Historic Recipe: Apple Jelly (1938)

Source: Home Management; A Comprehensive Guide-book to the Management of the Household, containing authorative contributions by Experts, compiled and edited by Margaret Garth and Mrs Stanley Wrench (1938)

I love this book. It was the first vintage cookbook I bought – for 20p in a St Andrews charity shop and it has never failed me in terms of basic recipes. It also has sections on budgeting, gardening, etiquette and other useful skills for the modern housekeeper (that were contributed by Experts with a capital E). Most necessary of all though, it has a chapter on fortune-telling, no I don’t know why either, but we’ll be trialling some of the suggestions in a future post.

I have an allotment which I like to talk about. A lot. Expect to hear more about my allotment. It has an apple tree on it which means I currently have a huge glut of apples, so I turned to faithful Home Management to help me out. I found this recipe for apple jelly which is apparently great with cheese. I also like cheese a lot, so this seemed a good idea.

Cut the apples in quarters and cut off all the bad places. Put the quarters in the preserving-pan with enough water to float them and boil until they are soft but not pulpy. Put the mixture into a jelly-bag and leave it to drip through all night. Measure the juice and allow one pound of sugar to every pint. Put the juice and sugar into the pan and let the sugar dissolve before the mixture boils. Stir all the time. Then boil till it will set when tested.

The phrase ‘just enough water to float them’ flummoxed me a little bit as it is hard to tell when you have a huge pan of apples what is floating and what isn’t. I ended putting in just enough water to reach the top apples, which seemed to work.

I don’t own a jelly bag, but I did have a huge sheet of muslin which I tied up into a bag shape, this worked fine, but was really awkward to fill and I definitely knocked it a few times in the process (and by knocked I mean dropped at least once) which probably explains why my jelly isn’t clear like it should be. Otherwise the recipe was easy enough to follow – I tested whether the jelly was set by dripping some onto a cold plate (from the fridge), leaving it a few minutes, then seeing if it formed a skin when I poked it . This is what my father does, I don’t know whether it is an officially sanctioned method, but it works. The results taste pretty good, even if it doesn’t look as nice as it should (which is frustrating me more than you can imagine, I like it when things look nice).

Suggested alterations: I threw sprigs of rosemary into the jars when I poured the hot jelly in which was a nice touch. In future I would probably add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice to the mix to take the edge off the sweetness. Next time I will also get the straining stage right – I think doubling or tripling up the muslin and making the bag set-up more secure would definitely help.

Final verdict: An effective (and cheap) way to use up apples.

The apple jelly is photographed with Home Management cheese biscuits which I’ll discuss in the next post.


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