Crab Apple Jelly – Take 1

Wednesday I decided I was going to try my hand at making crab apple jelly. This recipe, Mary Wynnes Crabapple Jelly, looked simple enough. Surely, I could do this. Jon decided to help me after I got home from work that evening.
We had our son pick a 3 gallon bucket of crab apples before I got home. Jon had the day off and got started on the process of removing the stems before I arrived. Now, he understands what I meant by tedious.  When I arrived home there he was in the kitchen still removing stems.
Crab Apples
Crab Apples and Their Stubborn Stems!

I jumped in to help removing the stems and he began to take the clean crab apples from the sink and chop them. He is a kitchen manager and chops things all the time. Trust me, he is a lot more efficient at chopping than I am! Finally, we had them all ready and the pot full.
Cleaned and Chopped Crab Apples
Cleaned and Chopped Crab Apples


Cleaned and Chopped Crab Apples
The Seeds Look So Big Compared to the Size of the Fruit
We added water to the pot just as Mary’s recipe stated and brought them to a boil. After simmering for 15 minutes we strained them through a colander the first time discarding the pulp. We then strained the juice a second time through a cheese cloth. The juice was a lighter pink cloudy color just as the juice from when I attempted crab apple juice. The coloring reminded me of pink lemonade.
We quickly cleaned out any pulp residue from the pot and poured the juice back in. We brought it to a boil and added cinnamon then let it simmer for 10 minutes. It had now turned to a gorgeous red similar to the recipe picture and was no longer cloudy. I was feeling happy.
The recipe said to skim off any foam from the top. But I didn’t see any foam. I felt compelled to constantly stir it. I couldn’t just let it sit there! I believe the constant stirring is why the foam did not form during this time.
After 10 minutes, we added the sugar and stirred until it thoroughly dissolved. Now, here is where it all got confusing for us.
“Continue cooking at a low boil until the temperature reaches 220 to 222 degrees F (108 to 110 C). Remove from heat.”
We don’t have a candy thermometer. So how in the world could we know when it was 220 to 222 degrees?!? Eek! Jon was googling on his phone and found other examples explaining how to check if the liquid is sheeting. Then there is the checking with a cold plate method. What is sheeting and the cold plate method, do you ask? Here is a good explanation of “Testing The Jelly Point“.
We checked it with a plate and it was still too runny, but tasted wonderful! We waited and watched for 10 minutes or so more. Then we checked with the spoon. Still, it just ran off the spoon. We iterated through this step a couple more times. We were beginning to worry that something was wrong. Have we mentioned that we are not patient people?
As we are letting it continue to boil low Jon found somewhere online that says if you cook it too low for too long it can reduce the pectin and never gel. Well, then we started to worry. We checked again with the spoon for sheeting. It wasn’t sheeting yet with two drops, but it had thickened ever so slightly. So, Jon turns the heat up so it will boil higher and we waited 10 more minutes. We even walked a way. Do NOT do that!
After 10 minutes we go check and there is so much foam it is almost bubbling over! I mean a lot of foam. We turned the heat off and looked at it. It’s gorgeous color had now darkened to a more burgundy color. We poured it into our pint jars and we had not quite 2 jars full. And there was all this foam! We should have skimmed off the foam, but we did not.
We only had 2 jars, but I wanted to can them. This is a learning process and I had never done a water bath before. I have a  new pressure canner that I’ve only used a few times. I know I can use it for water baths as well if I don’t use the weight and seal it all up. So, I look in my handy dandy manual for water bath directions. It did not really have a suggested time for jelly, but suggested 25 minutes for most fruits. So, 25 minutes is what we went with. I have subsequently found that a water bath of 5 minutes should suffice. So, now we’ve over cooked our jelly and then boiled it too long in the water bath. When the 25 minute timer goes off we get them two jars out and this is what we have.
It is almost as dark as molasses! And look at the foam!  Oh my. The next morning we found one of the jars had not even sealed.  I turned one jar on its side and the jelly did not even move. We put the unsealed jar in the fridge and went on to work.
I was in such a foul mood. I think everything I do should be perfect the first time. And it seems that everything we try in our new homesteading effort is just a big fat failure! I was seriously ready to just call it quits. But Jon gave me a pep talk later in the day and the some how as the day progressed, I was starting to not be quite so irritated.
When I got home I got the jar of crab apple hard rock candy out of the fridge. I removed the lid and took a knife and scraped a little off the top. It was relatively solid, but it was a malleable solid rather than hard as a brick. I tasted it and it was so good. I nuked it in the microwave for a minute and it then looked liked molasses.
I called Jon on his way home from work and told him we were having breakfast for supper. We had scrambled eggs, bacon, and our new homemade crab apple molasses on toast.  It was delicious and I felt some what renewed. We had it again Saturday morning at breakfast. Of course we have to heat it in the microwave to eat it, but it is usable.
I was so embarrassed by it at first, but this was such a learning process. Then yesterday when visiting my folks after church Jon and I told them of our jelly making attempt. Mama (who can make and can anything blind folded) shared some of her jelly bloopers and I felt so much better.
We have a long way before we will be self reliant, but at least we are trying. I would much rather be learning these skills now while I have the luxury to not “need” them than to try and figure it out when it required. And as always it makes for a little laugh after the fact (once I recover from the catastrophe of it all). If you’re like us, and are still in the learning process don’t beat yourself up like I did.