If only I could learn to trust, when September turns rotten, that October will blaze through with golden light.
Can you believe all this was foraged from the very hedge which marks the boundary of Cork city and county. The hedge runs through a bit of land known as Murphy’s farm. Not even my extremely knowledgeable father-in-law has been able to tell me who Murphy was but I guess he must have planted these crab apple trees. I thank you, Mr. Murphy.
Husband did the tree-shaking while Small Girl and I hopped about gathering these fairy-sized apples.The rose hips were somewhat more painstaking. There are a handful of Rosa rugosa, probably planted by the city council, but most are common dog rose (Rosa canina) and hail from the county side of the hedge. In the background of the above photo you can see a colander full of red crabs from our garden tree which is a red sentinel. We also threw in a half dozen fruits from our ornamental quince (Chaenomeles japonica) which Alys Fowler assures me (in this book) is edible and suitable for jelly-making.
So, it all went into a pot. 800g of garden crab apples, 800g of 2 different unknown varieties of foraged crab apples, 350g of rose hips and 100g of ornamental quince.
That made 2050g, let’s call it 2 Kg, so I added 2 litres of water and the pared zest of 2 lemons and cooked the whole lot to a mush which took about an hour. I then poured the pulpy mess into a large square of muslin and hung it over a big bowl to drip overnight. These are Darina Allen’s instructions which, no doubt, are better than mine.
Meanwhile, I grasped the opportunity to catch-up on some dead-heading. It is worth growing poppies and calendula just for the satisfaction of having a job to call you out to the garden at this time of year.
We have some chamomile growing wild. It smells SO much better than the teabags and gives my Easter Island buddy quite an interesting hairdo:
Fennel. Cripes, I love this stuff. I can’t get enough of it.
The roses, like myself, have found their second wind.
I’m reluctant to strip the garden bare but I did scavenge a small and sunny bouquet to bring indoors.
Back to Murphy’s jelly…
Next morning I was left with 1050mls of strained juice (I must remember to brush my hair in future).
To this I added the juice of 2 lemons and 790g of warmed sugar. (It’s 450g of sugar per 600mls of liquid.) I boiled all that for about 10 minutes until it showed signs of setting on my marble counter top (I’m very lazy). When potted up I had this much jelly:Seriously, look at the colour of that. I hereby name that colour Murphy’s October. I know I have shown you quite a few jellies this year but this one, I think because of the mix of fruits, is the outstanding winner. The white currant came close but this is more complex and satisfying.
Experimentally, I took Alys Fowler at her word and pressed the remaining pulp through a fine sieve. That took a good deal of patience and resulted in a fairly unattractive and bitter 600g lump of…something. I had very little faith in this but I kept going.
I added an equal measure of sugar, the pared zest and juice of one lemon and a split vanilla pod. This mixture was brought to the boil and simmered for half an hour until it was coming away from the sides of the pan and almost forming a ball. I think I probably should have held my nerve a few minutes longer because the resulting paste is still a bit moist. I present to you, a new and wonderful foodstuff…
It is, I swear to you, one of the most incredibly delicious things I have ever tasted. It gets into all your taste buds, you know, even the ones under your tongue and at the back of your cheeks. It was delicious with roast chicken. It was a total knock-out when shmeared on top of a toastie made with some Toonsbridge scamorza.
The Small Girl tossed and turned with a raging temperature last night. She was kind enough to come in to my bed to keep me apace with how she was feeling. ‘Don’t worry about that strange noise, Mum,’ she reassured me in the wee hours, ‘that’s just my nose rattling.’
She is still under the weather today so she and I are having a quiet time. A bit of cutting and sticking accompanied by several doses of Calpol have passed the morning nicely.
Not to mention many large cups of coffee and a couple of jelly-topped scones. If you need a scone recipe to go with your jelly you could do worse than this one.
I’m going to join her now for the junior bake-off and a bit of knitting.
Can you guess where this is going? I’ve never done intarsia before so this requires serious concentration on my part, maybe a large latte…
and probably several more doses of Murphy’s Jelly.