It is fast approaching THAT time of year. The time when you open the front door to find one of your neighbours standing there festooned with bulging carrier bags and a hopeful expression on their face.
“Would you like a few apples?” they ask, a slight note of desperation in their voice.
What they mean, of course is “Please, please take some. The freezer is full, the kids are refusing to come home if I serve one more apple dessert and even the dog has started hiding them under the sofa.”
If you weaken, despite the fact that the end of your own garden looks like an exploded cider press, and agree to take “a few”, they will dropped a couple of bags and run before you can change your mind.
You are now faced with dozens and dozens of apples of an unknown variety in a multitude of conditions, from nice to oozy and every stage between the two.
What to do, especially as your own freezer is already full and you are beginning to hear the sounds of rebellion from your own rank and file.
The answer is chutney and jelly, double bubble from the same set of apples.
First peel your apples, discarding black bits, unidentifiable bits and anything which might be protein.. SAVE THE PEEL. Chuck it in a zip bag or a covered box, you will need it for the jelly.
Core the apples, see previous about protein bits, and save the cores with the peel.
Chop up the fruit and some onions, I can’t say how much because it depends on the number of apples you were fooled into taking, but about 8 oz of onion to 2lbs of apples is about right.
Put them in a preserving pan with a bag of dark brown sugar and enough cider vinegar to cover. Add some sultanas or some raisin or even some finely chopped prunes. Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of hours until all is thick and a spoon dragged across the bottom of the pan leaves a clean line. You will need to check and stirred regularly to stop it burning. Put into hot sterilised jars and cover in the usual way. Leave for a month or so before eating. Don’t be tempted to try it earlier, it won’t be nice.
You can spice up the mix anyway you like. My son-in-law would probably add a fistful of chillies, maybe two fists full, but those of us who like our mouths unblistered might add paprika or coriander or cloves. I like to put mustard seeds in, they add crunch and spice without getting over excited.
This chutney is perfect with cheese, delicious with ham and a must for a pork pie.
Now for the jelly.
Take all the peel and the cores and put them in a big pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer until everything has fallen apart and the whole thing looks disgusting.
Take off the heat and put the whole lot into a jelly bag to drip over night. Please put a bowl under the jelly bag to catch the result, I refuse to accept any responsibility for the omission of this.
No jelly bag? A one leg of a pair of tights does an excellent job.
The next day, discard the remaining contents of the jelly bag (tights leg) in the compost heap and tip all the collected juice into a jug and measure it, it may take a couple of goes to measure it all. Once you know how much liquid you have, pour it into a saucepan and add sugar at the ratio of 1lb of sugar to 1 pint of juice. You may have to do some maths, but it isn’t an absolute, so don’t worry too much, just try and be somewhere near.
Heat the mix slowly until the sugar is dissolved and then bring to a rolling boil and boil until you reach jam setting point. To skim off any scum, because underneath there will be a beautiful clear, amber coloured syrup which will set to a glorious soft jelly.
You can just put it in jars as you would any jam or jelly, it is delicious with ham or on crumpets or pancakes, but you can also flavour it by adding things to the jars as you pouring in the hot syrup. Herbs like mint, sage or thyme work well, as does strips of lemon peel or a couple of chillies you have slit open to let the fire out.
Two treats for the dark cold days to come from the same unpromising bags.