Crab Apple Jelly

A quickie to finish the recipe I started yesterday. If your fruit pulp has been left overnight you will have a pan of crab apple juice this morning and the first thing you need to do is measure it.


For every litre add 750g of sugar and stir over a low heat IN A LARGE ENOUGH PAN until is has begun to dissolve.

Turn up the heat until the liquid threatens to boil over and turn it down again to just below boiling. It will need to boil for at least 15 minutes and then you can begin to test it for setting. I use clean dry wooden spoons to dip in and see whether the jelly creates a drip that does not fall off the spoon (feathers). Others try the wrinkle test by putting a drop on a saucer and seeing whether it sets and creates a skin. My confession is that I still get it wrong from time to time and have to pour liquid jelly back into the pan and reheat. So nobody died and you still get to pot up beautiful jelly – don’t give yourself a hard time. The colour also changes – see how red the finished jelly is below compared with the pale liquid I started with (above).

When you’re sure the jelly is ready, pour it into a light plastic jug if you can and use that to fill the jam jars which you have standing by clean and sparkly.

Sterilising the jars.

There are many methods including a hot wash in the dishwasher and heating in the oven. My preferred method is to use alcohol. Pour a large shot of vodka into a jar, put the lid on and shake it,  pour the vodka into the next jar etc. (What you do with the vodka after that I leave to your own proclivities. On a cold morning it can spice up your coffee.)


Leave to cool a little before popping on the lids and getting creative with the labels. The final Mrs Tiggywinkle moment is lining up the jars in your larder and putting one on the table for your bread and cheese lunch.

This is Your Life : Feast Upon its Beauty


A long time ago now I had a dream about a spaceship that changed my life. The spaceship spoke to me and this was its message : This is your life. Its meaning will ever be hidden from you. Feast upon its beauty. On days (do you have these?) when I wake up with my fair share of nameless dread and meaninglessness I try to put these disturbing feelings into this context. It is all part of the beauty, the chiaroscuro of true nature, even the stuff we don’t like. Life, like great art, incorporates the dark side of our nature. The textures and tastes of my life, taken all together, create a richness and an infinitely varied experience that I could not possibly cobble together out of my preferences.

Because it is not a taste many seek out food manufacturers are beginning to remove bitterness from their products where possible, thus reducing the vast menu of complex flavours that nature offers. They would pander to our preferences – to our detriment, I think. (You have already heard my eulogy to radicchio and the castelfranco lettuce). Radio 4’s The Food Programme has in its archive an exploration of bitterness and its importance in our diet.  It is hard to choose what is rich and beautiful if it is not also sweet and pleasant but I think this is what psychotherapy helps us to do. We learn to love and tend to the infant within that wants sweetness in the mouth and fulness in the belly even as we experiment with the more exciting pleasures of adulthood and I don’t just mean the pinot noir. I mean the dangerous pleasures of autonomy.

Take a risk. It can be interesting to allow yourself to get hungry. What does it feel like? What does it mean to you? Hungry for what? Take another risk. Try something new. This is your life. Feast upon its beauty.

This morning old trees in my garden are bowed down with their tiny fruit and today I want to sing the humble crab apple. it is the day to make crab apple jelly, turning inedible sourness into a spoonful of something piquant which can cut through the fatty tastes of cheese and sausage. A good crab apple jelly can elevate a plate of cold meat or a dish of yoghurt with seeds, to the status of a feast. And if you’re not near a crab apple tree you can use supermarket apples instead or replace some of the apples with cranberries for a pinker jelly.

Crab Apple Jelly

It’s a two day process making jelly so I will share it with you over this weekend but don’t worry if you’re too busy for that. There is a half way point at which you can put the fruit in the freezer and come back when you’ve more time. Tip : put a date in the diary to come back!


Jam jars, lids and labels

At least 4 wooden spoons

Large muslin cloth or a jelly making kit with a tripod and a bag. If you’re using the cloth you need to find an upturned stool or a hook somewhere in your kitchen from which to suspend it to drain into a large pan or clean bucket beneath. I used to use a light fitting that stuck out from the wall far enough (removing the shade and the bulb, of course!). Now I have graduated to a ready made jelly bag and tripod.


Equal weight cleaned fruit and sugar



First get out there and pick the crab apples, as many as you can lug home. Children will help for about two minutes but that’s okay. They like it when you’re outside with them. Then wash them (the fruit and possibly the children) and as you take them from the water throw away the leaves and twigs and damaged fruit. Once you have done this you don’t have to make the jelly today. If your children are helping they will have had more than enough by now. Stick the clean fruit in a plastic carrier bag and put it in the freezer until you have time and all the things you need are to hand. (Now, full of the virtue of having been outside picking apples,  you can watch that film or make little Hugo’s day by playing Monopoly.)

  1. Weigh the fruit that’s left and put in a deep and heavy pan. Small fruit need no further preparation. Larger varieties can be cut in half. No coring. No peeling. Hurrah.
  2. Add 750 ml water for every kilo of fruit
  3. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about an hour until the fruit is very soft.
  4. Let cool and then strain through a muslin napkin or any fine rag you have available. Leave to drain through the muslin overnight and don’t squeeze the bag as it clouds the jelly.



Tomorrow, or on the day you choose to make your jelly, you will need sugar. Just granulated will do but you can also use the special jam sugar if you have it. How much sugar depends on how much fruit your starting with.  Have available in the larder the same weight in sugar as you had clean fruit, that should be fine.

A bientôt.