Despite our short growing season, Calgarians are notoriously good at growing crabapples. As the seasons change from summer to fall, branches sagging heavily with these red and green orbs, and lawns littered with bruised, over-ripe fruit are common sights in yards around the city.
They're fun to pick, but their mouth-puckering tartness makes them not-so-fun to eat! The solution? Cook them!
The most common recipe that you'll find for crabapples is crabapple jelly. It seems simple enough - crabapples cooked down so that you just get their juice and pectin, then add sugar. On the advice of some friends, I scored some used canning gear from Kijiji and set down to turn 10 lb of crabapples (from a single tree!) into jelly.
Canning was its own adventure in itself! I used a combination of tips from Canadian Living, where I got the recipe, as well as from Atco Blue Flame Kitchen. Unfortunately my mom doesn't like cinnamon, otherwise I would've totally tossed in a few sticks in, and perhaps a few cloves and nutmeg to boot! If you're planning to give these as gifts and there are a few spice-haters in your group too, I would make a label suggesting that people can sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on top of their crabapple jelly if they so desire.
Despite the fact that all the lids snapped happily into place, producing these beautiful jewel-toned jars, my jelly was actually a flop. I made a mistake in scaling the recipe, so it came out sugary-sweet, with no trace of crabapple taste.
The original recipe called for 4½ cups of sugar for 6 lb of crabapples, so I should use 7½ cups of sugar for 10 lb of crabapples, right? Wrong. While their 6 lb of crabapples made 6½ cups of juice, my 10 lb of crabapples only made 10 cups of juice, so I should have only used just under 7 cups of sugar. *sigh* Don't make the same mistake as me! Scale at Step 3, or better yet, taste! Also, don't forget that cooking times are increased if you are using more apples.
I am going on a jelly rescue mission with some apple juice and new lids later this week - wish me luck?
Adapted from Canadian Living
Makes about 8 × 1 cup (250 mL) mason jars
- 6 lb (2.7 kg) crabapples
- 4½ cups (1.5 L) sugar
Nutrition Info (per tsp): 14 calories, 0 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g carbohydrate (0 g fibre, 4 g sugar), 0 g protein.
- Prep crabapples by cutting out any bruises and removing both stem and blossom ends (you might find that halving the apples makes it easier as those stems go deep!) Do not peel or core the crabapples, as this is where the pectin (i.e. the gelatinizing factor) is.
- In large Dutch oven, bring crab apples and 6 cups (1.5 L) water to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until softened. Using potato masher, crush crabapples; cook for 5 minutes longer.
- Wet and wring out jelly bag and suspend on frame over large measuring cup or bowl. Fill with crabapples; let drip, without squeezing bag (as this will make the juice turn cloudy), for about 2 hours or until juice measures 6½ cups (1.625 L), adding up to 1½ cups (375 mL) water if necessary. You may need to empty the measuring cup or bowl periodically to make sure that the jelly bag does not touch the liquid.
- In large clean Dutch oven, bring juice with sugar to full rolling boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly and skimming off foam as necessary. Boil for 15 to 18 minutes or until the jelly reaches gel stage. To test for gel stage, place a few small plates into the freezer. When ready, remove one of the plates, place 1 tsp (5 mL) or less of jelly and freeze again for a minute. The surface of the jelly should wrinkle when pushed with a finger.
- Using funnel, fill hot, sterilized 1-cup (250 mL) canning jars, leaving ¼" (5 mm) headspace. Cover with prepared lids. Screw on bands until fingertip tight. Boil in boiling water canner for 10 minutes, add 5 minutes if you live at a high altitude (i.e. in Calgary). Remove jars from canner and let cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours. Check that lids have snapped into place and refrigerate any that haven't and use within three months.