One of the most frustrating things about growing any crop is when, for the sake of improving the quality of yield, you have to remove fruits or seedlings. To me this seems to be wrong. I know thinning seedlings means that the plants that remain have more space to develop and grow healthily, but the very fact that I’ve nurtured them to that point means I feel a sense of attachment and of lost potential. That’s why, whenever I can, I use the thinnings in meals. When it comes to apples, nature, as if to ensure I don’t get lazy and just let things go, steps in with the ‘June Drop’. The annual time of year when the apple tree chooses to drop a few of the extra fruits, self regulating to give those fruit that remain the best chance of forming properly and going on to ripen to their potential.
I know its July, but the drop has only just happened in earnest and the apple trees at the plot have a scattering of undersized, under ripe, apples in the grass below. Unripe apples are not a culinary highlight of the year, but they do have one great asset. Pectin. Like the super-sour crab apple, these dropped fruits are full of pectin and when tempered with sugar they are also light on flavour. As such they can be used in preserves to produce a beautiful herb jelly. This month has also seen a mint infused takeover of the allotment. The ever invasive herb has spread its refreshing leaves between and beneath almost al of the top half of the plot. So in effort to capture the mintiness for later in the season when mint suffers in the baking heat, I made mint jelly. The perfect accompaniment to roast lamb, and infinitely better than the supermarket fluorescent green version.
You will need (makes jars)
500g unripe apples (cooking apples would do the job if apples are actually in season)
1 bunch of mint
30ml white wine vinegar
Chop the apples roughly; if they are small, then just chop them in half. Add to a pan with the bunch of mint and enough water to barely cover the apples. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 45 minutes or so, until the fruit is very soft. Pour the contents into a scolded jelly bag and leave to drip overnight. Don’t be tempted to squeeze the bag, or poke it, as this will effect the clarity of your jelly.
Measure the strained juice, before adding the sugar. For every 200ml of liquid you will need 150g of sugar. Return the liquid to the cleaned out pan, with the addition of the vinegar. Heat to boiling point, stirring to ensure the sugar is dissolved properly. Continue to boil for 10 minutes or so, until the setting point is reached. For this I use a jam thermometer and wait until the bubbling liquid gets to 104°C, before removing from the heat, skimming off the scum, and then pouring into warm, sterilised jars. Once sealed with a lid, the mint jelly will last up to a year. Not that it will last that time, as it’s an irresistible accompaniment to lamb.
What a great idea for using those dropped apples – I didn’t realise they could be used rather than just composted. I don’t have much mint at the moment (we’ve just moved house and the plants I brought with me need to get established), would the same method work with other herbs do you think?
I reckon using sage or thyme would work fine actually. Will have to give it a go myself. Thyme jelly would be great with roast chicken.’ I reckon.
Does indeed sound delicious. Never heard of a jelly bag before. What is it exactly?
It’s a fine mesh bag, like a muslin, strain the liquid through it.
Okay – so would muslin work?
Yep, would work fine.
Well, I will definitely give this a go then 🙂
Hi Spadeforkspoon, I was Googling for a mint jelly recipe using unripe apples as opposed to buying cooking apples, and I found your blog. What a lovely space, exquisite images, mouth-watering recipes and great ideas. I will be following you from now on as I continue on my first harvest of own grown veggies and herbs. I’m off to see if I have any June-drop apples to use with all my mint. Very best wishes from western Herefordshire.
Thanks so much. That’s really put a smile on my face. Using the apples works a treat. Let me know how you get on?
White wine vinegar – is this the same as white vinegar?
I’m not sure. White wine vinegar is made from wine. Cider vinegar would work fine too though.
Ah! That’ll do just fine for me! 🙂 Thanks 🙂
Cool. Glad I could help.
Last year a bit later in the season I collected windfalls, and did as above, save that the apples were “ripe”, and the strained juice was very pleasant just as a drink.
Also, I did a batch of “July drop” last week, and one is simmering as I type; but without any additions, just the apples. I shall then freeze the liquid, and use it later instead of water when making jam with blackberries, damsons, etc. in September. OR… I might just re-boil the liquid with sugar, to make apple jelly. This, of course, will keep, in jars, rather than in the freezer, and I could THEN use this apple jelly as a “base” to provide liquid, pectin and sugar when making those jams.