Crabapple Jelly and jelly making tips . . .



     Making jelly takes me back to high school Home Ec. class. I remember sitting in class taking notes on the differences between jams (made from crushed fruit), jellies (uses the strained juices of the fruit), preserves (chunks of fruit surrounded by jelly), conserves  (nuts and sometimes raisins are added), and marmalade (citrus spread made from the peel and pulp of the fruit).

     Later on I taught units on food preservation at Abilene High School, including how to make jams, jellies, etc. Along the way I picked up tips from people like Bernice Peterson and from books, pamphlets and manuals. I also managed to keep a file of those references — most of which are probably considered to be vintage by now.
     My dad’s favorite jelly was currant and during wheat harvest in Stafford I would go to the lake to pick the small berries so he could have jelly throughout the year. Sand plum jelly, blackberry jam and jelly plus orange marmalade are also favs, but since we moved to our present location I regularly make crab apple jelly since we have a tree right outside our back door.
     Over the course of time, I’ve noticed instructions have changed. Most interesting is the fact that the amount of sugar called for in many recipes has been reduced. Now, when I make jelly I follow the current instructions on the sheet inside the packaged pectin box but also incorporate tips and tricks that I’ve accumulation from a variety of sources. Up to this point I’ve relied on memory but I’m thinking it would be nice to have everything written down. Besides, I still get frustrated trying to follow the sheet of instructions in the pectin box – part of them are on one side of the page, then you scroll down to find the chart that relates to the type of jelly you are making, and then flip the page to find the step-by-step canning instructions!
    So, here’s how I make Crab Apple Jelly with all sorts of added explanations . . .
It all starts with the tree and about 2 gallons of crabapples.

PREPARING THE JUICE
2 gallons (about 6 to 7+ pounds) of crab apples, leaves & branches removed, washed and drained
Crabapples are washed and drained . . . in batches
6 to 10+ cups of water — the boxed instructions call for 6 cups but I find need to add more in the final stages in order to come up the final 6 cups of prepared juice called for in the recipe below

1.  Place crab apples in a large pot; add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil.


2.  Reduce heat, add lid and simmer 10 to 30 minutes until apples soften and begin to burst. Package directions say 10 minutes but mine are always still way to firm in that time.
3.  Let cook slightly and crush.
4.  Place three layers of damp cheesecloth or a jelly bag in large bowl. Pour prepared fruit into cheesecloth. I seamed the edges of the cheesecloth to create a homemade bag.
5.  Tie cheesecloth closed with heavy string; hang. I suspend mine from a cabinet knob and let it drip into bowl until the dripping stops. Generally I leave it overnight.

6.  Gently press the bag to extract additional juice.
7.  Measure juice; if there is not enough, I boil additional water and pour in over the crab apple mush, allowing it to slowly absorb and drip through.

PREPARING THE JARS, BANDS & LIDS
1.  For best results, use commercial canning jars. Make sure there are no cracks or chips on jars, and no rust on jar bands. Use new lids for each jar.
2.  Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Immerse jars in boiling water to sterilize. Drain well before filling with jelly.
Clean jars are put into boiling water to sterilize
3.  Right before you are ready to fill jars — pour boiling water over flat lids and bands in that have been placed in a bowl or pan. Let them stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before using.

PREPARING THE WATER BATH CANNER.
1.  Fill canner about half full of water, or enough to totally immerse filled and sealed jelly jars.
2.  Bring water to boiling and then reduce to simmer.

Crab Apple Jelly     Yield: about 10 (1-cup) jars
6 cups prepared juice
1 (1.75 oz.) box Sure-Jell® powdered fruit pectin
1/2 teaspoon butter or margarine
4 cups granulated sugar, measured into separate bowl — measurements are precise in jelly making and the sugar is added while the jelly is being boiled and stirred so pre-measuring helps insure that you don’t lose count of the sugar as it is being measured
4 cups pre-measured sugar
1.  Add prepared juice to large (6- or 8-qt.) saucepot.
2.  Mix 1/4  cup of premeasured sugar with box of pectin.
3.  Stir pectin-sugar mixture into juice into saucepot. Add ½ teaspoon butter or margarine to help reduce foaming.

4.  Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly.
5.  Stir in remaining sugar quickly. Return to full rolling boil and boil at least 1 minute, stirring constantly. I stir it until the jelly will sheet off a dinner-style teaspoon – see diagram below. The spoon test is an “old-fashioned” method to test for doneness and this almost always insures the jelly will set.

I was just not fast enough to capture the live action on camera
so I took a photo of a diagram that appears in one of my vintage
jelly making pamphlets.
6.  Remove from heat.
7.  Skim off any foam with metal spoon.
8.  Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 to 1/4 -inch of tops.
9.  Wipe jar rims and threads.
10. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly.
11. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.
12. Cover; bring water to gentle boil.
13. Once the boiling begins, set the timer and process for 5 minutes*.
Jars are immersed in boiling water and the timer is set for 5 minutes.
14. Remove jars and place upright on a cooling rack to cool completely.
15. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. If lids spring back, lids are not sealed and refrigeration is necessary. Note: A “pinging” sound indicates that the jars have sealed; this may begin immediately after jars are removed from water bath or it may happen later. At this point jar bands may be removed if desired.
16. Prepare labels including: type of jelly, date of preparation & batch number if making more than one batch in a day.
17. Store jelly in a cool, dark, dry place, between 50 to 70°F. Most jelly can be stored for up to a year. Before eating make sure the seal is intact. If there is any mold on a jar of jam or jelly, or signs of other spoilage, discard the entire contents of the jar or container. Lighter-colored jams and jellies may darken over time but are still safe to eat.
*Altitude Chart
At altitudes above 1,000 feet, increase processing time as indicated: 1,001 to 3,000 feet - increase processing time by 5 minutes; 3,001 to 6,000 feet - increase processing time by 10 minutes; 6,001 to 8,000 feet - increase processing time by 15 minutes; 8,001 to 10,000 feet - increase processing time by 20 minutes.

Judging Jellies – Here’s what to check:
·    Clarity or Clearness Clear, usually sparkling, transparent or translucent (depending on fruit juice). Free from sediment, cloudiness, pulp or crystals. Pepper jellies will be a little cloudier or have a slight amount of pulp that should be suspended throughout the jar.
·    Color — Natural coloring. Close to characteristic color of original juice.
·    Taste Sweet fruit taste.
·    PackHeadspace of 1/8 to 1/4 -inch. Free from air bubbles and foam. Paraffin seals should not be used as they are now considered unsafe.
·    Consistency Firm enough to hold shape, but tender (quivers). Entire contents of jelly jar should stay together and not break apart when jar is inverted. Not sticky, gummy or syrupy.
·    Container — Properly labeled. Clean, clear commercial canning jars only. No cracks or chips in jar, or rust on jar lid or bands.




Recipes without photos:
PREPARING THE JUICE
2 gallons (about 6 to 7+ pounds) of crab apples, leaves & branches removed, washed and drained
6 to 10+ cups of water — the boxed instructions call for 6 cups but I find need to add more in the final stages in order to come up the final 6 cups of prepared juice called for in the recipe below

1.  Place crab apples in a large pot; add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil.
2.  Reduce heat, add lid and simmer 10 to 30 minutes until apples soften and begin to burst. Package directions say 10 minutes but mine are always still way to firm in that time.
3.  Let cook slightly and crush.
4.  Place three layers of damp cheesecloth or a jelly bag in large bowl. Pour prepared fruit into cheesecloth. I seamed the edges of the cheesecloth to create a homemade bag.
5.  Tie cheesecloth closed with heavy string; hang. I suspend mine from a cabinet knob and let it drip into bowl until the dripping stops. Generally I leave it overnight.
6.  Gently press the bag to extract additional juice.
7.  Measure juice; if there is not enough, I boil additional water and pour in over the crab apple mush, allowing it to slowly absorb and drip through.

PREPARING THE JARS, BANDS & LIDS
1.  For best results, use commercial canning jars. Make sure there are no cracks or chips on jars, and no rust on jar bands. Use new lids for each jar.
2.  Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Immerse jars in boiling water to sterilize. Drain well before filling with jelly.
3.  Right before you are ready to fill jars — pour boiling water over flat lids and bands in that have been placed in a bowl or pan. Let them stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before using.

PREPARING THE WATER BATH CANNER.
1.  Fill canner about half full of water, or enough to totally immerse filled and sealed jelly jars.
2.  Bring water to boiling and then reduce to simmer.

Crab Apple Jelly     Yield: about 10 (1-cup) jars
6 cups prepared juice
1 (1.75 oz.) box Sure-Jell® powdered fruit pectin
1/2 teaspoon butter or margarine
4 cups granulated sugar, measured into separate bowl — measurements are precise in jelly making and the sugar is added while the jelly is being boiled and stirred so pre-measuring helps insure that you don’t lose count of the sugar as it is being measured

1.  Add prepared juice to large (6- or 8-qt.) saucepot.
2.  Mix 1/4  cup of premeasured sugar with box of pectin.
3.  Stir pectin-sugar mixture into juice into saucepot. Add ½ teaspoon butter or margarine to help reduce foaming.
4.  Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly.
5.  Stir in remaining sugar quickly. Return to full rolling boil and boil at least 1 minute, stirring constantly. I stir it until the jelly will sheet off a dinner-style teaspoon – see diagram below. The spoon test is an “old-fashioned” method to test for doneness and this almost always insures the jelly will set.
6.  Remove from heat.
7.  Skim off any foam with metal spoon.
8.  Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 to 1/4 -inch of tops.
9.  Wipe jar rims and threads.
10. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly.
11. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.
12. Cover; bring water to gentle boil.
13. Once the boiling begins, set the timer and process for 5 minutes*.
14. Remove jars and place upright on a cooling rack to cool completely.
15. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. If lids spring back, lids are not sealed and refrigeration is necessary. Note: A “pinging” sound indicates that the jars have sealed; this may begin immediately after jars are removed from water bath or it may happen later. At this point jar bands may be removed if desired.
16. Prepare labels including: type of jelly, date of preparation & batch number if making more than one batch in a day.
17. Store jelly in a cool, dark, dry place, between 50 to 70°F. Most jelly can be stored for up to a year. Before eating make sure the seal is intact. If there is any mold on a jar of jam or jelly, or signs of other spoilage, discard the entire contents of the jar or container. Lighter-colored jams and jellies may darken over time but are still safe to eat.
*Altitude Chart
At altitudes above 1,000 feet, increase processing time as indicated: 1,001 to 3,000 feet - increase processing time by 5 minutes; 3,001 to 6,000 feet - increase processing time by 10 minutes; 6,001 to 8,000 feet - increase processing time by 15 minutes; 8,001 to 10,000 feet - increase processing time by 20 minutes.

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