A few weeks ago, I came across some lovely crab apples at one of the NY Green Markets.
Crab apples are tart fruits which are rich in pectin. They are most often used in jellies and chutneys. For me, they evoke lovely memories of time spent in the United Kingdom, and particularly of Sundays and Sunday roasts. I had there witnessed a few times the harvest (on a homegrown tree) and cooking of this little gems, and the making of delicious mint jelly. This jelly is typically eaten with roasted meats but can equally pair with baked goods. The process, in my memory, involved a big fabric strainer, and I have kept a picture of the apples draining their juices in the kitchen. It was a lovely time, and the conviviality of Sunday Roasts, sweetened by this flavorful jelly remains firmly in my mind.
Unfortunately I could not take them back to CA, and resigned myself to leaving them behind. So I left NYC with a little nostalgia for these crab apple days. Luckily, a few weeks later, I found them at the CUESA Farmers Market, equally lovely and colorful. I immediately bought a bag - 1 to 2lb perhaps - and my first thought was to make mint jelly.
The apples need to be boiled in enough water to cover them.
Then the apples are strained over a period of several hours with fine mesh cheesecloth - technically, you must restrain yourself from squeezing to avoid clouding the final product (I failed but it worked out ok :)).
Once all the juice is collected, it is boiled with sugar for 40' using a 7 to 10 ratio of sugar to juice. I dialed down the sugar to about 2/3 of that (i.e. a ratio of 4-5 to 10), which worked fine, and used some organic cane sugar found at the bulk section of a local store. I also threw in a few mint leaves which I had purchased at the Farmers Market a few weeks before and frozen.
The jelling can be checked with a spoon dipped in the simmering liquid and left to cool in the refrigerator for a minute. Then it is poured into jars and left to cool, and, magically, settle :).
The jelly turned out beautifully, (a very rewarding recipe!) and delicious. I was glad to have finally made it and re-lived lovely times. I hope this will inspire you to give it a try too, when you next come across crab apples. :)
By the way:
- There are other options to flavor the jelly, as illustrated in this post by Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland.
- This jelly is gluten and dairy-free, and ok for vegetarian and vegan eaters alike. Clean and healthy eaters may raise eyebrows at the sugar content, but again, that can be dialed down, and one only eats a 1 tbsp of it at a time.