There is a horse chestnut tree at the main gate, by South Lodge, which is always the first to turn autumnal. I become a bit obsessed with it’s progress from green to slightly yellow, to an orangey tinge to full on bronze. At first I’m in denial that summer is nearly over but then I remember how stunning Kintyre is in Autumn.
Another sure indication that Autumn is upon us comes from the boxes of apples that are appearing in the porch once or twice a week. Our gardeners, Tony and Mudita are carefully monitoring the cordons in the walled garden and picking the ripe fruit before the hungry birds steal it all. I’m determined not to waste so much as a pip this year as it all got a bit overwhelming last year and sadly a lot of fruit spoiled before I could use it.
There are so many delicious options with apples. The obvious thing is to stew and freeze them for crumbles and pies but this requires a mammoth peeling and coring session which is an arduous task even with my magic device, purchased after hand peeling 10lbs of apples last year, resulting in a near-breakdown.
Thanks to Pinterest, I stumbled across apple jelly which I’d never heard of before. I chose a recipe that dealt with the biggest volume of fruit and set to work. There’s really not much to it. You need 8lbs of apples which you roughly chop and chuck into a massive pot with 2.25 litres of water. Or 2 massive pots in my case. Bring the pot/s to a boil then simmer for 30 minutes on a hob or about an hour and a half in the bottom of an Aga (if like me you have limited recall, set a timer so you don’t forget).
The next step is to strain the fruit to get a clear liquid. I have vague memories of my mum making bramble jelly with a strange felt bag precariously balanced over a large pan with the help of two stools and a broom handle. Luckily the world has changed and you can now purchase a handy tripod strainer with a washable nylon bag from good old Lakeland.
Ladle in the fruit as much as you can at a time and leave it overnight to strain. Measure the liquid and weigh out 150g of granulated sugar for every 250ml of apple juice. I was horrified by the mountain of sugar required but it’s not like you’ll eat a whole jar in one sitting (although…). You’ll also need 1.5 tsp of lemon juice per 250ml of juice. Throw it all in the big pot and start to heat it up, stirring well. The setting point should be around 220F (My trusty meat probe keeps me right. One day I might actually use it for meat. A good friend of mine uses hers to test the temperature of the sea before we jump in. Handy things, meat probes.)
Meanwhile you will have been very organised and sterilised some jam jars ready to be filled. I use the dishwasher which makes things easy if I time it right. Fill the jars to the top and screw on the lids. Leave to set somewhere cool. It might take a while so don’t panic and be tempted to chuck it all away whilst wailing why did you even bother and what’s the point of anything. (Sometimes you learn the hard way…).
Ta-dah – apple jelly! Its wonderful stuff. Great on scones, lovely with cheese, amazing as a glaze for ribs and a refreshing change from apple sauce with roast pork.
Here’s the link to the recipe: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/apple-jelly-jam-recipe/