How to Make Crab Apple Jelly (With Your Kids)

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//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.jsOne of the hallmarks of the coming of fall and school’s return in the city of Toronto is sidewalks lined with crab apples trees in full array. Walking home from ice cream at Ed’s Real Scoop, I saw two such trees at our local park, just groaning with fruit. It was late afternoon, my boys and I had nothing calling us anywhere, the time was ours.  And I thought of crab apple jelly.

The timing is perfect – school is back, which means packing lots and lots of lunches. We need jams and jellies to go with our peanut butter substitute sandwiches. Good quality jams and jellies are expensive, especially if organic, and these organic crab apples would just fall and go to waste if not snapped up for jelly-making. Plus a quick look on my handy dandy phone revealed that crab apples have natural pectin so jelly can be made without commercial pectin (which I didn’t have anyway).

It was decided. The reusable bag I try to keep in my backpack was actually there, and my boys and I set to filling it. I lifted my littlest to pick a few crab apples, but as they were otherwise out of his reach and the capabilities of my back, he satisfied himself by playing at the park. But with the help of a bench and some climbing skills, my two older sons could reach many more. They picked and picked until our bag was bursting, motivated equal parts by the promise of jelly and the pleasure of the task.

Making the jelly itself was pretty easy as far as these things go.  You only need crab apples and sugar.

This is what you do:

    1. Wash the bounty.  Admire.carol2
    2. Remove leaves, stems and blossoms at the bottom of the crab apple. (You can leave the stems and blossoms on, but this will darken your jelly. I wanted mine to be pretty!)
    3. Halve or quarter the apples.  This step is more important when you have larger crab apples. Ours were mostly about an inch in diameter, so I suspect we didn’t have to do this. But I had three crew members eager to wield knives, so I wouldn’t dream of skipping this step. My four year old insisted he could cut a crab apple with a butter knife and he could, with satisfaction, I might add.  He happily chopped away alongside his brothers and their paring knives.carol3carol4carol5
    4. Put crab apples in a large pot and barely cover with water (if the apples are floating, there’s too much water).
    5. Bring to a boil and then simmer until crab apples are soft (for us, about 25 minutes). Try not to overcook, as this can reduce the natural pectin in the crab apples.carol6
    6. Strain juice from pulp. Cheesecloth would be ideal for this, but I didn’t have any so I used a clean muslin cloth over a fine mesh sieve, which worked great. Various recipes said to strain overnight but most of my juice was strained in an hour. I couldn’t imagine much more dripping out after that.  The recipes were pretty unanimous that one should not mush down the pulp in hopes of getting more juice because this will make the jelly cloudy, so I didn’t go there.088
    7. Return pot with juice to stove and add sugar.  You will need about 3/4 cup of sugar for every cup of juice.  Stir until sugar is well dissolved.carol8
    8. Boil hard until jelly reaches 220 degrees. Note: it took a considerable effort for my biggest gas burner to reach 220 degrees, and only after I finally listened to my son who told me to put a lid on the pot. I thought a couple of degrees cooler wouldn’t matter, but they do. The  juice only gelled at 220 degrees.  If you don’t have a thermometre, or even if you do, you can test the juice for readiness by putting a teaspoon of juice on a plate that’s been sitting in the freezer for awhile (or the top of a clean frozen orange juice can, as the case may be). Put the plate/can back in the freezer for a minute, and then push the edge of the juice with your finger. If a skin forms on the juice, it’s ready to become jelly.
    9. Ladle the juice into sterilized jars and wipe clean any drips on the lip of the jar. For the first time in my canning life, I did this using a canning funnel and one of those magnetic wand thingies that picks up jar lids. Oh man, is there ever something to be said for these not-strictly-necessary-but-so-wonderful-tools. No cussing during this canning project, nope. Easy peasy!carol9carol10
    10. Place jars in a water bath canning pot (or other pot that can do the job) and boil for 10 minutes (that’s the appropriate time for me in Toronto – canning times can vary depending on altitude).

Ta Da!! You now have jars of beautiful and delicious crab apple jelly (and if you used organic cane sugar like I did, you can slap an organic label on there too). And if you manage to make this with your kids, they will have a different relationship to it than the jar you bought from the store or even the farmers market, and share the pleasure of it along with you.

Enjoy all year long, or as long as supplies last!carol11

ps. The white canning lids are made by Tattler.  They are reusable and BPA-free. I had read about them before and was pleased to see them for the first time at Canadian Tire.  So far, they seem to work perfectly, which means a safer and more eco-friendly way to can. I don’t think they look as nice as the metal lids for gifting though, and you probably wouldn’t get them back which defeats the reusable bit (unless gifting to a canning friend!). So I stuck with metal lids for the jars I thought would be gifts.  I don’t think I’m going to have any to gift though, the boys are loving this jelly so much.  Luckily we have more crab apples in the fridge for a second batch.

pps. If your jelly does not set after 24 hours, Google says no big deal, you can just redo the process – dump out the contents of your jars and start again. What the — ? A canning redo is a big, big deal for the likes of me!  If it is to you too, make sure you get your juice up to 220 degrees or have some commercial pectin as a backup plan. They also say that working with smaller batches is easier when it comes to setting the jelly. The batch I made produced 6 cups, and you probably don’t want to work with anything bigger than that.

The Canning Kitchen

The Canning Kitchen coverI love it when bloggers experience success especially when it’s a blogger I’ve been following for some time. Seeing them on TV or their books in print, make me excited for them . . .mostly because I know that it probably took years of building a relationship with readers and juggling many plates while trying to deliver the best content. Admittedly, I have a soft spot for fellow Canadian bloggers, in particular Savvy Storytellers.

When I saw that Amy Bronee from Family Feedbag, a go-to for quick and easy family friendly recipes, had published a book, I wanted to share it with you.

The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes is a must-have companion to the bountiful summer harvest season. I have wanted to try my hand at dill pickles and this book covers the classics but it also inspires with new recipes like for Salted Caramel Pear Butter.

Canning isn’t just for grandma anymore!  Give it a try and enjoy the taste of summer all year long.

To order your copy of The Canning Kitchen click here.

Gift Ideas for Teachers

From Nathalie

We have featured Far & Wide Collective on the blog before, and I am so happy to keep suggesting them as a place to shop for gifts.  Far and Wide Collective is a fair-trade on-line marketplace for artisans in post-conflict and emerging economies.  I have bought for myself and for others from their site, and the delivery and presentation of the gifts is beautiful.  In December, I could not help myself and I did a “one for you and one for me” kind of shopping with these Afghan silk scarves ($60), which come in so many gorgeous colours.  They came beautifully wrapped in tissue paper folded like origami, all ready to present (or, um, open for yourself….).

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These geometric patterned notecards ($20) would also make a great end of year gift for a teacher.

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And I loved this post on how to write a thank you note to a teacher at the end of the year from fellow Savvy Mom Storyteller, Jan Scott.  I think you can never go wrong with personalized stationery for teachers, but what a special addition to make sure that you send along your own detailed thanks for the highlights of the year.

I’m nuts about stationery and books, and this gift idea makes me happy in so many ways: a bookplate stamp personalized for your child’s teacher.  From Etsy retailer Stamp Out Online.

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Or what about a great tote bag for your child’s teacher to carry around all his or her summer reading?  I love the bold impact of this one from Nicole Tarasick available on the One of a Kind site.

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From Beth-Anne

Nathalie is the best gift giver of anyone I have ever met. Receiving a gift from her is the ultimate! I once asked her how she always knows just the right thing to give and she told me her secret. She listens. She listens to what people are talking about, what people are planning and what people are saying. Hard to believe in a society where everyone seems to be tapping on their phones to post to their social media more than actually being social. So here’s my take on the perfect gifts to give teacher this year . . . first off, listen. Find out what their plans are for this summer and use that as a springboard to curate the perfect gift. It’s worth noting that the perfect gift doesn’t mean expensive or hard-to-find. It can be something simple or it can be a more elaborate group effort. Either way, it should be well thought-out and ultimately come from a place of sheer gratitude.

Here are few suggestions to help get you started:

The Foodie

This teacher can’t wait to sample the latest food trends on a patio, and has already planned supper club with friends to while away the summer. A gift card to a new resto getting rave reviews may be ticket but if this teacher prefers the prep to the pomp, then I would suggest one of these cookbooks.

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It’s perfect for the more unconventional cooks but beware, there are some naughty words that could get Teacher sent to the Principal’s office.

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Brown Eggs and Jam Jars is chock-full of gorgeous photos that make even me want to cook!

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Fellow Savvy Storyteller, Amy Bronee of Family Feedbag, recently published her much buzzed about book The Canning Kitchen – the perfect accompaniment to the bounty that summer gardens bring.

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This ash and wood salad bowl from Indigo is tops on my list. For some reason, I can never seem to have enough bowls and this one says “summer salads”.

But my favourite gift to give a foodie is something you’ve made. Baked goods, canned goods, pasta sauce . . . wrap it pretty and serve with your favourite how-to instructions.

The Traveler

This teacher has been meticulously planning their trip down to the nitty gritty details. Of course guidebooks are recommended but chances are this teacher has already highlighted and dog-eared every other page.

Literary travel books like We’ll Always Have Paris: A mother/daughter memoir are a great way to build excitement for a trip and supplement the facts gleaned from traditional travel books.
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Cookbooks featuring cuisine from the country is a way to whet the appetite for what’s to come. In the past year I have heard many travelers (and Paddington too) touting the glory of Peru. The Fire of Peru by Ricardo Zarate caught my eye.

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I also like the idea of getting a travel kit, like this one from Herschel, and filling it with all sorts of drugstore goodies like earplugs, sunscreen and bug spray.

The Binge Watcher

This teacher is going to score an A+ in relaxation this summer with plans of sinking into a vegetative state binge watching TV programs. My recommended favourite is Call The Midwife, granted not exactly up everyone’s alley so my second recommendation is True Detective.

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And you can’t score top marks for vegging without all the accoutrements. Gourmet popcorn is a must and while I have not tried this Toronto-based company, I just may have to because Tuxedo is calling my name!

From Carol

I have a strong practical streak and can’t shake the flawed practice of giving people what I like, so keep this in mind as you read on.  In a nutshell, I think giving soups in a jar is delightful. It’s giving both the gifts of nutrition and time, especially to one of our teachers who is also a single mom.  I love the idea of giving her what essentially amounts to a night off from cooking, but still having a pot of steamy nutrition bubbling on the stove.  You can make these easily enough, or Soup Girl has some wonderful options at the ready.

I’m not sure how helpful this is for a gift guide, but honesty will reign, so herewith goes a plug for handmade presents.  I really enjoy making things, often with my kids, and I try to involve them with all of our gift-giving.  Handmade cards make frequent rounds, and this year I will be gifting some natural cold-pressed soap that I made.

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One of our teachers is also a health buff and loves his protein smoothies… we drink smoothies around here so know a dedicated travel jar for them might be nice.  Maybe for the mornings when he’s racing to work to teach our littles?  (How hard could it be to make one of these…?)

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Finally a confession: I also tend to contribute to classroom gift cards for the teacher.  It’s easy, it works, and we do try to personalize them to the teacher’s interests.  Let summer come!