Make your own old-fashioned apple jelly
Getting wobbly at the knees about apple jelly.
Words: Kristina Jensen
It is almost spring in Denmark. My father is a young boy and he is watching for the first blossoms to appear on the apple trees. The wind is still cold and biting so tender green things are not showing their faces just yet. He finds a couple of last season’s apples lying behind a barrel in the pantry on the cool side of the house, withered and puckered like the faces of old women. He picks up one of the apples and inhales its familiar summer perfume.
There is only a hint of moisture left in it as he takes a bite, but it is enough to transport him to another time and place. That tiny amount of juice carries the promise of the coming year and my father thinks of the time when he will swap his prickly woollen trousers for shorts with pockets that he can stuff full of a new season’s apples.
This is one of my favourite stories about the storage of food. I am fortunate that my parents lived in a time when much of what they ate was harvested locally so I have stories like this one to guide and encourage me in my own journey to eat naturally-grown food. A large part of their lives was devoted to the preservation of fruit, vegetables and meat for times when fresh food was not available. Today we trundle off to the shop and although some may argue for the convenience, I personally prefer to gather my food wherever possible straight from the source with my own two hands.
I had the good fortune recently to come across another expression of food traditions handed down through the generations, a series of tiny recipe books from England with wonderful names like Favourite Somerset Recipes (compiled by Amanda Persey) and Favourite Romany Recipes (compiled by Keziah Cooper). Apple jelly has been part of my preservation repertoire for years.
I have enjoyed experimenting with different varieties of apples but after reading these wee books, I decided to shake up my jellies with the additions of sage and whiskey.
Recipe: Windfall Apple Sage Jelly
This is great served with lamb, pork or sausages.
3 kg tart windfall cooking apples
1 litre of water
5 good sprigs of sage
1 litre of malt vinegar
sugar – cup for cup of measured, strained juice (approx 1.5-2 kg)
Wash the apples and cut into rough chunks but do not peel or core. Bring to the boil in a saucepan with water and one sprig of sage. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour until apples are pulpy. Add vinegar and boil rapidly for 10 minutes.
Strain the apple mixture through a jelly bag and leave it hanging overnight if possible. Do not squeeze the bag or the jelly will be cloudy. Measure the liquid and put back into a clean saucepan. Add 1 cup of sugar for each cup of liquid. Dissolve over a low heat, stirring occasionally. Bring to the boil and cook for 10-15 minutes until setting point is reached.
Finely chop remaining sage and add to jelly. Remove any scum that has formed and pour jelly into warm sterilised jars. Seal and label.
Recipe: Apple Nip
This is really good with cheese on crackers, on top of ice cream or stirred into yoghurt, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself eating it straight out of the jar!
3kg cooking apples
water to cover
Wash apples, cut away any bad bits and roughly chop. Place in a pot and just cover with water. Boil until soft but not pulpy. Put into a jelly bag and allow to drip overnight. Measure the juice and then add sugar, cup for cup.
Slowly bring to the boil until sugar dissolves. Simmer gently until setting point is reached (usually 15-10 minutes). Pour into hot sterilised jars, then add 1tsp of whiskey to each jar before you seal it.
Leave for three months before using.