Chew On This

Chew On This: Learning how to make crabapple jelly

aweigl@newsobserver.comJuly 15, 2014 

CRABAPPLE1-FE-071114-JEL

The crabapple jelly only has three ingredients: water, sugar and crabapples.

JULI LEONARD — jleonard@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

  • How to make crabapple jelly

    This is more of a technique than a recipe.

    TRIM the stem, blossom ends and any bad spots off 3 to 4 pounds of crabpples. Cut in half and place fruit in a large Dutch oven or preserving pan. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook until the fruit is soft, about 30 minutes.

    PLACE fruit and juice into a jelly bag suspended over a medium-sized bowl. (You also could pour the juice and fruit into a colander lined with four layers of cheese cloth and perched over a large bowl.) Do not squeeze or press the fruit. Let sit for at least 8 hours or overnight.

    MEASURE the juice. This amount of fruit should make about 3 to 5 cups of juice. You don’t want to work with more than 6 cups of juice, because it will take too long to reach the required temperature and the pectin will degrade in the process.

    COMBINE 1 cup sugar for every cup of juice in a large Dutch oven. Add 1 tablespoon butter to reduce foaming and increase yield. Cook over medium heat at a simmer until the mixture reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer.

    FILL hot, sterilized half-pint or quarter-pint jars with jelly, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Process for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath. Let jars sit on counter until cool and jelly is set.

    NOTE: These are shorthand instructions for those who know how to can using a boiling water bath. If you are a beginner, go to nando.com/h7.

The day before we were to leave for a long weekend at the beach, my neighbor Larry came bearing a gift: 5 pounds of crabapples picked from another neighbor’s tree.

Larry remembered that I had mentioned in passing that I wanted to make crabapple jelly using crabapples from a tree in my yard.

Our West Raleigh neighborhood was created back in the 1950s when Roy and Aselene Medlin decided to turn this former farmland into a subdivision; hence the name of our neighborhood, Roylene Acres. Roy apparently loved crabapple trees and planted two on each lot. Mine is one of the few that remain.

A neighbor once encouraged me to have it removed because after more than 50 years, it is looking pretty haggard. But the main flaw in his argument was telling me how the trees came to be in the neighborhood; my husband told him, “Well, she’s never going to remove it now.”

Unfortunately, some disease has stricken my tree and the crabapples only grow to about the size of a cherry, if they grow at all. But the crabapples that Larry brought were glorious: shades of red, pink and yellow and many about the size of a golf ball. I decided to stash them in the fridge and hope they last until after we came back.

Then Hurricane Arthur changed our plans. Instead of taking my toddler to the ocean, we spent mornings at the Lake Johnson pool and I spent naptime making jelly.

Even though I have been canning for years, I had never tackled jelly. What I learned is that apple jelly has to be among the easiest. This one had only three ingredients: water, sugar and crabapples. (Apples and crabapples have enough natural pectin that they do not require additional pectin to set.) It turns out making crabapple jelly is conducive to my life at the moment.

Making jelly requires juice and making juice takes time. That means I could divide the tasks into manageable bits: cutting up the fruit, cooking it and then letting it steep for eight hours or longer, cooking the jelly the next day and then processing the jars in a boiling water bath.

I had never tasted crabapple jelly before. The brilliant rosy jelly is a delicious contrast of sweet and tart.

The thing I loved most was turning something that would have gone to waste into something delicious.

I hope this becomes a yearly tradition. Now all I have to do is diagnose my ailing crabapple tree so I can make some using fruit from my own front yard.

Weigl: 919-829-4848 or aweigl@newsobserver.com; Twitter: @andreaweigl

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