Elderberry and crab-apple jelly

When I go to visit my sister I always have a look at the single rather magnificent crab-apple tree on the triangle of grass by the little carpark. Its shape is exactly that of a child’s picture of a tree, a straight but stumpy trunk and an almost round head of branches and twigs. The fresh new spring leaves are a bright and cheerful almost limey green, the blossom on my sister’s tree is pink and double and lush. The fruits are abundant year after year, ripening to a yellowy red-y orange. No-one ever picks them – I’m sure if I asked at the home where she lives I would be welcome to gather them, but I just never do. Crab-apples make the most delicious jam, bright and jewel-clear. Whenever I see crab-apples I always think of the road we used to walk along to get to school which had been imaginatively planted with alternate crab-apples and silver birches; it was such a splendid sight at any time of the year.

Here’s an unusual (and rather abbreviated) recipe from Ethelind Fearon for crab-apple and elderberry jelly, I wonder what it would taste like? Maybe I should gather the fallen crab-apples from my sister’s place and pick the abundant elderberries which grow round here and have a go!

Elderberry and crab-apple jelly

  • elderberries
  • crab-apples
  • lemons
  • sugar
  1. elderberries should be stripped and apples cut up small, rind and all
  2. twice as many elderberries as apples, preferably crabs, boiled in enough water to cover
  3. when soft, strain over-night
  4. put in the pan with the juice of 1 lemon to every 2 lbs of fruit and boil for a few minutes
  5. add sugar, one pound to one pint, and when dissolved boil furiously for about ten minutes, skimming as it boils

At the beginning of the section on jellies in her book, ‘Jams, Jellies and Preserves’, published in 1953, Ethelind gives an all-purpose recipe and instructions on how to bottle:

  • jars should be hot from the oven
  • fill almost to overflowing, cover with a waxed disc and tie down
  • for the best colour (and this is even more important with jelly than jam) store in a dark cupboard


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