Cooking Up A Storm: Spicing It Up

Have you ever tried home-made crabapple jelly? Best eaten with lamb, chicken and turkey, I grew up on this late-summer staple.  My father took me scrumping the old crabapple (or crab apple – Malus) trees on the RAF base where we lived and, years later, we planted our own and nurtured them to fruition.


Between research, writing and renovating the house, I’m getting in a bit of jelly making – kindly assisted by Thegn’s quality control. One of the good things about moving home is discovering what’s been planted over the years. This crabapple is the deepest burgundy and is streaked with ruby inside. The apples are HUGE compared with most crabapple varieties – size of an average lime – and cook to a glorious raspberry pink. The resulting jelly retains a dry, almost astringent flavour and is not as fragrant as, say, John Downie or Dartmouth. I’ll be experimenting by adding spices and port for a wintery slant, and flakes of chilli pepper to liven things up bit. I expect generations have savoured those same scents of stewing apples and spices, redolent of late summer sun. Timeless.


From C15th Gode Cookery

To make Char de Crabb. Recipe crabbs & seth þam in watur tyll þai be softe, & take hony & strene þe crabbs þerwith throgh a cloth. Put to a iijd part of claryfyed hony & a quantyte of sawndyrs, & colour it with saforun; þen put þerto a quantyte of powdyr of peper & ij d worth of þe flour of anneys & a quantyte of powdyre of licorys. Þen take grated brede & mold it vp þerwith, & put it in cophyns & serof it forth, & bene facis. Quod Don Thomas Awkbarow. 

From: C. B. Hieatt “The Middle English Culinary Recipes in MS Harley 5401: An Edition and Commentary.” 




P.S. If anyone has any idea what variety of crabapple these are, please drop me a line and let me know.