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Crabapple Jelly is a Lot of Work

A friend of mine had a ton of crabapples on her crabapple tree. They were the larger variety, thank goodness, but she and her husband had bagged them up in bags that had nearly seven pounds of the little suckers in 'em. They brought them to church to give away to anyone that would take them.

Several people took home bags, including me, since one of my younger friends at church said that crabapple jelly was the best thing ever, and my friend, Mimi, had actually served me some of her crabapple jelly on goat cheese on crackers and it was very tasty indeed. I figured I might have the time to do it, and since I'd never done it before, the whole process intrigued me.




Every single crabapple had to be cleaned, and the blossom and the stem cut off. I also threw out every one that had a worm in it, and every single one that wasn't quite good anymore. There weren't that many of them, but all of them had to be cut into in order to figure out if they were any good or not. I also separated the bits that had seeds into the commercial compost from the bits that didn't have seeds to put into my own garden compost. Our compost pile can't really denature seeds very well, but the commercial compost uses a heat treatment that can actually break down all kinds.

The prep is what took the longest time. And I decided to do them all, because I had no use for crabapples in any other recipe.

The next thing I had to do was cook 'em in just enough water to cover them, until they had given up their juice and were soft, but not so long that their very important pectins broke down and not so long that the fruit completely broke down so that I couldn't filter them out of their juice.

So it was just bringing it to a boil and then letting them simmer for twenty minutes or so, and the liquid they were cooking in turned this brilliant red. I really liked that, and the house smelled of the tart perfume of crabapples. No sugar, yet, just the fruit and water. It made me wonder if grape jelly or apple jelly is the same process, and I could definitely see it working for apples to get their pectin, but grapes wouldn't hold together for cooking. Maybe grape jelly just extracts the juice the same way they do for wine?

After I let that cool a little, I lined a sieve with a double layer of cheese cloth and filtered the solids out to get this bright pink liquid. I added a 7:10 ratio of sugar to juice, and then put it on the heat and let it boil. I skimmed off whatever foam appeared, and when the skimmings turned into jelly when it cooled in the bowl, I stopped the cooking.

The recipe said to take it to eight degrees above the boiling point of water, but that really seems far too much like making candy instead of jelly, but I've also never really done it before. *laughs* So I may as well make my mistakes and see how it goes. I used 2 1/2 cups of juice so only 1 3/4 cups of sugar, which is still a lot of sugar, it made three and a half cups of jelly, which is far more than I can eat. I actually had sixty ounces of crabapple juice from the cooking, so I bottled a quart of the leftovers into a clean quart milk bottle, and it's delicious, straight, in soda water. I may even sweeten it a little for a really nice crabapple drink.

The jelly itself went, hot, into these sterilized jars, and I capped and canned three of them in this same pot. Yes, that is a pie weight chain at the bottom of the pot, and it was my improvisation since I don't actually own a canning rack. I also used my two silicon oven mitts for putting jars into the pot and taking them out again when they were hot. I don't have a jar lifter/clamp, and the gloves were ribbed and really gave me a good grip on the hot glass. The material did a great job of protecting my hands, but it was amazing how hot boiling water really can be. It was also mildly disturbing to have to just reach into a boiling pot of water with my hands to pull out the jars of jelly, after the canning period.

The resultant jelly is amazingly red, clear, and actually doing a pretty good job of solidifying from a complete liquid to a solid. The half-jar went right into the refrigerator and we'll be eating directly out of that to start. It was really satisfying to hear all the lids go 'ting' seconds after I pulled them out of the boiling bath. All of them have sealed tight and are ready to sit, forgotten, on a shelf for years.

John and Jet never eat jelly. I almost never do, but this will probably be amazing on goat cheese and in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Still... it's going to be a while before I even get through this much. Luckily, the young lady who told me, at the very first, that crabapple jelly was amazingly good may well take one of the jars. *laughs*

I have to admit when I was prepping all these tiny fruit I thought that someone must have been awful desperate to have initially come up with the concept of crabapple jelly, especially as some means of preserving those amazingly tart fruit. The pectin content is pretty neat, though, and it's probably going to cool solid with time.  It's definitely something that takes a lot of time and effort to prepare, but given the taste of what I had at Mimi's and the last dregs from the jelly pan, it is well worth it.
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I really like the color on those. I hope that they taste as good as they look.

We're having a problem with our (domestic) apple trees this year. We pollinated by hand because they blossomed too early for the bees here. That was a bit too successful. We haven't picked all of the apples yet, but it looks like we'll end up with at least 30 lbs of apples from the two trees. We're working on ways to use them. Apple pies, apple omelets, apples on waffles, chicken with apples, ... There are worse problems.
Ooooo... wow. Glad you had success with the hand-pollination, that's a LOT of apples!!

There are worse problems. *laughs* George used to dry his apples, too. Just core 'em, slice 'em, and lay them out on the trays of his homemade food dryer. The results were good in muffins, pancakes, and waffles, too.

And the jelly is good! I had some this morning on a couple of Trader Joe crumpets!! It isn't quite as firm as commercial jelly, but it's firm enough to be able to cut curds and spread them easily. So yay! A success! And the flavor is very nice.
Several years back my mom made crabapple butter and I helped her by peeling and cutting all the crabapples for her. While my hands ended up smelling fantastic for a few days (I was peeling and cutting for literally hours), it was a VERY labour intensive process just to get them ready to do the actual butter making. The end results were really good though so it was worth it in the end.
Mmmm... yeah, my hands still smell good. *laughs* And they're still sore... it is a lot of prep!

And there is just something about these non-commercial fruits, the depth of flavor to the juice and the jelly is amazing to me. I can only imagine what a crabapple butter would be like, but that sounds really good!!

The jelly looks amazing! But I'm surprised that you bothered to do all that prep. We have a crabapple tree in the backyard which always produces buckets upon buckets of the sweetest gems, and when I'm making jelly or liquor, I just give the apples a rinse and pluck off the leaves and big twigs. Then I throw the whole kit and caboodle into a huge stock pot, add a quart of water, bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer for an hour or so until everything has reduced to mush. I use a potato masher to make sure everything is mushed, and then I strain it into a clean white bucket through several layers of cheesecloth. Once I've gotten rid of the worst of the pulp, I give the juice a final strain through a clean, wet chamois. It's a beautiful clear coral red after that, and it cuts down on the labour by hours and hours.

Mind, I've got a tonne of crabapples to process, so if I don't do it this way, we don't get jelly or liquor.

Also, crabapple liquor? An excellent way to use up that honey which you would otherwise turn into mead:

2 parts vodka and crabapple juice each to 1 part honey/demarara sugar. If you want to give it a bit of an extra kick, add the zest of 3 oranges. Set in a carboy for 3 months, decant and bottle. I like to give it a year before I serve since it mellows like brandy, but it's fine to drink before then.
Oooooo!! Even better! Thank you so much! Everything I saw said to get rid of the blossom and stem, and I knew that I didn't want the worms. *laughs* But yours is so much easier.

And thank you for the recipe for the crabapple liquor!! That sounds great! The uncapped honey would really do well in this.
WOW that's a lot of work! I'm impressed!

We've made canned tomato sauce, apple juice, apple sauce, grape juice, wine, hoppy ginger beer, herbal tonic, cranberry sauce, pickled green cherry tomatoes, pickled red cherry tomatoes, and pickled cucumber slices from scratch. It's always an interesting process but we rarely repeat ourselves. Once we've had the experience and tasted the results, there's satisfaction but no real desire to do ALL THAT again.

One of our neighbors has a crabapple tree and doesn't appear to do anything with the produce... maybe next year I'll ask to pick a potful and try this out. Thank you for the inspiration!
Oooooo... exactly that. Yum for your pickles....

Though I'll admit that we've now got bottling ginger beer down to a science, and it ferments so quickly we get the results over and over again.

I'm not sure I'll do this again, and especially not so long as this jelly lasts. I am, however, cooking down and canning one last batch of the jelly from the leftover juice, since the jelly really did gel solid and it's *good* on toast, biscuits, and the redux of goat cheese and jelly on crackers, but that's just the last part of the process. Plus, I've gotten a few requests for the results, and making three more jars will satisfy those requests and tide me over 'til the next bumper crabapple crop. This year was unusually good for them.
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(Anonymous)
Phyllis, I was given some of those beautiful red crab apples one year and I made crab apple catsup ( it was pretty good as I recall, but again a lot of work) The jelly is a beautiful shade of red!! Congratulations trying something new! Isabel