This fruit is beautiful to look at, like perfect blushing baby apples. Our favourite tree bursts forth in nearby Huonville and tempts young hands to test out the fruit, but, sadly, they’re not very nice to eat raw. The good news is that there’s always a few fruit left out of reach of little people, and a crabapple jelly is one of life’s great joys to have in the pantry. Here’s Fat Pig’s version of the classic.
- 1.5 kg (3 lb 5 oz) crab apples
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) sugar
- 1 lemon, juiced, strained
- 100 ml (3½ fl oz) tawny (Port)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Wash and sterilise three 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cup) jars or similar, see below.
Draining time overnight
Cut the crab apples in halves or quarters, leaving the peel on and cores in. Put them in a large stainless steel saucepan and cover with water. Cook for about 30 minutes until the fruit turns to a pulp.
Pour this mixture into a jelly bag, or a colander lined with two layers of muslin (cheesecloth), and allow to drain until all the juice has been extracted. Leave it overnight if you can. Don’t be tempted to squeeze the pulp through, or your jelly will become cloudy.
Measure the juice into a preserving pan: you should have 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups). Warm the sugar in a low oven. Add the lemon juice to the pan and bring to boil then add the warm sugar. Reduce the heat and continue stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat so that it starts to boil rapidly and leave to simmer for 8–10 minutes. Add the tawny and stir thoroughly.
Check the set and pour into sterilised jars immediately. Store in the pantry for up to a year, and in the fridge once opened.
This is the big one. In the age of refrigeration we’ve often forgotten how much mould and yeast thrive when left unchecked. You can preserve things through excluding oxygen (tight-fitting lids), introducing an acid (pickled foods), and by adding enough sugar or salt. But even then it’s important to start with really clean implements, and to store things in sterilised jars with sterile lids. So wash your storing jars or containers really well before sterilising.
The heat method
(a dishwasher is a good place to start)
Heat kills bugs, and bugs can cause your preserves to lose quality, or even go off. If you want to sterilise just one bottle, or a few jars, you can place them in a saucepan of cold water, on their sides, making sure they’re full of water and submerged. Put their lids in there too. Bring this pot to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. This will kill just about all the bugs you’re worried about. The only downside of this method is that it is a little tricky to take hot bottles from a pot of boiling water, though there are special tongs on the market to help you. A good thing to note is that hot sauces and jams will crack a cold jar, and this method allows you to have your jars pre-warmed ready to pour in a hot conserve.
Dishwashers, with a hot rinse cycle, also sterilise the jars, so that could be an easier method.
Be sure, when dealing with hot jars, not to put them onto a cold surface or they will crack. Always put them onto a wooden board. Cold jars will also crack if they have very hot things put in them, so warm the jars a little first, using warm water or similar.
Recipe and image from Not Just Jam by Matthew Evans (Murdoch Books, $35, hbk)
View our Readable feasts extract and more recipes from the book here.