Now's the time to pick crab apples, growing up and down the country in hedgerows, car parks, roadsides and even in town municipal planting.
Looking just like regular apples, but in miniature, these little beauts are pretty much inedible raw being so bitter and sour. Turning them into delicious pink jelly will give you the perfect accompaniment to pork, ham and even cheese. A dollop of this with a chunk of pork pie is heaven. They also make a great addition to a homemade Christmas hamper.
The apples are ready when they come away from the tree with the gentlest of twists, although with the current weather there's likely to be plenty of windfalls.
Begin by thoroughly washing the apples. Then cut into half or quarters depending on size. There's no need to peel or even core, chuck the chunks into a large saucepan. Pour on enough cold water to cover the fruit. Add some lemon rind at the ratio of 1 lemon per kilo of apples. Turn the heat on high and bring to a rapid boil.
Then turn down to a moderate heat and cook for around 1 hour until the fruit is mushy. Strain through a muslin and leave overnight to drip through into a bowl beneath. Do not squeeze or it will cloud your jelly.
Next day, sterilise your jam jars by washing it hot soapy water, rinsing then placing on their side in a very low oven.
Measure the amount of apple liquid you have strained. Add approximately 1 lb of sugar for every pint of liquid - less if you want a sharper taste. Return to the pan with the sugar and heat slowly to dissolve. As it heats, your liquid will turn from a pink grapefruit colour, to a rich liquid amber. Turn the heat up high and bring to a rapid boil. Skim off any scum with a metal spoon. After about 10 minutes of boiling you should have reached setting point. You can test this by dropping a spoonful onto a cold plate from the fridge and seeing if it's set.
Leave to cool a little before decanting into your sterilised jars. When completely cold, screw on the lids tightly and store in the fridge or a dark cupboard.
Let me know if you give it a try!