If you can’t find crab apples, you can cheat by using the cores of Bramleys or other cookers. You can make a fine jelly from crab apples alone, but Rob says he rarely does. “I like to use the tart, high-pectin crab as a companion to other wild berries.
“Elderberries, rosehips and sloes can all be combined successfully with crab apples, but far and away my favourite is rowan.”
There’s a shout from the undergrowth. It’s Ian with an armful of rowan berries demanding to know if he’s now got enough.
It’s a thumbs up from Rob. “That’s the rest of my day taken care of,” he says. “It’s off home for some culinary conservation.”
“What? I don’t even get to try any of the jelly?” Ian interjects. “Typical ... I do all the work and get none of the perks.”
For more information on Rob Caton and the bushcraft events he is running in October and November, visit www.wildharmony.co.uk
For more information on the National Trust go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Cragside, Rothbury, Northumberland, NE65 7PX, 01669 620 150, www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cragside
Cragside will be holding its popular Apple Day on October 23 from 10am-4pm. In celebration of this humble fruit, see a selection of over 40 apples displayed in the Orchard House and enjoy delicious apple recipes in the tearooms. Also have a go at apple bobbing and juicing and try your hand at creating the longest piece of peel. Normal admission applies and there may be a small charge for some activities.
ROB’S CRAB APPLE AND ROWAN BERRY FORAGING TIPS
Apples grow wild all over the North East. Most are crab apples which can easily be collected and turned into jelly.
Apples are ready to harvest from early autumn, but make sure you pick from the easily-reached branches and avoid climbing the tree.
Crab apples tend to be found in old hedges and woodland.
Rowan berries are the fruit of the mountain ash and are best picked when firm.
The bright orange-red berries appear in abundant sprays all over the tree.
They are easy to find – the mountain ash grows everywhere from suburban streets to country lanes and hillsides.
See more tips online for safe foraging at www.journallive.co.uk/taste
CRAB APPLE AND ROWAN BERRY JELLY
½kg crab apples, washed and roughly chopped
½kg rowan berries, washed and destalked
Thyme leaves, chopped
At least 450g granulated sugar
1 jelly bag (either a muslin bag or a clean cotton cloth and a big sieve)
Gently simmer the crab apples along with the rowan berries and thyme leaves in a pan with 350ml water until soft, squashing them occasionally to extract the juice and full flavour.
Strain the fruit through a muslin bag. Measure the quantity of juice you have and add 450g of sugar to each 600ml juice.
Warm the juice and sugar in a pan until dissolved, then boil for 10 minutes or until setting point is reached.
Pour the jelly into hot jars as quickly as possible, as it will set quickly.