The walk from North Station to my job is just over a mile. At about the halfway point I pass the offices of Homeland Security. They are impressive; tall, clean building and immaculately manicured walkways. The walkway at the street level has grass of crayola green, and is lined with perfectly shaped crabapple trees. Not only are they perfectly shaped, they grow purple fruit! I’ve seen plenty of the red variety, and know of some trees that produce lots of golden yellow crabapples, but I’ve never seen purple before.
I decided last year that I would approach the guards to request picking privileges, rather than apply for official permission from this gi-normous agency. It never seemed like the right time, however. As the summer went into fall I saw the bounty from those trees drop onto the green carpet and get vacuumed away with the grass clippings. What a waste! I was determined that this year would be different. I watched carefully until I felt they were just about ripe enough, then approached the guard.
It went like this: “Hi there! So listen, every year I see these crabapples just fall to the ground and get sent out with the grass clippings. That’s sinful. I’ve decided to take charge of the situation. Here’s what we’ll do… I’m going to stop by after work, around 2:15, and pick all the fruit I can reach. Do you have a step-stool? No? Well maybe I’ll just spread a sheet and shake those limbs a bit….Uh- yes, I do mean on the other side of the fence. Don’t worry, that tiny fence won’t even slow me down. I’ll just…What?…Well that doesn’t seem right. This is ridiculous. Listen friend…here’s what we’ll do…you help me pick these crabapples, I’ll take them home and bring you back some jelly. Yes I will- I’ll give you my contact info. We could be crabapple friends on facebook…that was a joke homie. No, I know you’re not my homeboy…I said “homie”, that is short for homeland security-security guard. Kind of a long handle, you know?”
There are 3 things that I learned that day: #1- Not to bother wasting time with the security. Next year I’m going straight to the top. As soon as the elections are over I’ll send a request. #2- Security guards at Homeland certainly do not profile. I am not on anyone’s shortlist of suspects for any crime, ever (unless it’s a crime to shave a few pounds off on your license). #3- Security guards at Homeland Security carry both a walkie talkie and a weapon. It’s a good idea to move on if they reach for either one.
So I explained my dilemma to Grumpy, and asked if (A) he knew anyone at Homeland Security or (B) he would be willing to help me pick those golden crabapples, He wouldn’t comment on who he might or might not know (he knows a lot of people), but he agreed to help me with my foraging. What a guy!
MAKING CRABAPPLE JELLY AND BUTTER: These are the crabapples we started with. I wanted more…but someone (ahem) got tired of picking! Notice that I’ve included lots of “not-quite-ripe” ones. They have more pectin in them, so I’ll probably get good gel without adding any. They’re not very large and perfect, but there were no threatening guards! Some of them are fairly unattractive, although I found this one to be kind of cute–>
You need to take away the stems and deflower any that still have a lot of brown blossom stuff at the other end. I find it easier to slice them all in half, then pulling away the stem is easy. You also get a good look inside to make sure they aren’t occupied. Now you need to add some liquid and start simmering. I prefer to add apple juice, as I can use less sugar later to make the jelly. This pot is a huge dutch oven (the size is worn off the bottom), I’d say about 20 cups. I added just enough apple juice so that it was about 1/2 filled. Cover, let simmer for about an hour. Then strain, save the apples aside for later. This is the juice that was strained off. Bring it to a boil, and boil for about 5 minutes. Slowly add the sugar (I had about 8 cups of juice and added about 6 cups of sugar). Crabapples are VERY tart, but there is about 1 Qt of apple juice in here too. Return to a boil, boil one minute and process in BWB ***. You can add more sugar if you want it to be sweeter, and try clicking here for instructions on how to test to see if the pectin is gelling enough before you can it. If you don’t test, and it fails to gel, you can always reprocess with added pectin.
Now for the “Butter”. In the past I’ve made crabapple “butter” and my kids don’t want to eat it. This year I called it “crabapple sauce” and they loved it- kids! You can make this with the cooked remains of the jelly making. I have tried food mills and other ways of getting the crabapple flesh out, the only one that works well for me is the ricer. It’s tedious, but worthwhile. You just keep filling the ricer with more of the little apples, and squeeze it out over another big bowl. When I’m done, I squeeze it again through a fine strainer. Those little seeds and cores can make it unpleasant. When you are done, you’ll have a smooth-as-silk basis for the butter. I add sugar and cinnamon. I didn’t measure, so add it a little at a time until it seems “there”. Add enough liquid to make it a runny consistency (I added about 2 cups of apple juice). Bring it back to a boil, boil for about 5 minutes and process in a BWB. Here is the finished product: on the right, with the rosy tint, are 4 pints and 3 1/2 pints of jelly. On the left are 7 pints of crabapple “sauce”.
Complete instructions for canning available *** here from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
I’m actually still recovering. I started writing this post before I got sick, and today had just enough energy left to get it done. I’m still coughing up a storm, but breathing is a lot easier than on previous days. Thanks for reading folks!