When I was a kid, before I was old enough to understand the strain of holiday family visits and Christmas stress, I loved going to my grandparents house for Christmas Eve. Me, my mom, and my sister got dressed in our lacy red and green Christmas dresses, my dad usually wore a turtleneck. We piled all of the gifts for the family in our small car and drove in the awful upsate New York snow to Gramma and Papa’s house with the Christmas tree in the front window and the battery operated candles in all the other windows. All of my cousins, aunts, and uncles would be there and there would be so many gifts under the tree it would send me and my cousins in dizzy rapture. I remember counting how many presents each family member had and whispering in my sister’s ear whenever I found a new one with her name on it. One year, since I was only seven and had no extra quarters saved up from the tooth fairy, I made homemade chocolate lollipops and colored Christmas coloring pages for each of my aunts and uncles to give them. I was so satisfied with my seven year old self and my coloring abilities.
I loved it. I still love every Christmas tradition I can get my hands on. I scare my poor husband with how many things I can come up with to spread the holiday cheer. Although we don’t meet at my Grandmother’s house anymore, I still spend every year making homemade gifts. I still feel kinda satisfied with my 25 year old self and how crafty I am.
This Thanksgiving my mom brought a bag of fresh crab apples along with the space heater I begged her to bring for me and my chilly fingers. In my excitement about the space heater (I’m using it right now, so toasty!) I overlooked the lowly crab apples. But yesterday I opened the fridge and saw them sitting patiently and unassuming, just waiting for me to turn them into delicious jelly.
I LOVE canning things. I thought cupcakes were my passion, but I was wrong. It’s jelly and jam and marmalade and preserves. It’s canning. The beauty of this recipe is how elusive crab apples are. You can’t really buy crab apples in the store. You might be able to sniff them out at a farmer’s market, but it’s unlikely. You have to go on a real scavenger hunt to find crab apples. You can go through your address book and see what friends are likely to have a tree. Or you could have an incredible mother who grows them in her expansive and wonderful garden. That works too. Of course, if you absolutely cannot find crab apples, you can make this jelly with regular apples. It’s just as delicious, although it will loose it’s tart bite and will be a little softer.
You start with making a juice from your crabapples. It’s incredibly easy. As simple as boiling a pot of water.
After you strain the fruit and come up with a gorgeous rosy golden yummy smelling juice you add brown and white sugar, whole cloves, and cinnamon sticks and cook away!
This jelly is beautiful. It’s sweet, tart, and golden pink. I made two batches (very small batches) one without pectin and one with. I personally liked using the pectin because I prefer not flipping out and worrying about whether the jelly will set up. But the truth is, after cooling down in the fridge, the batch without pectin set up just fine! It’s perfect for toast, filling shortbread cookies, glazing pork, or (my favorite) giving as gifts.
A word about cans and canning: I made this jelly in small 4 oz cans for gift giving. But feel free to use any size you would like. But this recipe only yields 20 oz. That’s five small 4 oz. jars and two and a half 8 oz jars. If you can’t fill a jar completely that’s perfectly okay. Just store the extra jar in the fridge to be eaten within a month’s time. For help on how to sterilize and prep your cans visit the About Food website for this article that tells you how. It’s super easy.
- 2 cups crab apple juice (about 1½ pounds crabapples)
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 10 whole cloves
- You will need, cheesecloth, canning jars, lids, and rims. A boiling water canner is incredible helpful, but not necessary. You can use a deep heavy bottomed pot just as well.
- To make the crabapple juice: Sort and wash the crabapples. Remove the stems, blossom ends (that's a fancy way of saying "the bottoms") and any rotten spots. Add them to a heavy bottomed pot and cover with water until fruit is covered, but not floating. Bring to a boil on high heat. Stir occasionally to avoid over flowing and burning. Cook until the skins pop and the fruit is soft. Remove from heat. With a masher, mush the fruit and stir. Pour everything through a double layer of cheesecloth into a bowl or pan, using a colander or sieve to hold the cheesecloth. Drain the juice without pressing or squeezing too much. This will make the jelly cloudy.
- To make the jelly: Sterilize canning jars. Measure the juice into a sauce pot. Add the sugars and spices and stir well. Boil over high heat until the temperature reaches 220 degrees F. If you don't have a candy thermometer, boil 15 minutes and then test the jelly. If it jellifies on a cold plate kept in the freezer, it's done. If you would like to add pectin, add ½ package of liquid pectin to the jelly and boil one minute more.
- Remove from heat and skim off the foam and remove the cinnamon sticks and cloves. Pour the hot jelly into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel and assemble lids. Process for 5 minutes in a boiling water canner. Or in boiling water in a heavy bottomed pot.