot beat homemade preserves. My Mum always made us jelly as we were fussy about bits in the jam! This is why I love this time of year as the apples are ready. I have become a keen jelly maker, my kids are happy to try any concoction of flavours if there are no “bits” in it!
I like a bit of free food and on a recent bramble picking walk with my Mum, on the dunes beside the beach at Lossiemouth, we came across an apple tree. Apples and brambles in one walk, what a result! Apples and brambles are a great combination, the brambles are tart and the jelly is lovely with a some venison, but equally good with a scone and a big blob of clotted cream! I like apple jelly on its own and that is the recipe I’ve given here. This year as well as the apple jelly, I’ve also made french crab apple jelly and also an apple and raspberry mix. The raspberries I’ve bought frozen from the supermarket.
Until last year Michelle only ever bought strawberry jam. I gave her a pot of mixed soft fruits and apple earning myself the title of Jelly Lady, as her girls come to me direct for supplies when the pot is empty. My husband claims he doesn’t have a sweet tooth (we beg to differ), but he loves my jelly and challenged Michelle to come up with a scone to match it! Challenge met!
- 1 pint strained apple juice
- 1 lb unrefined granulated sugar
- Before you start get your equipment ready and set up. You will need a jelly bag, a stand to drain the fruit, a large pan or stockpot, a large pot to catch the strained juice, a jam thermometer, some sterilised jars and lids and wax discs for potting. Set up your jelly bag and stand (my Dad made mine but they are readily available in hardware stores and online) over the bowl that you are using to collect the strained liquid. Place a saucer in the freezer for testing the jelly later.
- Sterilise your jars. My preferred method is to put them through a cycle in my dishwasher, unloading them while still hot onto a tray. I then place them in an oven at 170C until needed.
- Wash the apples and cut into chunks, no need to core or peel them (remove any rotten pieces). Place your fruit in a large saucepan and add water to a level just below the top of the fruit.
- Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook the fruit until it is soft and you can insert a knife easily into the apple. Take the pan off the heat and gently spoon the mixture into the jelly bag. Do not be tempted to press the fruit down into the bag, nor squeeze the bag, as this will give you a cloudy jelly. Leave the liquid to drain from the bag until it has finished dripping into the bowl below, then discard the fruit. (If doing a mixed jelly repeat this process with the second fruit.)
- Once drained pour the juice into a large, heavy based saucepan or stockpot. For every 1 pint of fruit liquid you will need to add 1lb of granulated sugar to the pan. I use ordinary unrefined granulated sugar as jam sugar tends to be more expensive. [Jam sugar contains added pectin which I have never needed to use as the apples contain enough themselves.]
- Put the pan on the heat and bring to the boil before reducing the heat a little to get a good rolling boil. Try not to stir the liquid as stirring will only reduce the temperature. As you are heating the liquid skim off an scum that may appear, whilst doing you no harm it doesn't look good once set and you do not want cloudy jelly.
- Here comes the difficult bit, knowing when to take the jelly off the heat. There are a number of tests, if using a jam thermometer the setting point for jelly is around 104.5C/220F. I use my thermometer to let me know when the jelly is almost ready but I prefer to use the wrinkle test as this what I watched my Mum doing when I was a child. You can tell when a jelly is approaching being ready as when it runs down the spoon it will begin to look thicker and start to wrinkle if you push it with a finger nail. I place a plate in the freezer before I start making jelly. When I think the jelly is almost ready I spoon some onto the cold plate, pop it back in the freezer for a minute or two, then take it back out and push the jelly with my finger to see if it wrinkles. If it does then the jelly is ready. If you want a really firm set the wrinkle will stay in place after you have removed your finger. [This is the most difficult part of the process and it is something that becomes easier over time as your begin to know what to look for. That said, I have potted jelly into jars only to return it to the pan the following day for a further boil as it was just too soft a set!]
- Pot the jelly while it is still hot into the sterilised jars. Take care as the liquid is very hot. I place a wax disc on top as it prevents the jelly drying out and also stops any mould from forming. Seal with a screw on lid and set aside to cool. Once cool label the jelly and store in a cool, dry place. The jelly should keep for at least year stored like this.
- This recipe makes a small amount of jelly and to be honest I rarely make jelly in quantities this small, simply multiply the recipe as you need. If doing a mix of fruits, for example apple and raspberry, cook and drain the two fruit separately, however note that soft fruit does not need cutting up before adding to the pan, boil it whole before straining through the jelly bag.