Thursday, August 16, 2012

First Time Canner

My friend and I were talking a walk in a park and somehow we started talking about the giant crab apple trees and I said something about how I wish they weren't poisonous...and then I found out that THEY ARE EDIBLE. Just no one eats them or spends time cutting/peeling/coring them because they are small and can be difficult to de-stem and have a tartness to them.

And my canning adventures started then and there.

How can people waste a fruit that is edible? Maybe I find joy in the simple things in life but this is perfectly good food going to waste!

So we proceeded to collect two large plastic grocery sacks of them and I went on my merry way to try to find recipes. I probably ended up with 10 pounds of these tasty little things (and some friendly worms..just kidding.)

But they did have these nasty little black bugs in them. They kind of looked like pincher bugs but I didn't see them for long. I accidentally washed them down the drain. I'm not sure if bugs are a good sign meaning that the crabapples are ripe and not sprayed with pesticides? I would think they are unsprayed since no one is selling these apples for profit.

Cute little stars inside when you cut them. The beautiful thing about making jelly is that you don't have to peel or core your fruit. My crabapples were about the size of a quarter to silver dollar which made them easier to cut compared to the tiny ones. I mostly do this to make sure no wormies entered our jelly! Maybe it helps with the flavor too - I'm not sure!

I added enough water to the pot to almost cover them but not enough to make them float. I simmered/boiled them for 10-15 minutes. They say not to really stir the fruit in the pot while you are boiling it because it makes your jelly cloudy.  And then I drained them using a thin dish towel since I didn't have any cheese cloth. I didn't take a picture of it..since it was so ugly and slightly messy. But it worked out well! People recommend letting it strain overnight. But I am impatient...

They also recommend not squeezing the cheesecloth/dishtowel of crabapples it because you want your jelly to be clear and not pulpy. And although I am not a pro and this was my very first time making it...I squeezed the juice out because my dishtowel was thick enough to catch the stuff and I didn't feel like my stuff was cloudy.

I measured out how much juice I strained from my fruit and got about 2 cups. Keep in mind about how much water you add to your non-reactive pot (like stainless steel, not teflon coated or made with aluminum or copper) of fruit will determine how much juice you get in this step. It is important to add the right amount of sugar.  (As I didn't this time because I didn't know better and had to go back and re-add my sugar...) So just keep a 1:1 cup ratio. I had 2 cups of juice, so I added about 2 cups of white sugar. A LOT. I KNOW. But if you add less like I will get syrup or even the result I had was pure sugar juice. It wasn't the least bit thick.

And if I knew any better, I would have kept the strained fruit for making applesauce. But I didn't know this at the time and I didn't own a food mill and so I threw it all out. Wasting more free food, yikes!

And I boiled it for a while. And did the spoon test because I do not yet own a candy thermometer and my meat thermometer didn't go up that high (like 220 degrees and then minus 2 degrees for each 1000 ft in altitude or something.. I found a chart online..somewhere sorry!). You stick a clean spoon in the mixture and when you pull it out, you are looking for the two drops to merge into one big clump. Here is the silly video I found that helped me out with this. This lady makes me laugh:

I had never heard of her until I found this. The ready why it says 3 is because the first two videos (Which I watched) stop abruptly after a few minutes. So that is why she seems to be talking so fast in the beginning of this one. She is trying to recap what happened in the previous videos. Haha.

Here is a shorter clip now that you can see the spoon test easily now that you have watched that long silly one.

And then you turn off the heat. And pour the jelly into jars and seal them. And I would advise doing a boiling water bath (BWB) which I just learned about after I had made like 16 jars of stuff. I was using the natural seal which apparently is not the preferred safety method. When I learned that, I got a little nervous because I don't want to harm any of my family or friends that I am going to give this jelly to. :/ Maybe I should keep all 16 jars for myself....teehee. Too late, I did a BWB on all the cans!

You can find more information about boiling water baths here:

Here is a great video showing water baths:

I do not have a canner. I went to Goodwill and bought a large pot (and I also found a double boiler and a food mill... wowzers!). I didn't realize canning needed so much equipment. I had to buy a non-reactive pot for making my jelly, the jars and extra lids because I wasted so many of mine since I didn't add appropriate amounts of sugar...and I had to get a pair of tongs for lifting my jelly jars out of the boiling water bath. I would recommend ones for lifting jars like these.

And pectin. Apples naturally have pectin in them so you don't need to add it to this recipe or any jelly/jam recipes with apples! And I think fruit that is not quite right also has pectin in it so if you are planning on making jam/jelly with fruit other than apples. I think I heard that it is best to get a unripe to ripe ratio of 1:4. So 1 not quite ripe fruit and 3 ripe fruit. But I have some on hand in case I mess up!

As this was my first time canning, let me know if there are things that are no quite right or the best/preferred method!

I have made crabapple butter, crabapple jelly, and crabapple sauce!
As well as crabapple bread (: --That was interesting..

Crabapple jelly on left and crabapple butter on right.

- I slowcooked the apple butter and apple sauce and cooked some in a pot on the stove. The crock pot was far easier and came out less grittier than the stove cooked applesauce. Will have to do again! This is so much fun!

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