“Small, misshapen, spotty and scabby, and full of pips, they do not inspire the cook. Nor are they remotely edible raw – they must be cooked. Yet when prepared properly they are a treasure” – John Wright describing crab apples in Hedgerow (Bloomsbury Publishing 2010).
I coulnd’t agree more. I would also include rosehips in the same category. The combination of those two foraged fruits produces the most wonderful flavour. I pair wild rosehips with crab apples to make jelly. The bad news is you probably won’t find fresh rosehips or crab apples in your local grocery, or even in a gourmet store. The good news though, is that these little gems seem to grow everywhere. Rosehips are one of the richest plant sources of vitamin C, and they are extremely high in antioxidants. The very high pectin content of crab apples means that the jelly always sets well. If you don’t have crab apples, you can replace them with cooking apples.
Makes 6 x 225g jars.
- 1kg crab apples (or cooking apples)
- 1kg rosehips (blitzed in a food processor)
- Around 700g granulated sugar
Rose hips used for jellies don’t need to be seeded. To prepare rose hips, rinse them thoroughly and cut off the scraggly ends. Wash the crab apples, removing stalks and leafy bits. Without peeling, chop the apples roughly (the peel and core are an excellent source of pectin). Place all the prepared fruit in a large pot and add 1.2 litres of water. Do not use aluminium or cast iron to cook the rosehips as it will deplete vitamin C levels; instead use stainless steel or non-reactive cookware. Cover and cook gently until all the fruit is soft and pulpy. Typically this takes around 40 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Set up a jelly bag, muslin cloth or a very fine sieve. Transfer the contents of the pot into whatever your choice of strainer and leave to drip overnight. If you don’t want to have a cloudy jelly, it’s important not to squeeze the pulp. Let it drip at its own pace.
The next day, measure the juice – you will probably have about 1.2 litres. For every 600ml of juice, I add 350g sugar. That’s 100g less sugar then what the original recipe calls for. Put the juice into a large pan and bring slowly to the boil. Add the sugar as it just comes to the boil and keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then boil rapidly, without stirring until the setting point is reached. I don’t like things too sweet and I find that this amount is just right. When you reduce the sugar in jams and jellies, you may find that you need to cook them a little bit longer so that the proper concentration can be reached. If necessary, skim the jelly, pour into sterilized jars and seal quickly. Reducing the sugar also means a slightly decreased shelf life but I’m ok with that, the jelly never lasts long in my household anyway. It tastes wonderful on toast or with roast meats.
Source: Preserves by Pam Corbin introduced by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.