My friend Margaret has a glut of apples. Mainly cooking apples. She has given me loads and the cottage has that sweet smell of ripe apples when I open the front door.
I have been simmering great vats of apples – 3 kilos fit just nicely into our marmite and makes about six pints/3.5litres of strained juice. Perfect for experimenting with apple jellies. This juice keeps well in the fridge for a week or so and also will live happily in the freezer until I feel in the mood for making jelly. I plan to try mint and apple, scented geranium and apple and sage and apple. Also we will be making sloe and apple jelly – a must for foodies everywhere.
We loved our crab apple chilli jelly so much we thought that we would try making a version with cooking apples. It worked well and produced this wonderful amber coloured jelly. Danny likes a piquant jelly, I prefer one with more of a kick. So I stirred 2 finely chopped bird’s eye chillies into 3 (pound) jars of the chilli jelly, about ten minutes after pouring the jelly into the hot jars. I put the lids on and kept on turning the jars. Five minutes upside down, five minutes right way up, until the chilli fragments hung evenly in the jelly.
November 17th update: We reckon that the version with the floating chillis is the one to make. It is not very hot but just right. The one without the chilli bits is fine but just a fizz on the tongue.
We have already given away a few jars of this jelly and everyone seems to love it. Having tested the market, we are making some more for Christmas presents as the jelly would be great with cold turkey.
Piquant Apple chilli Jelly Recipe
- 1.5 kilos of cooking apples (windfalls are fine for this recipe). Washed, chopped roughly – no need to peel or core
- 2 pts/1140ml of water to cover the apples (so they are just beginning to float
- Grated rind and juice of one small lemon
- White granulated sugar (the amount depends on the volume of juice extracted from the simmered, drained fruit. Ipt/570ml of juice to 1lb/454gms of sugar
- 2 medium hot red chillies and one Bird’s Eye hot red chilli. Chopped with seeds left in.
- Put the chopped apples into a large saucepan with the 2 medium hot red chillies and the Bird’s eye chilli.
- Carefully grate the lemon zest from the lemon (we use a zester but a fine grater will do. Try to avoid including the pith as this would make the jelly bitter). Add to saucepan.
- Add the water and bring gently to the boil and simmer very gently until all the fruit is soft and mushy (roughly 25 minutes, depending upon how ripe the fruit is).
- Pour the cooked fruit through sterilised muslin. (How do I sterilise muslin? See tips and tricks below). The muslin is often referred to as a “jelly bag”. We use tall buckets to catch the drips from the jelly bags. Rather than hang the bags (conventional method-between two stools) I find it easier to line a large plastic sieve with the muslin. This clips neatly onto the top of a clean bucket. The sieve is covered with a clean tea cloth to protect against flies, as the jelly bag generally drips overnight.
- Measure the apple and chilli juice the next day and pour it into a deep heavy bottomed saucepan. Add 454g/1lb of white granulated sugar for each 570ml/1 pt of juice.
- Add the juice of the lemon.
- Heat the juice and sugar gently, stirring from time to time. Make sure that that all the sugar has dissolved before bringing the liquid slowly to the boil. Continue to boil for about five minutes before testing for a set. Our jelly took fifteen minutes to set. (What is testing for a set? See tips and tricks below).
- Toss in a nugget of butter towards the end to reduce the frothing that often occurs.
- When jelly has reached setting point pour into warm sterilised jars using a funnel and ladle. (How do I sterilise jars? See tips and tricks below).
- Cover immediately with plastic lined screw top lids or cellophane tops secured with a rubber band. If you want extra heat stir in some finally chopped red birds eye chillies into each jar (no seeds).
Label when cold and store in a cool, dark place. Away from damp. (What do I do if my jelly is too liquid? See Tricks and tips below)
We had 3.5 pints of juice and this made 7 pound jars of jelly.
Tips and tricks:
- What is a jelly bag?
A jelly bag is traditionally a piece of muslin but it can be cheesecloth, an old thin tea cloth or even a pillowcase. The piece needs to be about 18 inches square. When your fruit is cooked and ready to be put in the jelly bag, lay your cloth over a large bowl. Pour the fruit into the centre of the cloth and tie the four corners together so that they can be slung on a stick to drip over the bowl. Traditionally a stool is turned upside down, the stick is rested on the wood between the legs and the jelly bag hangs over the bowl. We experimented and now line a sieve with muslin, place it over a bucket and cover the lot with clean tea cloths (against the flies).
- How do I sterilise muslin/the jelly bag?
Iron the clean jelly bag with a hot iron. This also works with tea cloths.
- What is Jam “set” or “setting point”?
Getting the right set can be tricky. I have tried using a jam thermometer but find it easier to use the following method. Before you start to make the jam, put a couple of plates in the fridge so that the warm jam can be drizzled onto a cold plate (when we make jam we often forget to return the plate to the fridge between tests, using two plates means that you have a spare cold plate). Return the plate to the fridge to cool for approx two minutes. It has set when you run your finger through it and leave a crinkly track mark. If after two minutes the cooled jam is too liquid, continue to boil the jam, testing it every few minutes until you have the right set. The jam is far more delicious if it is slightly runny.
- How do I sterilise jam jars?
We collect jars all year round for our jelly, chutney and jam making sessions. I try to soak off labels and store the clean jars and metal plastic coated screw-top lids in an accessible place. The sterilising method that we used is simple. Just before making the jam, I quickly wash and rinse the jars and place them upside down in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 160c (140c fan-assisted). When the oven has reached the right temperature I turn off the heat. The jars will stay warm for quite a while. I only use plastic lined lids for preserves as the all-metal lids can go rusty. I boil these for five minutes in water to sterilise them. If I use Le Parfait jars, I do the same with the rubber rings.