The Cottage Smallholder

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Sloe and Bramley Apple Jelly Recipe

a tiny pot of sloe jelly

Tiny pot of sloe and apple jelly

This teeny jar of Sloe and Bramley Apple Jelly is the last one left in our larder, vintage September 2005. The jar is 1½ inches high and the ladle is in fact a mustard spoon. We ran up some individual portion pots for a friend of ours, as a joke. This one must have got left behind. She had made the mistake of leaving a large jar of our Sloe and Bramley Apple Jelly on the table, when she gave her husband Newmarket sausages for supper and he polished off most of it in one sitting.

This recipe makes a good raunchy jelly to eat with red meat, game and strong cheese. It’s also great as a sauce base for red meat, such as lamb chops. Danny usually adds a generous dollop to his pheasant casserole and dinky individual game pies, rather than adding a slug of port or sloe gin. As Sloe and Bramley Jelly has a good, strong depth of flavour it is definitely worth making a decent batch for your store cupboard. We use a bit more sugar than the usual 1pt/1lb ratio with this jelly and this seems to work well as we always use cooking apples.


  • 1 1/2 pounds/700g sloes, washed
  • 1 1/2 pounds/700g of bramley cooking apples (ideal) or any other cooking apples. We use windfalls as they won’t keep.
  • Sugar (1 UK pint/750ml/2 1/2 cups of strained juice to 1 1/2 pounds/700g of white granulated sugar, if using cooking apples. 1 pint/750ml/2 1/2 cups of strained juice to 1 pound/454g if using sweet eating apples).


  1. Wash the apples, cut out bad bits and chop roughly. There is no need to peel or core the apples.
    Place sloes and apples in a large deep heavy bottomed saucepan, or preserving pan.
  2. Add water to cover ½ of the fruit. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer very gently until all the fruit is soft and squishy. (This can take anything from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on how ripe the fruit is.)
  3. 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.
  4. Leave the jelly bag to drip overnight (or about 12 hours).
  5. Measure the juice the next day.
  6. Pour the juice into a deep heavy bottomed saucepan and add 1½ lb/700g of white granulated sugar for each 1pt/570ml of juice.
    Heat the juice and sugar gently stirring from time to time, so as to make sure that that all the sugar has dissolved before bringing the liquid slowly to the boil.
  7. Continue to boil for about 10 minutes before testing for a set. This is called a rolling boil. (What is testing for a set? See tips and tricks below).
  8. Tossing in a nugget of butter towards the end will reduce the frothing that can occur.
    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).
  9. Cover immediately with plastic lined screw top lids or waxed disks and cellophane tops secured with a rubber band.
  10. Label when cold and store in a cool, dark place. Away from damp.

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 method will also sterilise tea cloths.
  • 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 the 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 use 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 for 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.


  Leave a reply


  1. Steve Everitt

    Hi Kerry

    I find the best time to pick them is before anyone else has.

    Seriously, there is a myth that you shouldn’t pick them until there has been a frost. However, I think this just relates to the time of year and that one would have expected there to have been frosts by now in “the olden days”. This also gives rise to the myth that they have to be put in the freezer before you can use them. Not true. (Another myth is that they have to be pricked to let out the juice – when they have perfectly acceptable hole where the stalk used to be).

    Going back to pickng time, I prefer “when the leaves start to fall”. I picked mine in mid October. They have been fine – in fact, some of them were already looking a bit withered then.

    Oh, by the way – I wouldn’t taste them on their own. They’re simply ghastly. But when juiced and combined with the apples and sugar to make the jelly (or you can make jam, but they have to be stoned, which isn’t easy) or sozzled with a variety of alcohols, they are one of nature’s gifts as are many things in the hedgerow (crabapples, hips, haws, bulaces, blackberries and elderberries to name but a few).

  2. Can anyone tell me when the best time to pick sloes are? I’ve just found a hedge near where we live but have never picked them (nor tasted) before.

    I’ve made the apple and chilli jelly on here with great success and wanted to try this as I still have half a bag of cooking apples from my neighbours.

  3. Steve Everitt

    Hi Elizabeth
    Interesting, as I have never had a batch reach setting point before the 10 minutes are up. Try adding a bit more water to start with, as you may be under-egging the “half cover the fruit with water” bit. That will only result in you having to take the mixture down a bit more (and probably for for longer than just 10 minutes) but if the result is better (i.e. you keep testing until setting point is just reached)then you won’t end up with such a hard jelly.
    On the apples subject, although the Cox you tasted may have been a bit tart, try comparing that with a mouthful of Bramley – which I guarantee will result in your eyes slamming shut like clams. The Cox are still much sweeter.
    Good luck.

  4. Elizabeth

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for your reply. I think, yes, we did definitely add too much sugar, even though the apples tasted fairly sour. We did use the wrinkle test to see if the jelly had reached its setting point, but left it to boil for the full 10 minutes before testing it, so perhaps we should have checked it sooner! We™re going to use Bramley apples next time, so hopefully that will make a difference too!

    The orange and whiskey variation sounds interesting – I think I’d better get the hang of the basic recipe first though, before I get to adventurous! 🙂

  5. Steve Everitt

    Hi Elizabeth
    This is Fiona’s recipe really, but I would say that if you used Cox apples, then you put in too much sugar and almost certainly boiled the juice/sugar for too long. Did you use the “wrinkle test” for setting point? I only ever use Bramley apples – to my mind, the only cooking apple that should ever be used; the Bramleyhas no peer!
    Another variation I have just tried is to add the flesh and juice of 2 oranges to the mix, but taking the zest off the oranges in thin slivers using a julien tool before adding the chopped up orange skins too. Hold the thin slivers of orange zest back until the juice has been extracted and add them at the same time as the sugar. Add half a glass of whiskey before testing for setting. Best version yet, I’d say.

  6. Elizabeth

    Hi Fiona and Steve,

    Thanks very much for your comments (above) on lemon juice!

    The sloe and apple jelly that my mom and I made was unfortunately a bit of a disaster! 🙁 , and although it did look lovely in the jars (as I mentioned before) – a lovely dark red colour, and completely clear – it turned out very firm and really sticky (a bit like toffee), and it tastes far too sweet – you can’t really taste the fruit at all, it just tastes of sugar! 🙁

    We started with 1½ lb of apples and 1½ lb of sloes. To begin with we tried to add just enough water to cover half the fruit, as instructed, but we needed to add quite a lot more during the simmering stage as it soon seemed to disappear – not sure whether we just hadn’t added enough initially, or whether we just simmered the fruit on too higher heat here! 🙁

    I did taste the fruit juice before adding the sugar and it did taste quite bland and not very fruity, but having never made a jelly before, I thought maybe it’ll just have more flavour once we™ve added the sugar, and all turn out fine in the end, but unfortunately not!! 🙁

    We used Cox’s eating apples from our garden. Although eating apples and not cookers, they seemed quite sour so we still added the 1½ lb of sugar to the 1 pint of juice that we™d made – but as the jelly turned out so sweet, perhaps we should have added less!?

    We’re going to try again, as we still have quite a lot of sloes left in the freezer! If either of you, or anyone else, has any comments that might be of help for this next attempt, I’d be really grateful! Thanks 🙂

  7. Elizabeth

    Made the sloe and apply jelly and it is beautiful. I used less sugar so a bit of the tartness of the sloes and apples still comes through. Also made the piquant apply and chilli jelly which is nice but doesn’t compete.
    Really enjoy the site, thanks for the great recipes.

  8. Steve Everitt

    Hi Elizabeth

    I agree with everything Fiona says about flavour enhancement of both lemon juice and salt. However, I didn’t add either to the actual jam (and never have to the jelly either)- mainly because I don’t think it’s necessary in this case as sloes have enough flavour of their own. I added the orange to the jam, if anything to try and take down the flavour of the sloes and maybe just to add a little “something”. You can also add a glug of something alcoholic if you feel so inclined (as I have in the past) which has the same end; I would suggest Port, Whiskey or Brandy. I have certainly tried the former two. Just variations on a theme!


  9. Elizabeth

    Hi, we have just made two jars of sloe and apple jelly using your above recipe – It looks really lovely, but we haven’t tried any yet as it’s still cooling! I’ve noticed that some other recipes that I’ve found use lemon juice as an ingrediant, and I was wondering if you knew why this is or what difference it would make to the flavour?

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Elizabeth

      Lemon juice contains loads of pectin so is often added to low pectin fruit jelly recipes to guarantee that they will set. Lemon is a flavour enhancer like salt and can be used instead of salt to enhance any recipe in the world – great for people with high blood pressure where salt might be unwelcome.

      Sloe and apple jelly is very flavoursome so probably doesn’t need salt. If you do add it I’m sure we’d all appreciate reading your results!

  10. Steve Everitt

    One small thing about the above recipe. I forgot to say to add the orange zest to the mixture at the same time as the juice. I was trying to allude to NOT adding the pith of the orange after juicing takes place, but wandered off the subject of the actual zest.


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