Cookin’ up Crab Apples ~ Fall Preserves
When we moved to another part of the country we had to find a new u-pick farm on which to do our annual family apple pick. There weren’t many in our area, but we were able to find one just outside of Pittsburgh. And between bushy cameo apple trees on the farm we found heavily laden crab apple trees.
These trees were not of the mini, fleshy, traditional variety of crab apples that are common throughout the South, but they produced bright red, almost cherry sized little fruits.
I could imagine, as I realized what I was looking at, ruby red jars of tart crab apple jelly lined up in a sunny window back at the farm we currently live on.
Don’t you just love it when wishes come true?
We picked a 1/2 peck of the sweet/tart apples that day, which ended up giving me oodles of rich preserves to stack on my pantry shelves.
The juice was used for the jelly I was hoping to make, and because I just couldn’t bring myself to compost all of the pulp that was left from making the jewel-hued jelly, I used my apple butter recipe, without the usual added lemon, to cook up a batch of crab apple butter. So, when the snow drifts are piled at our front door this winter, I at least know that my little family will be tucked inside with a roaring fire heating the house and crab apple goodies slathered on warm, yummy things from the oven.
Crab Apple Jelly:
1/2 peck crab apples
Sugar. One cup for each cup of juice gleaned from the crab apples. I used raw, organic.
1 box fruit pectin
The farm we picked at wasn’t certified as organic, but the owners try to treat for pests as little as possible. Because I wasn’t sure how pesticide-ridden our crab apples were, I washed them very well in water, vinegar, and GSE before cooking them.
In a large stock pot, cover the crab apples with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
I cooked them just till they mushed.
Strain the apples through a jelly bag set in a chinois. I have been making so much cheese and preserves, lately, that I have resorted to using a white cotton pillowcase for straining.
Do not squeeze the apples to help them along or the final product will be cloudy. I hung the bag from an upper cupboard knob and let the juice slowly seep from the crab apples overnight.
Because I was able to get 11 cups of the red juice, I added 11 cups of sugar. Bring the mixture to 220 degrees and then remove from the heat.
Stir in the pectin. Jar and process.
Crab Apple Butter:
11 c. crab apple sauce
5 1/2 c. raw, organic sugar
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
Using a chinois, press the apple flesh through with a pestle. I didn’t even bother removing the stems from my crab apples before I cooked them for juice and had no problem pressing the flesh through to make my butter. Cook the applesauce that results with the other ingredients for 2 hours on a low simmer. Funnel into jars and process for long-term storage.