I like jelly, the clear jewel tones of nature captured in sugar on the breakfast table or melted and brushed as a glaze over a summer fruit tart. One or two jars of homemade goodness are usually tucked away in the back corner of the pantry for “special” experiments.
From my never ending bounty of crab apples, I cooked up a few jars yesterday afternoon with a little added punch. Sabbats are fire celebrations so adding a little ginger heat is highly appropriate for Mabon but it is absolutely your choice.
Crab apples are high in pectin so they do not need any added help, just time on the stove.
Ydun is the Norse Goddess of apples and youthfulness. In one myth Loki, once again, gets into trouble by helping in her kidnapping. While she is away, and not feeding them her apples, the Gods grow old but still wise enough to know Loki was somehow involved. He was “persuaded” to also help retrieve her, returning youthful life to the Northern Gods.
You will need:
3/4 cup of sugar for each cup of apple liquid
finely chopped stem ginger
Gather your fruits and collect your thoughts. Plan your time and find your pots. “In my kitchen, filled with care, I welcome, Fire, Earth, Water, Air. To my hearth I greet Ydun, for the love of apples and this work begun. I leave behind what does not serve and fill with Love what I preserve.”
Start with your crab apples. Wash, remove the blossom tip, take the stem off and cut into quarters. The cutting will do two things, allow the apples to cook more quickly and let you check for apple maggots, that love to become squatters in the core of untreated fruit. I cut the small apples down the middle to check for bugs and then just popped them into the pot as I was working with crabapples the size of grapes.
Pour in enough water that it is visible but that the fruit is not floating. You should end up with half the amount of liquid as the number of cups of fruit you cook. ( 8 cups will give you 4 cups liquid, 4 cups of fruit will give you 2 cups of liquid once drained. )
Bring the apples to a simmer and cook until mushy. You will find the red on the outside of the apples will disappear. It will magically return as the mush drips.
I take the apple mixture from the pot and run it through my Cuisinart to break down all the cellulose and get as much juice out as possible. A potato masher will work as well.
Line a colander/sieve with cheesecloth or raw cotton/linen and carefully spoon/pour your hot mixture into the sieve. I use raw cotton for jellies and cheese making as I find it to be a better filter than the loose weave of commercial cheesecloth. It is reusable for longer but it will take on the colour of the things you filter through it. It goes in the washing machine with the tea towels and is ready for the next job.
Allow the mash to drain for several hours. Whether you squeeze is a personal decision. I do a little but I know there are those who say no, it will make the jelly cloudy. ( Take a look at the final picture below and choose for yourself. )
I started with 4 cups of crab apples and ended up with 2 cups of juice, to which I added 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons of finely chopped stem ginger.
You could also opt for a small piece of cinnamon stick while the mixture bubbles, if you prefer.
Put the strained juice and any spices in the pot and bring to a boil. Allow the mixture to bubble away happily for about 10 minutes. Add the sugar and mix until dissolved, continue simmering until the mixture reaches 220 degrees or set point.
You will find that the liquid will reduce in volume as it continues to cook.
Prepare your jars by washing them and putting them in a preheated 250 degree oven. Do not get your jars too hot as they can crack if for example your jelly mixture is 220 degrees and the jars from the oven are at 350 degrees. The jelly will boil when poured into the jar and that is just too much of a temperature difference and can be dangerous.
Put your rubber ringed lids or sealers into a water bath and let them boil for at least three minutes.
Testing for set can be done a couple of ways. Jelly stage on a candy thermometer is 220 degrees. Clip one to the side of your pot with the bottom well ensconced in the bubbling mixture. You might need to tip the pot a bit to make sure enough of the mixture is reaching the thermometer.
Option Two is the wrinkle test. Place a few saucers in the freezer before starting. Put a teaspoon of jelly on the freezer plate and wait one minute. When the time is up, push your finger through the jelly. It should wrinkle together and not simply refill the space you have created. If the jelly does not wrinkle, return the pot to the heat and give it another five minutes before testing again.
When everything is ready pour the jelly into the jar. Clean the top of the jar of any drips with a moist cloth and place the lid onto the jar and turn to tighten.
As the jars cool you will hear them “pop”. This is the vacuum being created and the center of the lid is being pulled down. If you can push the center of the lid down manually after the jars have cooled, they are not sealed properly and should be stored in the fridge and used first.
You can see that I have the lids boiling on the far right and a jar protector to keep the top of the jars clean. The jelly is ready for pouring in the measuring cup.
Now I have a secret to share. Sometimes the lovely pink tones of crabappple do not reappear once the juice has been drained, like this did. It does not mean the jelly is any less tasty, just not as “pretty”. Try adding ONE drop of red food colouring at a time, if you want to move your jelly towards pink. Use cake decorating colours, non chemical reds or even beet juice. Red cabbage can also effect colour but that is based on ph not visual colour so I would avoid that option.
Use with cheese and crackers for Cakes & Ale, or freshly toasted English muffins for Mabon morning breakfast. A tasty addition to pork or try using this as the filling for your next batch of cinnamon doughnuts.
Ginger (or not) Crabapple Jelly from My Kitchen Wand