Recent weeks have seen Autumn creeping in with chillier, darker evenings and there is a definite freshness in the air. Long bright evenings are giving way to shorter darker ones and fruit crops are awaiting harvest. I am very fortunate to have a glut of Bramley apples at my disposal and capitalising on this is a source of great enjoyment for me. While Bramleys are generally later to be harvested than other apple varieties, breezy weather ensures the descent of plenty of windfalls ahead of their usual, October peak season. Windfalls are generally underripe and smaller in size and can be bitter, even when they’re cooked with lashings of sugar. All is not lost however, as they are higher in pectin than ripe fruit and this makes them fantastic for apple jelly. My late grandmother, Mary Healy was a prolific jam maker and I can remember being very young seeing her make apple jelly. She used to turn a chair inside down, placing the seat on the kitchen table. She would attach a muslin cloth to the four legs with twine and the apple pulp would be placed into the muslin with a large bowl underneath. Leaving this fruit filled contraption overnight, the juice would drip through the muslin ending up in the bowl beneath. She used wild crap apples but windfall apples will do just fine. This was my version of my Granny’s apparatus
For this recipe I used about 5 kilos of apples and the nice thing is you don’t need to core or peel them. Cut them into quarters and place in a large bowl of water until you’re ready to put them into your pan. There apparently is a such thing as a preserving pan but I just use a large stock pot. It’s really important however, that your pot is very deep as your bubbling jam mixture rises up quite a bit (and is as hot as molten lava) so you really don’t want it boiling over! Take your apples out of the bowl of water and place in your large pot. Add enough water to come about one third of the way up the apples. You don’t want them anything near covered or immersed in water as your jelly will be too runny and won’t set. Bring to a lively, bubbling boil for about 10 minutes and then allow to cool for about 15 minutes. Next, add your mushy apples to your muslin with a large empty bowl underneath and allow to drip overnight.
Once you have your apple juice, add the juice of two lemons and measure it. For every 600mls of juice you will need 500g of sugar. Next, place the juice in your large (now washed) pot. Bring to a rapid boil and add your sugar. If your not too confident in your jam making abilities, then use jam sugar, which has added pectin to help it set. Allow it to bubble for 15-20 minutes. If you have a jam thermometer you can check to see if it reaches the required temperature but this isn’t a necessity. While your jam is bubbling, place your jars in the oven to sterilise them. About 10 to 15 minutes on a low heat (about 70 degrees) should do it. I used some cute little spring top preserving jars that I got from Viking Direct http://www.vikingdirect.ie/a/pb/Transworld-Products-Preserve-Jar-200ml/id=6159402/ but old jars (well cleaned) can be used too. If you’re using the spring top jars (which are lovely if you’re giving the jam away as gifts) follow the instructions with them for sterilising the rubber rings. If you have a dishwasher then running them through a cycle would sterilise them but they must be still warm when you go to fill them to avoid them cracking when you pour the hot jam in!
Once your jam mixture has bubbled for at least 15 minutes take a spoonful out and place on a cold saucer. Run your finger through it and if it doesn’t run, refilling the line you’ve made, then it’s ready for potting. Allow it to cool a little (for about ten minutes) and then place in your still warm pots. Seal with jam pot covers if you’re not using spring top jars. You can get these in some supermarkets and most household stores. Label them and store. The jelly is fabulous on buttered toast or brown bread but could also be used as an accompaniment to roast pork or bacon. Enjoy xxx