Homemade Crabapple Jelly

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It is Crabapple time again.  Last year we picked and processed crabapples for use in our Crabapple Fruit Rolls and Crabapple Plum Butter.  This year I promised Crabapple Jelly.  With a smaller then expected raspberry harvest I am severely behind in my jam and jelly processing goal, so it works out well.

So we are off to my parent’s house to pick crabapples.  I took the baby maniac to keep my mom busy and maniac #2 to help me pick apples.  I didn’t tell Em what I was up too.  Last year I had the counters filled with crabapples for weeks and she is still mad at me for the mess I made over an extended period of time.  This year I had to plan to use the crabapples quickly- if I wanted there to be a third year of picking them.

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The crabapple tree at my mom’s house is always loaded with small golf ball sized, all red crabapples.  I wish I knew the variety because I would like to get one for our house.  It is fairly small with most apples being able to be picked without a ladder.
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I brought Spencer to help me pick apples.  He lasted about 5 minutes and I am not sure he put one apple in the box that wasn’t bruised and rotting.  It is quite possible apple picking is one of those things that sounds better to a kid then it actually is.  Moments after this photo he was playing with trucks in the driveway with no intention of helping me complete the task at hand.

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Aside from maniac issues, the picking went quickly and we brought home a box of 20 lbs within an hour.

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After washing and throwing out the pound of rotting apples Spencer picked I was left with 19 lbs ready for processing.  I have never made Crabapple Jelly before (or any jelly, only jams) so I did research to find the best way to make crabapple jelly and it turns out the information was distinctly different all over the place.  I read that crabapples were so high in pectin you didn’t need to use any and other places that recommended 1 tablespoon per 1/2 pint.  At 1 tablespoon per half pint I would be looking at 20 tablespoon for the batch I was about to make.  The amount of sugar to use was also widely different depending on source with one recipe recommending 1 2/3 cup of sugar per 1 cup of crabapple juice.  That would equal over 28 cups of sugar for the batch I was about to process.

I ended up deciding on nothing and thought I would just start and feel it out along the way.

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The one thing I was sure I was going to use was my juicer.  To make jelly you have to separate the juice from pulp which could mean boiling the crabapples and straining the juice thru a cheesecloth or something similar.  Having dealt with boiling 70 plus pounds of crabapples last year I knew I wasn’t up for that.  I had already used my juicer as a shortcut in my tomato sauce canning so I knew I could do the same thing with my crabapple harvest.

It was the perfect plan and in my head I imagined Em high fiving me for taking care of all the crabapples in one day without making a huge mess.  Then at around the 12 pound mark of juicing crabapples the juicer jammed and stopped pushing out juice.  I turned it off, to take it apart.  If you have ever wondered what happens when you unlatch and open the juicer before the blade has completely stopped you can see below…

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I shot crabapple pulp halfway around the kitchen.  It covered cabinets, counters. windows, the mixer, the toaster, and just about everywhere you could imagine. Not my smartest moment but as you know I prefer to learn my lessons the hard way.

I had to clean out the juicer. The amount of pulp had jammed up the juicing dispenser and once it was washed out it went back to working fine.  I only lost about 15 minutes due to clean up.

I ended up with 17 cups of juice from the 19 lbs of crabapples.  The juice went into the second largest pot I had.  The largest was simmering pint and half pint jars for canning once done.

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Now came the point to decide how much pectin to use.  I arbitrarily chose 5 tablespoons and decided I would check it after the boil to see if it would set.  I mixed 5 tablespoons of Ball Classic Pectin with 1/4 cup sugar and poured it in with juice as it came to its first boil.  I stirred constantly as it came to boil.

Once it came to that roaring hard boiling point I decided to add 17 cups of sugar.  1 cup of sugar per cup of juice.  It was a lot of sugar to add and it made me cringe a bit, but I will tell you now after tasting the finished product it is not overly sweet and still very tangy despite all that sugar.

I stirred the sugar in and brought back to hard boil before turning heat down to prevent it from boiling over.  I had a spoon in a glass of ice water on the counter.  The trick to see if jelly will set is to scoop out a cold spoon full and let is sit and cool down.  It should set on the spoon to the consistency you want your jelly to be.  I scooped out a spoonful and let it sit for about 5 minutes.  When I picked it up the jelly ran straight off the spoon like it was still juice.

I decided to stir 3 1/2 tablespoons of more pectin into that jelly and boil it for another couple minutes.

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After adding more pectin and letting it boil again I scooped out another spoonful and 5 or so minutes later it held firm when picked up. I used 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 tablespoon of pectin per cup pf crabapple juice.  Now it was ready to can.

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I filled 12 half pint jars and 4 pint jars with the jelly.  I always use the Ball Fresh Preserving water bath canning instructions for canning.  You can find those directions here.

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I processed them for 10 minutes in water bath.  Then removed and allowed them to cool for 24 hours.  All the jars sealed and the jelly turned out perfect.

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We opened one pint and made quick work of it over the course of the week.  Both older maniacs really liked it which I wasn’t sure would be the case since it is definitely tangy and not extremely sweet like the strawberry and raspberry jams we made.  20 half pints of crabapple jelly will go a long way to lasting a year.  We actually have less then 10  half pints of the strawberry and raspberry jams left.  I am still hoping to try a ground cherry jam from the garden and the success of this project has made me consider some regular apple jelly once we get our apple picking done.  I did incur an expense of 2 half pints of jelly to my mom since she let me take the crabapples but who can argue with 10%.

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I am still working on my 10 pork dinner recipes from one pork tenderloin and I am hoping to develop a pork recipe using this jelly.  I think the two will go great together!





Jeff McIntosh

About Jeff McIntosh

Jeff's family lives in his childhood home on a 1/4 acre in town lot. Despite the small space to work with, they have challenged ourselves to produce as much of our own food as possible — and cook it! They document their journey at Blogging with Apples.