Who remembers crabapple jelly made from their grandmother’s back yard tree? I do, and my granny wasn’t even much of a cook. Although she grew up on a farm, she ditched it early for life in the big city and this life didn’t include spending the fall in a hot kitchen canning produce. However, she always made an exception for crabapples because it was wasteful not to use them and mostly because you can’t buy crabapple jelly.
Best of all her method was not the labor intensive jelly bag dripping, ball jar sterilizing ordeal most frequently described in cookbooks. This is a recipe which will yield a couple of jars of beautiful garnet colored jelly which will be your go to fall breakfast treat. And you don’t even have to peel the apples since the color comes from their skin.
Start with two pounds of apples cut into quarters and cored. Dump them into a pot with just enough water to cover. Since the apples will float you can put a plate on top and then pour in the water or just guesstimate like I do. Whatever your method it should not be a giant pot of water with a few floating apple carcasses. In other words it shouldn’t look like a ferry accident in a third world country.
Next turn the heat to medium and boil down to mush, about 20 to 30 minutes. You may stir vigorously or not as you please because at some point the fruit will fall apart like a cheap suit and then it’s done.
And here’s where granny makes it easy. Instead of the jelly bag and the overnight draining ordeal you will simply ladle the apple mush juice into a very fine mesh strainer like this:
Most of the liquid will drain out in half an hour at the longest. Resist the urge to press down on it with a spoon or you will release solids into the juice which will cloud the final product. Keep doing this until all the mush is drained then pour into a pan with the sugar and lemon juice. Boil on medium heat until it coats a spoon. Ideally this spoon will be a sterling specimen which you’ve put into the freezer ahead of time. Once coating is achieved pour into clean jelly jars and refrigerate. You’ll also note that no pectin is called for. That’s because apples (all varieties) are packed with it and congeal well without it. For this reason the jelly should be barely off the heat when you pour it into the jars.
And that’s it folks. Easy small batch jelly from your own harvest.
- 2 lbs. crabapples
- ⅔ cup white sugar
- 1 tsp. lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar)
- Optional lemon zest to taste
- Remove stem ends, core & cut up apples into quarters.
- Place in a pot & cover with water.
- Boil over medium heat until apples are mush.
- Drain through a fine mesh strainer for about 20 minutes. Do not press down on the apples as doing so will cloud the jelly.
- Discard the cooked apples. This should yield 2½ cups juices. If there is less juice you will need less sugar. Taste as you add. Too much sugar dulls the flavor.
- Once all the juice has drained remove to a pan, add sugar, lemon juice and boil over medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes until thickened. Mixture should coat a spoon lightly.
- Let cool for a minute or two then pour into jelly jars. This sets up fast so don't leave it in the pot for longer than that.