To use up the last of my blackberries I decided to look ahead to Christmas, I like to give homemade gifts and have been stockpiling jars throughout the year to fill with homemade goodies. The cooking apples on the tree in my garden were also ready to be picked and apple and blackberry is the perfect combination so I opted to make a spiced apple and blackberry jelly.
This was my first attempt at making jelly, the jam type that it, and it turned out to be a fair bit simpler than I anticipated. It takes longer than jam to make as it is cooked twice and you have to leave it to drip through a jelly bag in-between for at least a couple of hours. I started it in the evening by cooking the fruit and spices then left it to strain overnight and then added the sugar and boiled it till it set in the morning.
You will need a maslin pan or a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and a jelly bag to strain the juice through. I don't have a jelly bag so I used a clean, thin tea towel, you can also use a sheet of muslin or a clean pillowcase. Whatever you use, iron it with a hot iron beforehand to sterilise it. To strain the juice I lined a fine sieve with the tea towel and placed it over a large, deep saucepan, poured the cooked fruit into the sieve, tied the corners of the tea towel up over the fruit and covered everything with another tea towel while it dripped overnight.
My first thought when tasting this jelly was that it tastes like Christmas! It is the perfect blend of winter spices and almost has the flavour of mulled wine, one of my favourite Christmas drinks. It is good on toast and with cheese and I imagine would work well with cold meats or added to gravy.
As you can see from the photos when the jelly in the jar it is an attractive deep purple-red colour, but when it is spread thinly it becomes an incredibly bright red, very festive!
I have submitted this recipe to Fiesta Friday at The Novice Gardener
Makes 4-5 small jars.
- 1kg cooking apples, unpeeled
- 500g blackberries
- 3 cinnamon sticks (the short ones)
- 2 star anise
- 10 cloves
- 10 allspice berries
- 5 cardamom pods
- 1 whole nutmeg, cracked
- 1tsp ground ginger
- the peel of one orange
- 700ml water
- 550g jam sugar
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
Wash and chop the apples into small chunks, leaving the skin on and cores in, tip them into a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan with the berries, spices, orange peel and water. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer with a lid on for 1 to 1 ½ hours until the fruit has turned to mush. Give it a stir every now and again to make sure that it doesn't catch on the bottom but be very careful as it will bubble up and spit at you when you do so.
Pour the fruit mixture into a jelly bag or a sieve lined with muslin or a tea towel, suspended over a large bowl. Leave to drip for 2 hours (until it stops dripping) or overnight. Do not be tempted to push the liquid though the sieve or squeeze the bag as your jelly will become cloudy.
Before you begin the next stage, sterilise your jars: put the oven on low ( about 140-150°C/gas mark 1-2), wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly, then place upside-down on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, put it in the oven and leave them in there until you are ready to fill them.
Place a couple of saucers in the freezer. Pour the strained juice into a large pan and add the sugar and cider vinegar; Set over a low heat to dissolve the sugar, stirring constantly. Once dissolved, turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Boil rapidly for 10 minutes, skimming away any scum that rises to the surface, then start testing for a set.
To test if the jelly is set, take the pan off the heat so that it doesn't over boil, get one of the saucers out of the freezer and pour a scant teaspoon of jelly onto it, leave it for a minute, then push at it with a finger, if it is set a film will have formed on the surface and will wrinkle. If it doesn't wrinkle, return the pan to the heat and the saucer to the freezer and continue to boil the jelly for another 5 minutes before testing again, repeat until a set is reached.
Once the jelly is set pour it into your sterilised jars being careful not to burn yourself, the jars and jelly are hot! It is best to use a funnel to pour the jelly as it will still be very liquid. Tightly seal the jars with the lids and leave to cool before labelling.
Once opened keep refrigerated.