Saturday, 27 September 2008

Crabapple Jelly; Possibly Applesauce

Our new property has an amazing number of fruit trees on it, including about half a dozen ancient old apples left from when the place was an orchard. There are also about a dozen young dwarf fruit trees planted by the previous owners. None of these are producing any significant quantity of fruit. There are only two trees producing lots of healthy fruit, a wild apple and a wild pear. The wild (crab) apples were a very pleasant surprise. They are remarkably bug and blemish free, and produced in large numbers. Unusually, they are tasty enough to eat right off the tree, and have a good non-mealy texture. They are definitely very zingy, and only amount to about 3 little nibbles each, so they struck us as being perfect for making jelly. But even the ornamental crab apples planted in suburban streets can be used for jelly. Just make sure they aren't doused in chemicals, and that they are yours for the picking.

about 1 250-ml jar per 1 cup of juice obtained
2 days, of which about 1 1/2 hours are work, not counting picking them

Crabapple Jelly
crabapples, lots

Your crabapples should be clean and in good condition. Remove any leaves and twiggy stems, as well as damaged or obviously buggy apples, and put them (good stuff, not bad stuff) in a large pot with enough water to come up high enough to make the top layer look like they are floating. If you want to get technical, that should be about half the quantity of crabapples; i.e. we used 24 cups of crabapples and 12 cups of water. However, you may need to add a bit more water to get it up there. If your apples are at all large, you can cut them in halves or quarters, but most crabapples are too small and too hard to make this a viable pastime.

Bring them to a boil, and boil gently until very soft and split open; anywhere from half an hour to 2 hours depending on your particular crabapples. You may need to top up the water. Don't mash or crush the apples, and don't stir them more than necessary to make sure they are not sticking.

Once they are cooked, turn the mess, liquid and all, into a clean jelly-bag. If you have a lot - and if you don't why bother? - you will likely need a clean old pillowcase which is ready for a second career, as a regular jelly bag just won't be big enough. Rig this up to drain into a large pot, and let it strain overnight. Discard the apple pulp and seeds, or if you are really a glutton for punishment and your apples are of good enough quality, you can mill it for applesauce. (However lots of crabapples can be mealy. Ours were nice wild apples - small and sour, but with a good texture.)

Measure the juice strained from the apple pulp, and put it into your canning kettle. Put what seems like a sufficient quantity of jars into the canner, and cover them with water and bring them to a boil. I got 10 cups of juice, which when finished produced 11 jars of jelly. I also put a little 125-ml jar into the canner to sterilize as it doesn't always co-operate and produce full jars.

To each cup of juice, add 7/10ths of a cup of sugar, up to 1 full cup of sugar. The exact proportions will depend on the sourness of your crabapples and how sweet you would like your jelly. I used the minimum figure for my jelly - we like it tart, and our apples were sour, but not insanely so.

When the jars are just coming to the boil, turn on the heat under the kettle to fairly high, and boil, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is ready to gel. If it produces a lot of very firm foam, it should be skimmed off. I like to live dangerously and use the sheet method to test for gelling: first the juice will run off the spoon in one stream, then in two, then it rejoins into one wide stream, or sheet - thus, you deduce the jelly is done. A better method if you have not made much jelly is to put a saucer in the freezer when you start, and put a few drops on it when you suspect it may be ready. If it sets when it's cold on the plate, it will set when it's cold in the jar. Actually, I could tell my jelly was ready this time because the scum I was skimming off the top set on the plate I was put it on.

Once you have boiled the jars in the canner for 10 minutes, remove them to a clean heat-proof board, draining half of them back into the canner and half of them into the sink in order to keep the level of water in the canner at a good level. Put the lids and rims on to boil - they must boil for 5 minutes.

Fill the jars with the prepared jelly. Wipe the rims with a bit of paper towel dipped in the boiling water, and seal them with the lids and rims once they are ready. Return the finished jars to the boiling water in the canner, and boil them for 5 minutes. Let them cool, and check that they have sealed. Wipe the jars and label them.You are done!

Unless you think your pulp is good enough to save for applesauce, which we did. We ran it through a food mill, and got 12 cups of fairly stiff applesauce. We added 2 cups of water to thin it a little, and 4 cups of sugar. Normally if making applesauce I wouldn't sweeten it, but these were sour little apples. We brought this mess to a boil, packed it into sterlized jars as usual, and processed it for 20 minutes. (500-ml jars.) Results; 8 500-ml jars of applesauce. At least I hope it's applesauce. It looks very firm. It may end up being more like this Quince Paste.


M said...

As you wrote this up I'm thinking I might very well have been picking crabapples in Duluth, Minnesota. I'd just destemmed and cut the blossom remains off and plunked them in a pot today when I surfed and found your posting. Thanks so much, I look forward to the eating part here in Minneapolis.

Sarah Reid, RHNC said...

I'm jealous!! I don't know where I'll be able to find crabapples around here, even though I'm in the Oshawa/Courtice sticks! If you know of anywhere please drop me a line!!

Elizaberry said...

I thought you might like to know that I return to your post every year at about this time before embarking on our annual jelly-making. Your brilliant pillowcase idea has saved us a lot of hassle and mess through the years, and your recipe and instructions are foolproof. Many thanks.
Elizabeth in Alberta

Ferdzy said...

Elizaberry, I'm very happy to hear that!