This year has more than compensated, with a great harvest and lots of lovely big cookers on the trees - they are probably Bramleys, but I really don't know the variety as they are there forever.
My grandfather planted one or two of the trees in the 1920s as we found a letter from Power's Plant Nursery in Waterford from that era pricing apple trees. The third we know from family lore was transplanted from the local vet's garden back in the Twenties or Thirties; they were throwing out this tree and Granddad rescued it. It is the one nearest the house now and supports my clothes line on one of its dead branches. They are all quite wonky and one looks like it could tip over and probably need a prop one of these years. Another is so tall there is no way we can ever reach the top branches so rely on the wind to knock 'em off as literal windfalls.
Here are some photos of the trees for posterity. They have served us well over the years - I am making lots of apple tarts this year and bringing them to work for the teabreaks as I would balloon if I kept them all for home though I'll always have one on the go for visitors.
The house is quite quiet nowadays with only hubby and teen daughter and myself here - two sons in Cork and one in Dublin mean we're travelling at weekends to visit them and happy to do so but they don't come home as often as they did from college. So while I still channel my baking muse the beneficiaries are work colleagues and friends more than the family.
I haven't made apple jelly for two years now, of necessity, and still have lots of the last batch, which is perfect - "preserves" in name and nature! Home-made stuff doesn't have a sell-by or best-before date but with the jars sterilised before filling (in the oven) it means bacteria don't get a look-in. It's only when the jar is opened that you have to watch out, though it's very unlikely to go off in the lifetime of a pot of jelly, as it'll be eaten before mould can take hold!
A caveat for any newcomers to Apple Jelly - you need TIME! It has to be made over two days or one day if you start stage one in the morning. That doesn't equate to lots of work - that's minimal and is perfect for an intrinsic lazybones like me - no need to prep fruit, only wash the apples.
Stage One - Ingredients
- 3 Kilos Windfall apples or any cooking apples in good nick - no rotten apples.
- 2 litres/3-4 pints water (no need for great accuracy here)
- Rind of lemon (use potato peeler to peel off, as you need rest of lemon later)
- A Jelly Bag. (Any cotton bag with handles or an old cotton pillow case will do - it's to strain the apple pulp and will stain horribly so nothing can be used for anything else ever again!)
- Two Kitchen Chairs (To hang jelly bag between the chairbacks)
- Large bowl or basin to catch the juice from the jelly bag.
- Wash apples - no need to cut or core or peel
- Put whole apples in large saucepan or pressure cooker with water and lemon rind
- Bring to boil and cover
- Simmer or pressure cook for an hour/until completely pulped
- Mash up with wooden spoon or potato masher
- Carefully pour into the jelly bag hanging between the two chair backs with the basin on the floor
- Apple juice - obtained after pulp straining
- Juice of one lemon
- Cloves a few- optional if you like the flavour
- Measure a pound of sugar to each pint of juice obtained after straining overnight or until pulp no longer drips.
- (For Metric types - that's 450gms sugar to each 600ml juice)
- Jam Pots warmed in oven (put in cold oven and turn on heat to about 140C/285F so they warm gradually .
- (I use any clean glass jars with metal lids as they have a much longer shelf life than using cellophane jam pot covers as more sterile)
- Measure Apple Juice into large pot
- Bring to boil
- Add measured sugar
- Add Lemon Juice
- Add cloves if desired
- Boil and skim off foam/scum that forms on surface - use a spoon
- Reduce volume by about a third and test occasionally for setting point - reached when jelly wrinkles if poured on a plate and left to cool.
- Remove jars from oven (careful now!) and turn off cooker - jelly shouldn't be boiling or you'll get tiny bubbles in it.
- Ladle or pour jelly into the warm jars, fill to brim, and cap immediately.
- Stand on heatproof surface to cool, and listen for the pop as the jars vacuum seal - the little button on most lids will pop in. That's your seal of guaranteed preservation!
Enjoy fresh baked crusty bread, real butter and just-cooled jelly - heaven with a cuppa tea!
Photos from the top:
- Finished product - nicely labelled by hubby!
- The three apple trees in the garden
- Jelly bag hanging between the chair backs
- Jelly pulp straining into basin
- Pulp in bag
- Juice after pulp strained overnight
- Foamy scum when jelly boils after adding sugar
- Ready to pot - warm jars, Pyrex jug and ladle, plate for testing setting point/holding foamy skim-off.
- Payback time - bread and jelly, a cuppa and set jelly in dish!