Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Crab Apple Jelly: Adventures in Urban Foraging

On my regular walk to the YMCA, I noticed a couple of crab apple trees on the grounds of an office building I pass. Since Josh's foraging adventures with wild black raspberries were so successful, I thought to myself, "Maybe I can make something out of these. They're just falling on the ground and rotting."
Thankfully we live in the age of the Internet and there is a magical portal of information accessible at any time that can give a would-be forager ideas of what one does with things like crab apples. After learning some basics on the web, I ended up finding a good recipe for crab apple jelly in my old standby, Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. I picked a bunch of crab apples for a couple of days on my walk back from working out.

Crab apple jelly is a two stage recipe, which starts with making crab apple juice. You cut off the stem and blossom ends, quarter them, cover with water and boil them until they are soft. I put some cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and ginger crystals in the mix because I thought it might add a nice mulled cider quality to the jelly. When the crab apples are soft you strain the whole mess through a couple of layers of cheesecloth and get this awesome bright pink viscose liquid.

Part two is to make the actual jelly. Now here's the part where I admit the epic jelly fail I had the first time out of the shoot. Turns out when they say in the recipe that you are supposed to monitor the boiling juice/sugar mix carefully and stir frequently, they mean don't go play with your baby for 10 minutes in the middle of the process or you will leave this lovely pink foaming solution and return to a brownish, caramelized sticky mess that hardens into something like burnt-flavored hard candy when it cools.

Nevertheless, a spirit of adventure is a prerequisite for being an urban forager so I was disappointed but not disheartened in my endeavor to make that jelly. More picking, more trimming and quartering, more juice making ensued followed by VERY CAREFUL minding of the jelly.
I haven't tasted the final product yet (and I was conservative in taking it off the heat, so it may end up being more of a syrup than a jelly), but it sure looks lovely in the jars.

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