I was surprised at how mucky my hands were after picking the fruit as I don't put anything like pesticides or fungicides on the tree, so it must all have been 'natural' dirt and probably car fumes from the traffic on the relatively major road nearby. Needless to say, I decided that the fruit needed a very thorough clean before I started following Mrs Beeton's recipe for crab apple jelly, but once it was washed (and soaped!) and as clean as could be I divided the fruit up into portions of the correct weight for the recipe, and soon saw that I was going to be doing several batches of it. So here's a pic of one batch of the fruit:
Next came the cutting of the tiny apples, and throwing them in a pan with the water and spices:
And boiling them up until they were soft:
Then straining them to get all the lovely juiciness that would (hopefully) become the jelly:
And then boiling up, and trying not to burn, those lovely juices to thicken up:
Now, unfortunately, Mrs Beeton isn't too descriptive in her instructions for when the loveliness is ready to be put into jars, and just says it's ready 'when it sets quickly on a cold plate.' That's all very well, but what is the definition of quickly? I dunno. I still don't know, but I decided 30 seconds to a minute was probably about right, so after much testing I eventually got bored and decided it was ready. I ladelled it into jars, managing to get a fair bit of stickiness on the benches and around the kitchen, and most definitely over all the jars, some of which are still sticky despite the many wiping downs they've had. And after several repetitions of the whole process this was the product of my labour:
I have to say that I was rather impressed with myself, and more than a little surprised that it had all worked out. Not only that, but when I eventually got around to tasting it I discovered it was rather lovely! It goes amazingly well with a strong cheddar cheese, and it was also quite scrummy with the completely made up lentil loaf thingumy that I made for Christmas lunch with W on 17th December (we had an early Christmas together with lunch and a trip to the panto, which was all great fun). What's more, the jelly doesn't only taste scrummy, but it doesn't dribble all over the plate - it's actually jellified! Of course there was far too much crab apple jelly for me to get through so I've been giving jars of it away, and I brought some up to Edinburgh with me where I've been having Christmas with Mum and J.
I came up to Edinburgh on Thursday. Driving. In the snow. It was quite possibly the scariest drive of my life. For any of you who know the A1 north of Newcastle, you'll know that the vast majority of it is single carriage way. It's also now in a terrible state from the freezing temperatures that have wrecked the tarmac and created huge crevasse-like potholes. It's quite something to negotiate these craters, and I'm sure that they could cause a serious accident if a wheel got caught in them at just the wrong angle. So I was trying to avoid these, but at the same time I was having to concentrate hard as I was periodically engulfed in blizzards of snow that reduced visibility considerably, but which didn't deter some maniac drivers from getting right on my tail. My strategy when this happens is always to slow down. I know this may well frustrate the driver behind me even more, but to be honest, if I'm going to be smashed into I want it to be as low an impact as possible.
Then there was the slush and ice. Various stretches of road had been cleared by snow ploughs, but certainly not all, or by any means most. I followed the tyre tracks from the traffic ahead of me as much as possible, but this didn't stop me from occasionally sliding on the slush, and on three occasions I gently skated onto the other side of the road, unable to do anything about it until my car tyres found a bit of tarmac to grip onto again. Amazingly, each time I slid that far over the raod there wasn't any on-coming traffic so avoided a head-on collision and probable death. The road was generally quite busy - the 23rd December being the busiest day of the year for road traffic, apparently - so it surely was that God was watching over me while I travelled north that meant that on each of my excursions to the wrong side of the road there was nothing coming. The whole journey really was quite terrifying and I was exhausted by the time I got here.
I made it to Edinburgh and to my parents' house, and we have been having a lovely, quiet, gentle Christmas together, with an abundance of food (including some of my crab apple jelly) and an abundance of presents. It's wonderful. Neither my mum nor my step-dad are Christians (Mum's a hybrid of agnostic-atheist, whilst J is a committed atheist), but we did all go to the Nine Lessons and Carols service at St. Mary's Episcopalian Cathedral, where they both enjoyed the music, and I enjoyed the music and the joy of the true meaning of Christmas.
I hope you have all had a lovely Christmas and a peaceful time with family and friends. Happy Christmas, all!