Here I’ll post some generic recipes. What I mean by that is that I’ll post a method of making something, with rough quantities; the actual ingredients can be varied according to what you have handy, and your own tastes. I’ll start with my Quince & Crab Apple Jelly…

Quince & Crab Apple Jelly:

Made 8 1lb/454g jars:

  • Half a basket of crab apples – mine’s about the size of a Body Shop basket.
  • Two damaged quinces (Japonica quinces will work, if you don’t have tree quinces; they’ll just taste a little spicier)
  • A handful of blackberries
  • A shake of cinnamon
  • A pound of sugar for each pint of juice produced!

Cut any badly-damaged parts off the crab apples & quinces & remove the stalks. Chop the quinces roughly, and any larger crab apples. Place quinces, crab apples & blackberries in a preserving pan or other large, heavy saucepan and cover with water until the top pieces of fruit just begin to float. Shake in some cinnamon, depending on your tastes, and bring the mixture up to the boil. Simmer for half an hour or so, until all the fruit is really soft.

Let it cool for a while. Arrange a colander or sieve over another pan, line it with a muslin square or a jelly bag, then tip the fruit into it & let the fluid drain down into the pan. At this point it really helps to have some way to suspend the bag over the pan; I tie mine in a knot, then hang it over the colander/pan arrangement from a butcher’s hook hung from a shelf! (I’ll add a pic next time I make some, which should be later this week.) You can buy special tripods to do this, but I don’t have enough clear flat surfaces to put one on. I let my “mush” drip all night, but the most important thing is NEVER to squeeze the bag; if you do, your jelly will come out cloudy.

When it’s finished dripping, measure the resulting juice, then weigh out 1lb of sugar for each pint of juice. Mine had produced 3½ pints in the pan, so I used 3½lbs of sugar – I’ll look up metric equivalents & add them later. In a preserving pan, stir the sugar into the juice, then heat slowly until the sugar has dissolved. At the same time, scald your jars & lids (and any other equipment) in a 140℃ oven to sterilise them. Then raise the heat under the pan until it reaches a rolling boil; it shouldn’t take long until some drips placed on a cool plate, and allowed to cool for a moment, wrinkle when pushed with a fingernail, and that’s the magical “setting point”. Pour the hot jelly into the jars & seal quickly; I use a jam funnel & a stainless steel ladle, which I wash & sterilise alongside the jars. Allow to cool, somewhere safe – a high shelf works well. You should hear the lids pop down as the jelly cools.

You can make this just with crab apples, or just with quinces, or add in some ordinary eating or cooking apples. Apples are generally high in pectin, the substance that makes jams & jellies set, but I suspect a sweet, soft eating apple will have considerably less pectin than a tart & crispy cooking apple. Japonica quinces, those little mis-shapen things lurking on the prickly bush in the garden, work as well as Cydonia Quinces, and add a lovely spicy tang. I added the blackberries to deepen the colour; quinces do give a pinky-red colour when cooked, but the crab apples I’d gathered are yellowy-green rather than my favourite red!