I can’t think of a more old-fashioned jelly than crab apple. It’s got a certain foraged allure, never mind that people used to plant crab apples to harvest them. These days, it just seems like an afterthought, doesn’t it? A few blocks from me, an entire block is planted in these trees with almost all of the fruit rotting.
I wouldn’t have gotten around to making this, except that a woman that I met in our foraging class was kind enough to bring me a bag that she had picked.
Crab apple jelly is very easy to make. But if you’re in Seattle, you need to know about two pests that might be in your crab apples: the coddling moth and the apple maggot. These pests also show up in our local apples, pears, and I even think that damned moth is in my plum. It is easier to notice the coddling moth as the larvae bite a hole into the apple and then burrow into the center pips, leaving a trail of poo, usually in the bottom of the fruit. You can easily cut around a coddling moth and the bad fruit. The apple maggot tunnels throughout the fruit, and when you cut it open, it will look like a crazy network of brown varicose veins. If you’ve got apple maggots, there’s nothing to do but give the fruit to your chickens.
My crab apples had both of these pests, so by the time I cleaned the eight pounds of fruit I had, I was left with only 2 1/2 pounds of fruit to cook. That’s a terrible ratio, but probably the nature of using foraged street fruit. The result was certainly worth the effort and I’m inviting you to come eat crumpets with me before our garden goes to bed.
Here’s our forage tour leader’s recipe:
J.T.’s Crabapple Jelly
1. Gather crabapples.
I like to gather a lot, enough to fill my big stockpot. If I’m going to
make jelly I want more than a couple of jars! This year we gathered 8
3/4 lbs. of crabapples.
2. Rinse crabapples. Cut them in halves or quarters, putting the cut-up
apples in your jelly pot. Discard soft or wormy pieces.
I do not destem or deseed the crabapples.
3. Fill pot with water just to the level of the top of the fruit. Cook
uncovered until crabapples can be pierced with a fork.
4. Strain juice through jelly bags. Pour the juice into the clean jelly pot.
5. Bring juice to boil. Add a scant cup of sugar per cup of juice.
You can use up to a cup of sugar per cup of juice, but I like a tarter
6. Simmer until jell point is reached. With the amount of juice I use,
this takes a couple of hours. If you have a small batch, it could jell
in less than half an hour.
7. Place into hot sterilized jars and seal.
8. Enjoy your beautiful jelly!