Crabapple Jelly Experiments

Last year my FIL took a tiny crabapple from my neighbor’s tree and ate it. I had no idea what that was, so I went online to make sure he would not be poisoned by it. I “discovered” that not only crabapples are not poisonous, but they also make delicious jelly! I was able to make about 4 half pint jars, which were eaten so quickly it did not even get to the end of the summer. My little one loved it so much he wanted to eat out of the jar with a spoon… so this year I eagerly waited for the little pretties to be ready.

My mom, my son and I got our first batch about 4 weeks ago. I found several recipes online, and they typically call for a 3 to 4 ratio of sugar to “juice” (4 cups of prepared juice to 3 cups of sugar.) Although I still think it’s delicious, my husband had I good point saying it is too sweet, and that the fresh tart flavor of the crabapple disappears. The other thing that got me thinking was the correct proportion of cut up fruit to water. You see it’s a ton of work to cup up each and every one of the little apples, so I was trying to get the most out of a batch. Up to then I was using a little over 1 to 1 ratio, or just enough water to cover the cut up fruit. One important thing I feel strongly about is that you really need to cut up the fruit to expose the seeds. Crabapple jelly does not require pectin because the fruit has enough of it to gel, and the source of pectin is the seeds. You need to expose them so that when the fruit boils it releases enough of it. I’ve read about some people that let the thing boil so much that the fruit literally disintegrates (so they don’t have to cut up the fruit), but I prefer to cut it because 90% of the time when they look bad on the outside there’s nothing wrong inside and I can use it. But the only way to know is cutting it in half. Personally, despite being a pain, I find it worth the effort.

So for my first batch I did use the “traditional” recipe, but for my second try I made a small batch with 4 cups of  prepared juice, and only one and a half cup of sugar. I added double of the amount of fruit of water to prepare the juice, and boiled the fruit for about 45 minutes. The juice was strained in cheese cloth overnight. The following day the juice went back on the pot until boiling, I added the sugar and let it simmer until the mix reached the 220 degrees called for in the original recipe and the jelly came out perfect!

So from now on I will use the 4 to 1 ratio. The last thing I found out is that the biggest batch I will make from now on is 12 cups of juice. More than that it take forever for the temperature to reach 220 degrees, and by the time it does the jelly becomes really dark. My final recipe is 12 cups of juice, 4 cups of granulated sugar, the juice and peel of one lemon. Let it boil until the thermometer reads 220 degrees. Fill the prepared jars, give them a good bath, let it cool completely, and voila! Enjoy the best jelly you’ll ever taste!