Posts Tagged ‘crab apples’


I am a little early in posting this recipe, as we are a long way away from crab apple season in England.  There is a reason. All will become clear in the next post.

A crab apple is a small apple that looks not unlike a large rosehip.  From the colour you might think they would be sweet, in fact they have a sour and tart taste and, are not known for their eating quality.  They are though, a wonderful producer of jellies mainly because of their high pectin content.  They also make delicious wine – but that’s another post.   If you don’t have enough for a jelly they can be roasted and served with meat.

crab apples

The crab apple has been around for many years, mentioned by William Shakespeare and attached to legend.  Throw their pips into the fire whilst saying the name of your true love and if the pips explode then your love is true.  Best done without your husband present – just in case!  The sport of gurning (extreme pulling of face) originates from when the Lord of the Manor gave crab apples to the poor of the village.  The faces they pulled when biting into the sharp little apple then turned into a competition on who could pull the ugliest of faces.  This tradition is still kept alive today at the Egremont Crab Fair which began in 1267 in Cumbria, England.

For me, one of the nicest preserves to make is Chilli Crab Apple Jelly, mainly because of the beautiful clear golden elixir and delicate flavour that the crab apples produce.  The chillis adding a kick which brightens up the recipe.

A worthwhile quantity to use is 4lbs of crab apples, which is what I have used in the recipe below.  There is no reason why you can’t make less or more as again there is a mathematical formula to this recipe.  After simmering the apples and straining them it’s the amount of liquid produced that dictates the amount of sugar used.

This recipe is for chilli crab apple jelly but there is no reason why you can’t substitute that for other spices.  The heat of the jelly is again down to your personal taste.  The quantities I have given here are for a light kick of chilli.  I think the secret is to allow the delicate taste of the crab apple to come through without killing it off with too much chilli.

Chilli Crab Apple Jelly


4 lbs Crab apples

Sugar – granulated or caster

3 Chillies – seeds left in and chopped.

(How much heat you want is controlled by how many chillies you put in and the type of chilli).



Wash the crab apples and top and tail.  Cut each apple into four (no need to core) and put in a large pan along with the chopped chillies.

Crab apple and chilli pan

Add enough water to just cover the apples and cook gently for about 45mins/1 hour with the lid on. They are ready when the apples are at the mushy stage.  Strain, using a jelly bag or a piece of muslin placed over a sieve. Leave for a couple of hours or more so that all the liquid gets a chance to drip through.

Before placing the strained liquid into a clean pan measure the amount.  You will need 1 lb of sugar for each pint of liquid.

If there is a fair amount of apple mash left in the jelly bag, returned it to the preserving pan, adding a little water and reheated it for a further half hour.  Strain this again using either a jelly bag or muslin.  Then again measure the quantity of liquid adding the required addition of sugar to the main batch.

Gently heat the liquid with the sugar making sure to keep stirring the sugar until it dissolves in the pan.  When the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up, to bring the jelly to a boil.

When the jelly has started to boil it will produce a scum on the surface, remove any that appears – there will be plenty!  Keep skimming, as the less scum there is the clearer the jelly.

At this point use a jam thermometer; you need the liquid to reach ‘ jam’ temperature. The thermometer is not essential but is very useful. Alternatively, when you think the jelly is reaching setting point take a small saucer and pop it in the freezer to cool.  Remove from the freezer and put a little of the jelly onto the plate and leave to cool (you can put it in the fridge for a couple of minutes) and then push your finger against the jam.  If there is a skin which forms a wrinkle when pushed then the jam is ready.

Set aside for ten minutes for the jelly to cool slightly and then pour into warm sterilised jars and seal.

Do not use a wax disc and a screw top lid.  The wax disc stops the twist top from forming a seal.  If using a wax seal then cover with cellophane and secure with a rubber band.

To sterilise the jars wash them in hot soapy water and rinse.  Place on a baking tray and put into a warm oven Gas mark 3/325F/160C and leave for 10/15 minutes.  Carefully take out and use.

Remember to label and date.  I have learned this to my cost.  You think you will remember but trust me you won’t.

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