I've wittered on about making savoury apple jellies before, but I don't care, I'm going to do it again. They've become one of my essential store cupboard items and, following the superb crop of apples in England last year, I was given plenty of cooking apples with which to experiment over the autumn and winter. This jelly won the award for best newcomer.
It's more fragrant and a little less punchy than some of the others that I make but it’s certainly no shrinking violet when it comes to flavour. The cardamom is the main taste but it does need the lemon to provide a lift. It’s excellent served with cured or smoked salmon or used as a glaze when roasting salmon fillets. It also works very well with lamb and cold meats and adds an extra depth to vegetable dishes. Mixed with white wine, lemon juice and olive oil it will create a fine marinade or glaze for chicken or pork and it's useful for adding extra flavour to quick, weekday curries. You can even use it to flavour sweet dishes but, if you want a truly sweet jelly, then swap the vinegar in the recipe for more water.
Although this may sound like quite a few apples, it will only produce roughly three small jars. It might seem like a lot of effort for not much reward but a little does go a long way and will provide a big flavour boost whenever you fancy it.
For the first stage:
1 kg cooking apples (Bramleys are the obvious choice, but other varieties will be fine too)
500 ml white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
500 ml water
2 unwaxed lemons
40 (or so) lightly crushed cardamom pods
For the second stage:
450 g granulated sugar for every 550 ml of liquid that dripped through the jelly bag
Seeds of around 30 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
It’s probably easiest to make the jelly over two days so that it can left overnight, but, failing that, allow at least 3 – 5 hours between stages one and two.
For stage 1, wash the apples and make sure that there are no damaged bits on them. Chop the apples roughly without peeling or removing the pips. Place the apple pieces in a preserving pan together with the vinegar and water. Cut the lemons in half and add them to the pan. Stir in the cardamom and place the pan on the heat. Bring to the boil, squeezing the lemon halves with the back of a wooden spoon to make sure that juice escapes. Put a lid on the pan and simmer the mixture until the apples have collapsed and become mushy. This probably won’t take more than 15 minutes, although it will vary a little depending on the variety of apple you’re using.
Put the contents of the pan into a jelly bag (or you could use fine muslin) and leave it to drip through into a clean container.
When you awake refreshed the next morning or when you just can’t wait any longer, measure the liquid that’s dripped through the bag, pour it back into the cleaned preserving pan and add the appropriate amount of sugar for the second stage. (Don’t use sugar with added pectin – there’ll be plenty of pectin in the mixture from the apples and lemons already).
Put the pan on a medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat, bring to the boil and skim any unpleasant looking foam or scum from the top. Boil until the jelly reaches setting point. These days I've learnt to trust a jam thermometer and the way the jelly looks to tell me when that point has been reached. There’s always the old wrinkle test as an alternative, though: chill a saucer in the freezer, put a small dollop of the jelly on the saucer, wait a moment or two and if the jelly wrinkles when you push it with your finger, then it’s ready.
As the jelly starts to cool, it will begin to thicken. At this point, stir in the cardamom seeds, which should remain suspended in the jelly. If they sink to the bottom, let the jelly cool a little more and stir again. Pour the jelly into sterilised jars and seal. I tend to get through the jars of jelly quite quickly but they should keep for about a year unopened if stored in a cool, dark cupboard. Once opened, store in the fridge, where they should last for at least six weeks.