‘…whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye…’
But how many apples can one girl really use?
Well, it turns out, as many as a short girl and her even shorter friend can pick, because not many apples hang as low as 5’3″, and unless you’re prepared with ladders, you have to take what you can get. Which in our case was two decent sized bags full of a mix of different varieties from three different trees on Wandsworth Common. All of them are eaters not cookers, but not eaters as we know them, bred into perfection, idyllically spherical, and with an ever so demure blush of pink on one side. No these are the slightly ‘are they sweet or are they slightly sour?’, wonky, with odd marks on the skin, and pips that make a proper star shape on the inside apples that I remember eating when I was little. And I’m not even that old.
Anyway, I digress. Two trees into our foraging quest, we were in the swing of things, but slightly disappointed by the fact that our height was impairing us from getting an incredible one-stop harvest. So when we saw a low-ish hanging crab apple tree, next to one of the footpaths, complete with a handily-placed fence, and the cutest looking miniature crab-apples, the sort that you’d give to poison Snow White, my five-foot-nothing friend, was shimmying up the trunk before I could ask who was the fairest of them all.
Turns out that even if you climb a tree, if you still can’t reach the ends of the branches, you’re no better off. Though all of the passing dog-walkers were mightily impressed by the youthfulness of her skills. She hauled a grand total of four crabapples.
It seemed a shame for them not to be put to any use at all, so I matched their weight in elderberries, another notoriously small fruit, and made elderberry and crabapple jelly.
It’s a tiny quantity, in a tiny jar, made with mini fruit for one of the few people in this world who’s smaller than I am. Even in heels. Good things. Small packages. Nuff said.
Matched weights of fruit (elderberries off their stalks, crabapples loosely chopped and with their cores for the pectin) eg 1kg crabapples and 1kg elderberries
Put the prepared fruit into a heavy bottomed pan and cover to about halfway with water. Bring it to the boil and then simmer until the fruit is mushy.
Strain the whole lot through a clean piece of cotton (an old pillowcase will do) or if you have the kit, through muslin.
Once you’ve collected all the fluid, weigh it, and add two-thirds of its weight in sugar e.g. 1litre of juice needs 750g sugar, (remember 1ml weighs 1g).
Put the whole lot into a heavy-bottomed pan, heat it through until the sugar’s dissolved and bring it to a fast boil for ten minutes. Put a small side plate into your freezer. After ten minutes take the plate out of the freezer and drop a blob of the jam mix onto the plate. If after a few seconds it sets and when you push it it wrinkles, then it’s ready to jar up. Or again, if you’ve got the kit, it’s ready when it hits 106C.
Make sure your jars have been sterilised – just wash them with your ordinary dishes and then bake in a hot oven – and pour the jam into the jars while the glass is still warm. Put a wax disc/round of greaseproof paper on the top, and seal the lid on.
Keep it for a few weeks, and then spread lavishly onto your toast one chilly winter morning.