My wonderful friend Anna has a huge crabapple tree in her yard in Anchorage, Alaska. She picked about 2 gallons worth of crabapples, then the jam party got started.
We washed them all, then cut them in half. We ended up with 29 cups of crabapples.
We looked at a recipe for crabapple jelly from Ball Blue Book: Guide to Preserving, and then we decided to just make up our own recipe using the Ball recipe as a loose guideline.
Here’s Anna, slicing & dicing crabapples like a pro:
For our 29 cups of halved crabapples, we added 7 cups of water, and dumped it all into a huge pot. I didn’t have a lid big enough for the massive pot, so I used a cookie sheet to cover it & keep in moisture.
We simmered the crabapples & water for about 30 minutes, until it was mush. It looked like pale red applesauce by the time we turned off the stove burner.
Here’s where we started to go rogue on the original Ball recipe. The jelly instructions say to put all of the crabapple mush in a damp jelly bag or multiple layers of cheese cloth to separate the juice. They also say not to squeeze the bag, because your juice will be cloudy.
We didn’t have a jelly bag, but I did have a juicer with a screen that separates juice from pulp. We ran our cooked crabapples through the juicer a few times and ended up with 7 cups of thick, cloudy, pulpy, pink juice – a jelly making no-no, but perfect for a nice, thick jam.
The recipe called for only white sugar, but we pretended we couldn’t read and did our own thing, keeping track of measurements as we went.
Here’s our full homemade crabapple jam recipe (makes 10 pints):
- 29 cups of halved crabapples
- 7 cups of water
- 7 cups of thick, pulpy crabapple juice
- 1 cup honey
- 3 cups brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar
That’s it. No pectin needed, no other flavors added.
Some recipes say to use even parts juice & sugar, but we taste-tested as we added the sugar, and we only wanted to use 5 1/2 cups of sweetener to our 7 cups of juice.
We used a candy thermometer and simmered it, stirring it constantly, then took it off heat once it hit 225F. Ball says 220F is the “gel point” but we’re overachievers.
Next, we filled pint jars. The wide-mouthed jar funnel is a godsend when you’re working with piping hot, super sticky liquid.
Something to note – when your jam/jelly mixture is ready, it doesn’t look like it will firm up. It looks like you’ve messed up and you’re actually canning syrup, but don’t worry – it thickens up later.
And if you really did mess up and it never thickens or “sets,” just pretend you meant to make ice cream topping. Own it. Tell any doubters you did that shit on purpose. Nobody will be the wiser.
The Ball book recipe was for half-pints, and it said to process those in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. We filled full pints and decided to go with 20 minutes.
Within seconds of pulling them out of the hot water, we heard all of our jars POP and seal. The popping sound at the end of the day really is the best part.
From start to finish, it took about 6 hours, but it’s a labor of love. It really is fun. And when you have a good friend by your side, time in the kitchen always flies by.
For quality assurance, once they cooled, I cracked one open and dug in with a spoon. Perfect-o. You can’t buy jam that delicious!
(And if you end up with extra crabapples, you could make some delicious crabapple infused vodka…)