It’s that time of year! Fruit abounds in the garden and hedgerows. Jenni shares her simple recipe to apply to any fruit you are harvesting now.
I’ve had great harvests of crab apples, quince and unusually this year, grapes. As much as I would love to have made wine from the latter, I know my best bet is to turn these wonderfully colourful fruits into jelly. You can of course make jam and keep some of the flesh and texture, but as I’m pretty lazy, I go for the quicker but more wasteful jelly approach. I will also be making jelly from frozen blackberries and raspberries I harvested last month once this month’s fresh fruit rush is over.
Pick over your harvest and remove any damaged, mouldy or infested fruit. Also remove any leaves, but you can leave the stalks on; rinse well and rescue any mini-beasts. I had to help half a dozen spiders to safety from my grapes.
Put your chosen fruit into a saucepan large enough to hold the fruit just covered with cold water. You can put smaller fruit in whole, but chop larger fruit, like quince. Bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit is soft and mashable. The time for this will vary depending on the fruit: crab apples take longer than grapes for example.
Mash the fruit with a potato masher (ricer) to extract maximum juice.
Carefully pour the liquid mush into a bowl lined with muslin/ clean tea towel/ jelly bag. Anything which will catch all the flesh, pips and skin you don’t want, but will allow the juice to escape.
Tie off the muslin and suspend it above the bowl, for a few hours (or overnight), to allow all the juice to drip out. If you are tempted to squeeze the bag, this is okay, but will make your final jelly cloudy.
Once you have the liquid, discard the pulp from the muslin into the compost bin (or you can make fruit leather if it’s not full of stalks and cores). Measure your liquid before pouring into a wide bottomed saucepan or jam pan. I go for a simple ratio of 10 parts liquid: 7 parts sugar (eg: 1 litre of juice=700g sugar), plus the juice of one lemon for every litre of liquid. This is fairly low sugar for some fruit and you may not get a proper ‘set’ – so the jelly will be a bit runny – but it will still taste delicious, or you can increase the sugar, or add some fruit high in pectin (such as apple/ crab apple).
Add the sugar and lemon juice and heat the juice very gently until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a steady simmer.
Do the cold plate test: put a saucer in the freezer and once cold, pop a few drops of jam onto the plate. If it wrinkles and doesn’t run, then its ready to bottle. The setting point will depend on the fruit you use: the higher the pectin the quicker the set.
Decant the hot jelly into hot, sterilised glass jars and seal with a lid. As the jam cools, the lids should seal. Label and store somewhere cool and dark; keep refrigerated once opened.