The person with a pair of steps, green bag and dog on lead is me going on a crab apple forage. We`re based under a laden tree which spills over the front garden round the corner at Macolm`s house,
who`s also a fellow location owner. "Help your self` he generously replies to my text. So I am. Gratefully. The tree is dropping its fruit fast and dozens of decaying pink and yellow crabs decorate the pavement .
I perch on the steps under the fullest and most accessible branches and shake the fruit into the mesh bag. A man approaches and tells me that he knows where wild horseradish root is growing on a patch near a certain local bus top. Would he like me to get some? How`s that for a chat up line? But isn`t it great to know that we have our very urban harvest literally on the doorstep? It seems a waste when you see so many streets round here with damsons, pears and apples , blackberries that go unpicked. Have a look at this website
which has been organising urban fruit forays in the US for some time
Soon the fruit is bubbling away merrily in the big metal pan on top of the stove. I am deep in screen hopping when I smell toffee apple. I race downstairs to find the fruit has burnt and stuck to the bottom . Bang goes any chance of the jelly looking pink and translucent . I think of the effort harvesting my crop and decide it`s not worth throwing it away. It will be a darker more mature kind of crab apple jelly I reason.
I make a jelly bag from a piece of muslin , pile in the cooked fruit and hang in the cellar to drip over a basin for a couple of days This is longer than necessary but when there is a lorry load of furniture and pots of paint for spring 2014 in your kitchen it would be unwise to add to the chaos.
After the shoot departs I boil up the juice with sugar, and wait for the magical moment when it sets all wrinkly on the ice cold saucer I`ve prepared in the freeze box. Whether this fruit was lower than usual in pectin, the setting agent, it takes the length of the Archers` Omnibus before it`s set. Jelly that flows rather than plops on to the plate is not an ideal option.
All done, all boiling hot and poured into jars. The taste is not as floral and crab appley it should be, but rather more rich and apple puddingy. No matter, it is delicious, and I have a second jelly chance, with the dentist`s quinces. (Yes, a little quince forage in between gum cleaning) Just heard Diana Henry
making quince jelly with star anise on Woman`s hour anise which sounds good. Might try that, or I was thinking of experimenting with quince and mint. Will see when I get there as I have mint in the garden, just, and there`s a bag of star anise in the larder.