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RECIPE: How to bottle a summer's evening!

RECIPE: How to bottle a summer's evening!

“There are not enough jam jars to can this summer sky at night. I want to spread those little meteors on a hunk of still-warm bread this winter. Any trace left on the knife will make a kitchen sink like that evening air ... so sticky, so warm, so full of light”

— Summer Haibun by Aimee Nezhukumatathi


Meadowsweet growing in the hedgerow


Meadowsweet and cooking apples.




Roughly Meadowsweet 20 flower heads

1.5 kg crab apples (or 1.5kg Cooking Apples cores)


1 Lemon

Granulated Sugar 



1 large heavy-bottomed pot

Wooden Spoon

Jelly Bag or Muslin Lined Strainer or Sieve

Jam thermometer (if you have one)

3 saucers (if you don’t have a jam thermometer)

3 Clean Sterilised Jam Jars (depending on the size of your jars - have some extra just in case)



Meadowsweet identification.

At first, you may be confused between Elderflower and Meadowsweet. For the beginner, the best way to tell Elderflower and Meadowsweet apart is to remember that Elderflower is found on the branches of Elder trees. Meadowsweet, on the other hand, grows up from the ground. In time they will be very easy to tell apart using only your nose - as each has a distinctive and unforgettable smell. Also, Meadowsweet and Elderflower only overlap and mingle together in our hedgerows for a few short days in early July.


Jelly or Jam - whats the difference?

The only difference between making jam and making jelly is the extra step of extracting all the fruit juice and discarding the solids. As this recipe uses whole apples (core, pips, skin and all) and meadowsweet flowers which are then strained away as part of the process we are making a “jelly”. 


The addition of lemon juice and zest is important in this recipe as the acid helps extract the pectin.


Pectin or Gelatin or Agar?

Pectin, gelatin or agar can all be used to create a set jelly texture when making jams and jellies. Gelatin is the most commonly used in jelly production. However, while pectin is found naturally in fruit and agar is made from seaweed gelatin is made from animal products (most notably collagen). Both agar and pectin are vegan and vegetarian-friendly options. 

For this recipe, apples are used to add flavour, but also for their naturally occurring pectin. And so there is no need to add any additional gelatin or agar. The addition of lemon juice and zest is important in this recipe as the acid helps extract the pectin.



Crab Apples or Cooking Apples?

Keep in mind that tart, underripe apples contain more pectin than sweet, ripe ones.

If you’re using crab apples or small green cooking apples simply quarter and chop the apples (don’t peel).

If you are using large cooking apples - you may want to peel the apples and chop the apples. Set aside the white flesh of the apples for another recipe (easy stewed apple? or apple crumble?) and then use the peels and apple cores for this jelly recipe. Keep in mind however, if this is your approach, you will still be looking for roughly 1.5kg of apple material for the recipe. So you will need to start out with more apples.  

We have a big old apple tree in our garden so we were able to use some recent windfallen apples. The small ones we left whole, the larger ones we peeled and cored. 


Small cooking apples from our tree are chopped whole like crab apples


Large cooking apples from our tree are peeled. The white part of the apple is set aside and the apple peels and cores are used for this recipe.


The heads of the meadowsweet flowers are used. Longer stems and leaves are cast aside.



Note on sterilising jam jars

You can sterilise jam jars by washing them in hot soapy liquid, rinsing, and placing them in an oven at 180C/160C fan/gas 4 for 5 mins. Remove carefully and allow to cool. Store in a cool, dark place.



Stage 1: 

Prepare apples. Chop into quarters leaving the skin on if using crab apples. Or peel and core, if using cooking apples. 

Zest 1 lemon.

Add the prepared apples and lemon zest into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. 

Cover the apples with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 15-20 mins. Stir occasionally using the back of a wooden spoon to help break down the fruit.

While the apples are boiling prepare the Meadowsweet - simply chop off any extra long stalks.
When the apples have boiled for about 20 minutes add the prepared Meadowsweet flower heads to the pot along with an extra generous cup or two of water. Stir and bring back to the boil and continue to simmer for another 10 mins.

At this point, the apples should be very pulpy. 

Stage 2: (about half an hour later)

Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. 

Place the apple and flower mixture in a jelly bag and allow the juice to drip through into a large bowl. 

If you don’t have a jelly bag line a large sieve or strainer with a large piece of muslin and place over a large bowl

This will take several hours, so doing this overnight is a good idea.

If you force the pulpy mixture through, this will create a cloudy jelly. But if you end up with a cloudy jelly - don’t fret - it will taste just as nice.


Stage 3: (several hours or the next day later)

Put two small saucers in the freezer – you will use these to test the setting point of the jam.

Prepare your collection of sterlised jars.

Measure the fruity liquid and return it to a large saucepan. Weigh three-quarters of sugar to your total liquid amount (for example, if you have 400l of liquid, add 300g of sugar).

Add the sugar to the juice with the lemon juice, and stir over a medium heat until completely dissolved. 

Turn up the heat and bring the fruit to the boil. Stir occasionally and allow to boil hard for about 8 mins, removing any scum with a spoon. If using a thermometer, you’re looking to reach 105c. If not, check the setting point of the liquid after 8 mins by removing a saucer from the freezer and adding a teaspoon of the liquid to the plate.

 Allow to sit for a minute, then push your finger through the liquid. If it starts to wrinkle, the jelly is ready. If not, return to the boil and try again after another minute.


Stage 4: (about 15 mins later)

Pour into sterilised jars and allow to cool completely. 

We like to have it with cheese and oat crackers.

Enjoy all autumn and winter, remembering and dreaming of a warm late summer evening. Long live summer.



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