Comfort me with apples

This has been a brilliant year for apples. Everywhere I go in Liverpool I have found trees dripping with apples. I have been given bushels of them by generous friends and even my cat Csardas got in on the act, bringing me an apple from next door’s tree. I do love an apple. I totally subscribe to the “one a day, keeps the doctor away” maxim and consume at least one every day. I love their variety – from the sharp almost wince making tang of a Granny Smith to the rough skinned but juicy Russet to the sweet Royal Gala. Aside from the so called dessert apples, we also have the wonderful Bramley – tart but flavoursome, with flesh that turns into a glorious fluffy puree when cooked; and the crab apple – wild fruit that makes clear apple jelly perfect for adding spices or herbs to .

I always make apple chutney – a spicy condiment with chilli, cloves and turmeric that goes fabulously with cheese. I also make apple jellies, taking immense satisfaction from the resultant clear viscosity, ranging in shade from pale gold to dark red depending on the skin of the apple used. What I haven’t done hitherto though is made much jam using apples, other than pairing them with brambles for the classic autumn jam. I’ve been ruminating on uses for apples – turnovers, tarte tatins, crumbles, pies – all of which involve the addition of sugar, spices such as cloves and cinnamon or caramel. Why not take those flavour profiles and make a jam? It’s not a new idea, there are various apple jam recipes available but I wanted to make an Apple Pie Jam – partly because I’ve been playing with traditional dessert flavours in jams and curds recently – rhubarb custard curd, black forest gateau jam, peach melba jam etc.

Bit of research yielded the following recipe from www.nutmegsseven.co.uk, which I’ve slightly tweaked to suit my own taste buds. Apple Pie Jam. It’s a thing you NEED in your life.

Apple Pie Jam (makes approximately 11 x 190g jars):

1.5 kg cooking apples (weighed after peeling and coring), half finely diced, half finely sliced
1 cinnamon sticks
6 cloves
1 tsp allspice
1kg granulated sugar
325g dark muscovado sugar
Juice of 1 lemons
275g stoned dates, roughly chopped

Put the peeled apples (add the lemon juice as you chop them to prevent them browning too much) in a large pan with the cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice, dates, sugar and two tea cups of water. Slowly heat until the sugar starts to melt and the apples release their juice. Increase the heat, stirring regularly to prevent the sugar catching on the bottom of the pan and burning. Put a small plate in the freezer.

Bring to the boil and boil until the apples have softened and the liquid has started to turn golden and reduce and the dates have begun to dissolve (you will still have some chunks of apple left through) – about 15-20 minutes. Continue to simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes but keep stirring regularly to stop it burning on the bottom – be careful and wear oven gloves for this and use a long handled spoon, as it can bubble up suddenly and scald you.

To test for a set, spoon a small amount of jam onto the cold plate from the freezer and run your finger down the middle – if it wrinkles and parts cleanly, then it’s ready. If not, continue to boil for a little while longer.

Decant into sterilised jars, (I pour just boiled water from the kettle into jars then dry them upside down in the oven at 120C for half an hour), and seal while warm to create a vacuum.

Allow to cool before labelling. Absolutely delicious on hot crumpets and also rather nice stirred into plain yogurt over porridge.