Last year (2012), I adopted some crab apples from a neglected tree that hangs into our yard. I fell in love with the tree in the spring with its beautiful bright pink flowers, and I was excited to actually try and make something from the crab apples.
I went for a spiced jelly.
I picked about 8 cups of apples (more or less). Then took the blossom ends off with my fingers (and all the leaves too), and cut out any bad spots from some hail damage. Then the tiny Apples were washed, and then dumped into a large pot… I added in 2 Macintosh Apples too (cut up, and seeds removed) You don’t need to do anything fancy like take the stems off (unless you want to). We are going to strain all the pulp out anyway and why make more work for yourself?
So… with the apples in the pot, add enough water to just cover them… maybe about half an inch of water over the apple tops (but remember that they will float to the top, so don’t add TOO much…. but also, don’t add too little, because we are going to cook this for about 2 hours.
Since I wanted it to feel a little more like Fall, I added in 3 cinnamon sticks, and about 1/2 TBSP of whole cloves.
Let this cook for about 2 hours, at a light boil/simmer. Stir often to make sure nothing is scorching to the bottom of the pot (this is more important once the apples start to break down from the cooking)
Your house will smell amazing! You can smoosh the apples more with a potato masher also, to help them release their apple-y goodness… or you can leave them alone to let the boiling water do that…. There is only one technical part to this recipe, and this isn’t it.
Once you are happy with your apple pulp… Slowly add it into jelly bags (they have a really fine mesh, so only the juice strains out). Suspend your full jelly bag(s) above bowls (something to catch the juice). I ended up using fishing line hooked onto the hinges in my cupboards to hold up the bags over the bowls… use your imagination and you’ll figure out a way…
Now, you don’t want to squeeze the bags, just let them hang out for at least 2 hours to let all the juice slowly drip out (You can also taste the juice now, but remember that it is going to be really tart since they are crab apples). If you force the juice out, then your jelly will be cloudy and not nice and clear. Patience is a virtue right?
I fully intended to let them sit overnight to get as much juice out as possible, but after about two and a half hours, I got too excited about the next step to wait any longer. So I just went for it.
(also… I left them hanging over the bowls all night to see how much more juice came out in the next 8 hours, and between both bowls, there is MAYBE another tbsp of juice that didn’t end up in the jelly)
You need to measure out your juice into a large pot. You want 6 1/2 cups of Juice… Mine worked out perfectly… If you have less, you can add up to 1 1/2 cups of water to make it to the 6 1/2 cups of liquid that you need. BUT be aware that this could affect the pectin level and you may need to add some in from another source… and I am not an expert jam/jelly maker, so I can’t offer much help.
With your 6 1/2 cups of Crab Apple Juice in the pot, add in 4 1/2 cups of sugar. Stir constantly over medium high heat. You want this to boil for about 18-20 minutes. BOIL… don’t count that has whole cooking time, you need the boiling to help activate the natural pectin in the apples, from what I understand.
Keep your canner hot and simmering with the jars you intend to use – in the hot water. Keep your sealing disks in a separate pan in hot, but not-boiling water. Have a protected area close to the stove where you can fill the jars up… AND keep 2 or 3 small saucers in the freezer (this is so you can test for the gel-stage)
When you think your apple juice is ready, put about 1-2 tsp on the frozen saucer and then put it back in the freezer for a minute. When you take it out again, push it slightly with your finger, and if it wrinkles with a skin on the top, it is ready. If it just looks like liquid still, then keep boiling, and test again in a few minutes.
You want to fill the jars up with ¼ inch of headspace, wipe the rim of the jar clean, and then put a sealing disk on, followed by the screw-ring… Don’t super-tighten these or you will never get them off… Fingertip-tight is all you want. When the jars are all full and have their lids on, then put them in your boiling-water canner (with the water boiling). Space them out evenly and then lower them down with the metal rack thing-y. You want at least an inch of water above the top of the tallest jar. Bring this up to a rolling boil, and then start counting your processing time. These need to be processed in the boiling water canner for 10 minutes if you’re at lower elevations. To find the elevation of where you live, do a Wikipedia search of your town, and then find the elevation… Generally, if you live at an Altitude/elevation of 1001-3000 ft then you add 5 minutes onto the processing time; 3001-6000ft – add 10minutes; 6001-8000 ft -add 15 minutes; 8000-10000ft – add 20 minutes. Since I live at (about) 3573ft above sea-level, then I had to add an extra 10 minutes…
After I reached the roaring boil, I put the timer for 20 minutes. Once the time was up, I shut the stove off, took the lid off the canner, and waited 5 more minutes.
Now, carefully (and without tilting or tipping or knocking anything) lift the jars out and put them on your protected work surface (I put two folded tea towels on my counter). Put the jars here to rest – UNDISTURBED… (Don’t touch them) for 24 hours. After that is done, Test the seal – if it pops, then you didn’t get a good seal, and you should use this jam up right away (and keep it in the fridge). If they are good seals, then wipe the jars clean, and add the screw lids back on (if you choose). Keep your jelly in a cool dark place and use within a year.
Also-wipe the hard water stains off your jars after they have sat for the whole 24 hours… I forgot to take a picture after I made my jars look much more presentable.
Enjoy! It is a nice sweet treat during a cold winter day. Delicious on home-made fresh-from-the-oven biscuits.