Crabapple Jelly

We have a row of miniature apples (about the size of cherries) that grow on our block, and I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with them for years. A week ago or so Zack turned me on to the “Saving the Season” canning book/memoir by Kevin West (here’s his blog), and I’ve got a pretty serious canning crush on this guy. So I followed his instructions to make crabapple jelly without store-bought pectin, instead making a pectin stock from the fruit, and it was pretty fun. I’ve had all kinds of jam trouble lately but this jelly set up really nicely (maybe too nicely, it’s pretty darn firm in the fridge.) I love adding herbs to jelly, and he recommended thyme, though in hindsight I wish I would have went with rosemary.






We’re having a pre-Thanksgiving potluck with the neighbors tonight and I decided to make a pie with the sour cherries we got this summer at Paul’s parents’ place in Wenatchee. If I had room to grow a cherry tree it would be this kind; super tart and really only good for baking or jam.

When I thawed them out a ton of juice drained off, and I realized that I could do a batch of jelly alongside the pie. We had everything we needed in the basement (including the obscene amount of sugar that goes into jelly), and besides the processing time, it only took about a half hour to make 8 cute little pints.

Plus this was my first lattice-topped pie. Alicia accused me of showing off and I won’t deny it.

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The last of the canning (hopefully…)

Alicia has been making applesauce like crazy with the bags of apples that we brought home from Wenatchee back in October, and we have probably 20 or 25 quarts so far. I kept saying that I was going to make some apple pie filling since we just used up our last batch, but it’s been busy. Finally last night the Venn diagram of motivation and time overlapped, and I canned 10 quarts of pie filling. It looks like a good batch this time around; I followed this recipe (mostly, and despite the Comic Sans). Blanching the apples after they were peeled and sliced seems like it helped keep the whole production from oxidizing too much, though I had to run the sauce through the blender to de-lump it before pouring it in the cans.

A week or two ago, I also made some apple jelly with rosemary, which is an amazing combination of flavors. Rosemary usually overpowers things, but with the apple, the flavors are perfect together. We received a jar of this jelly from someone a few years ago and loved it, but I can’t figure out who it was. If you’re out there, reveal yourself! At any rate, it is tasty, tasty jelly, and it’s all Hannah wants on her toast for the time being. Just take any apple jelly recipe, and add a sprig of fresh rosemary after filling the jars, right before you put the lid on; the rosemary flavor infuses the whole jar.

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Great Grapes

The week before my birthday cider pressing this year, I changed my Facebook status to “in search of apples.” One of my old students Kyle got back to me, saying he had apples and grapes, which was a double-bonus. We went out to his place in Juanita and harvested two big containers of Concord grapes, plus a bunch of apples.

I have started grape vines in the front yard from my dad, but they’re only a year old, and if we’re lucky we’ll get our first grapes next year from them. Kyle’s grape trellis was incredible. The vines must have been 15 or 20 years old; they surrounded an outdoor awning about 10 feet tall, and were climbing up a huge tree they were next too. We easily got 100 lbs. of grapes in about a half hour.

Alicia is a woman of action when it comes to preserving; that very night she got busy smashing, boiling and straining grape juice for jelly and other projects. I had my eyes on some pyment (mead made with grape juice), and Hannah and Robbie just wanted to stuff as many in their mouths as we would let them.

I tried juicing grapes in the apple cider press, which was not very successful. It squeezed out juice, but definitely not all of it. The smashed grapes I took out of the press after squeezing them were still really juicy. The technique that worked best was putting all the grapes in a mesh bag and smashing them by hand. I have the bag with all the skins and pulp inside in the bucket of grape juice right now, hoping to transfer some of the tannins from the skin. Otherwise the juice is just sweet, not sweet-tart. I’ll add honey and get it fermenting into mead in the next week, probably following my plum mead technique from last year (I just tasted it and I think it’s ready to bottle after a year in the carboy).

In the end, we’ve got a bunch of grape jelly, about 16 quarts of grape juice (just grapes and sugar with boiling water poured over them, you don’t even have to process the jars!), and a batch of mead from the grapes. Plus I took some cuttings and am starting grapevines for planting next spring. We’ll have our own Concords in a couple years with any luck.

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