A few years ago, crabapple trees were all the rage in Italy. I don’t know whether it was some much-read gardening magazine that made them popular, or whether nurseries were suddenly flooded with them by suppliers with a surfeit. But however they found their way into gardens, they clearly got there without instructions.
In Italian the tree is known as a melo da fiore (flowering apple), with the accent placed on the ‘flower’ rather than the ‘apple’. Once when I found myself at a dinner party where the table was decorated with piles of beautiful crabapples and started nibbling on one, my fellow diners were horrified, presuming it was some poison berry: people looked incredulous when I insisted it was an apple.
Crabapples are not, it’s true, all that good to eat. But they make a wonderfully delicate, rosy-pink jelly. They’re loaded with pectin, so the jelly sets easily. And the fruit, once rinsed, can be chucked into a pot and boiled up stalks and all, making preparation very simple indeed.
The method is identical to the one used for medlar jelly, though in the case of these tart little fruit, I do use a full 50% of sugar weight to liquid volume: so, for example, one kilo of sugar for every two litres of juice.
©Anne Hanley, 2013