Crab Apples (and apples in general) are high in Pectin which is what you need to give Jams and Jellies a good set. They are therefore perfect as a base for any hedgerow Jelly. The difference between jam and jelly is that jelly is made strictly from the juice of fruit (with all the other parts strained out) while jam is made from crushed fruit. Foraged fruit is perfect for Jelly making; there’s far less fiddling around preparing the fruit and removing seeds, and as you haven’t had to buy the fruit, the far smaller yield is less of a problem. As the resulting Jelly is perfectly smooth, it is ideal for adding to savoury dishes (such as using it to enrich gravy) as well as using it as a traditional preserve.
This recipe can be used as a template for any Jelly. You could substitute the rose hips for any edible hedgerow berries; blackberries, damsons, hawthorn berries and rowan are popular, or indeed use a mix of different fruits. Equally, plain old Crab Apple Jelly is also lovely, and is the perfect base for any herb jelly.
The rose hips I used here were from my freezer. Please see Freezing Foraged Fruits to read why I like to freeze my fruit. If you are using rose hips that haven’t been frozen you might want to simmer them for 15 mins or so to start them softening before you add your apples. When I make Jelly I use preserving sugar as the bigger crystals allegedly result in a clearer Jelly. Granulated sugar would also be fine to use.
500g Rose hips
1kg Crab Apples
About a litre of water
Sugar ( I used preserving)
Wash your fruit and remove any stalks. Throw it all into a large pan, cutting your apples into half or quarters if they are large, adding the juice from the lemon and enough water to almost cover. It is advised not to use Aluminum pans for jam making as the metal reacts with the acids in the fruit. I use a wide-based enamel pan for preserve making.
Cook your fruit down into a pulp. Once it starts to soften you can use a potato masher to encourage the process. My fruit took about 40mins to cook down into this pulp. If you use fruits such as Damsons the stones will float to the surface as the fruit breaks up. This isn’t a problem with a Jelly as you’ll be straining your pulp next.
I have a jelly bag and stand so I simply tip my pulp into this. Alternatively line a colander with muslin and strain through that. Traditionally you leave the juice to drip out overnight, as squeezing the bag will result in a cloudy Jelly. I follow the traditional method, but do whatever works for you!
Once your juice has dripped through the bag, measure the resulting quantity. I ended up with about 700mls of juice. You need 450g sugar for every 600mls of juice, so in my case I used 525g of sugar. Depending on what fruit you are using you could use the resulting pulp to make fruit leather. As Rose hip seeds are fairly unpalatable in my opinion, mine went in the bin.
Heat your juice and sugar slowly until the sugar has dissolved, than allow it to come up to a rolling boil. Boil hard for 10-15 mins until your jelly has reached 105C on a preserving thermometer. If you don’t have a thermometer, spoon a little jelly onto a saucer you have chilled in a freezer. Leave for 30 secs, then push with your finger; if the jelly wrinkles and doesn’t flood to fill the gap, it is ready.
Don’t worry about any scum that rises to the surface while the jelly is boiling, once it is ready and you have removed it from the heat stir in a small lump of butter, which will disperse the scum. This photo was taken after I added the butter and the scum had started to disperse.
Pour into clean, dry, hot jars that have been sterilised in a warm oven. I use clean, screw on lids for my preserves rather than waxed discs. I made 7 small jars of this Jelly – approximately 800mls in total. Store in a cool dark place if not using immediately. This Jelly should be good for at least 6 months while unopened.