It was finally the day to make crabapple jelly. I finally had enough jars, finally found the crabapples, and finally extracted the juice after a long-kitchen interrupting- two day process.
It began with the crabapple gathering process. The tree was loaded. My husband brought a ladder and went with me on a warm Sunday afternoon to pick crabapples to make this favorite jelly. There were so many apples on the ground. Beautiful crabapples starting to rot, some with worms, no way to tell. The ones on the tree were, for the most part, still not ripe. We picked up and picked a farm box full. I was ecstatic.
Monday was a bust for jellying. Things just didn’t happen to start the cutting and coring process. Tuesday, I cut up a huge bowl full of the tiny green apples, discarding the core, brown spots, wormy spots and put them in the pot. Covering them with filtered water, I started the stove, and cooked them exactly the right amount of time. Mushed them with a potato masher and then hung them up in a white kitchen towel to drip the magical juice into a bowl. They pretty much occupied my kitchen Tuesday evening and overnight. Finally, in the morning, I measured out the juice from my labors.
Four cups. Only four cups. Two days and only four cups. I was so disappointed that I did not get five or seven cups for two days of work. These numbers were in my mind. Finally, I let myself get over the disappointment and prepared the jars to make the jelly. I prepped seven half pint jars, because I knew that I would add at least four cups of sugar to the four cups of juice. My canner holds seven jars. Oddly, jelly math does not work that way.
I combined the crabapple juice (which tastes horrible by the way) with some of the sugar in my pot and began cooking the combination. Slowly, I added and tasted until I got the right amount of sugar to make the prefered combination of tart to sweet. A bright tasting jelly appeals to me for this fruit. That landed right at four scant cups. So four cups of juice and four cups of sugar boiled away in my old stainless cooker.
Crabapples are full of pectin, so no added pectin is needed to make them into jelly–just heat and magic and 220 degrees. So, I got out the instant read thermometer and the jelly was at a rolling boil, and, precisely at 215 degrees the dogs…all of them…wanted out. I made them wait until the jelly reached 220 degrees. Then I turned off the gas and quickly let the dogs out into the dog yard. I never leave them unattended outside. It took about five minutes for them to all go out, sniff, the boys peed on everything, and then everyone drifted back in.
When I returned, sadly, the skim on the top of the jelly reminded me of the leathery fish bait that my husband uses to salt water fish, and it wouldn’t detach from the jelly that was already jelling in the pot! Nothing prepared me for the speed at which crabapple jelly would gel. I don’t know why jelly is spelled with a “j” and gel is spelled with a “g.” Anyone? I was crabbier than the apples by this point.
My next half hour was spent fishing most of the white leathery foam off of the jelly still in the pot. In picking the bits of foam that dislodged, I wasted at least a cup of jelly de-foaming the jelly. Finally, most of the fish bait was off the top of the jelly, and I started moving the already jelled jelly into the still warm jars. It was just weird .. already jelled as it was.
The big sad crabby surprise. I got 4 half pint jars of jelly. Four. So four cups of juice plus four cups of sugar less one wasted cup of foamy fish bait equaled four cups of beautiful clear and mostly fish bait free jelly. Jelly math. Who knew?
I sat down at the kitchen counter and started cutting more apples. The jelly is delicious….even the fish bait looking pieces. I’ll just make more.