The Fruit Forager’s Companion (Chelsea Green 2018) by Sara Bir shares how to forage, ferment, cook, and bake using ingredients found in your neighborhood. This recipe lets you enjoy crab apples year-round.
Crab apples, with their high pectin content, make a luxe and silky jelly. The habanero is optional, but its complex fruity and oral character makes for an interesting jelly that’s just as well suited to a grown-up PB&J as it is to accompany cream cheese on a toasted bagel. You could substitute minced fresh jalapeño instead.
- 5 quarts fresh crab apples
- Up to 4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 – 4 habanero peppers, stemmed and minced (keep the seeds if you like it very spicy; discard the seeds if you prefer less heat)
- Rinse the crab apples well, then sort through them to remove leaves and small branches. Trim off any bruised spots, but leaving the stems and blossom ends on is fine. Halve the crab apples and put them in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stockpot. Add enough water to cover by an inch or so, but not so much that the crab apples are floating all over the place. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 40 minutes to an hour, until the crab apples are very soft and the liquid is rosy. Remove from the heat.
- Transfer to a jelly bag or large colander lined with two layers of cheesecloth set over a large bowl. Strain without disturbing for an hour (don’t press out the solids or the final jelly will be cloudy). You should wind up with at least 4 cups of juice. Discard the mushy crab apple solids.
- >Pour the liquid into the Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook gently for 10 minutes, skimming off any foam with a large metal spoon. Add 1 cup sugar for every cup of juice, plus half of the minced peppers, if using. Stir to dissolve. If you have a candy thermometer, clip it on now. Boil gently, periodically skimming off scum as it collects around the rim of the pot. Some of the minced peppers may get skimmed off as you do this, but don’t worry; your jelly will still be plenty spicy later.
- Cook until the jelly reaches 220 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer or passes the gel test on a chilled plate. This could take up to 45 minutes, so be patient. Add the remaining half of the peppers during the final 10 minutes or so of cooking.
- Ladle into sterilized jars, leaving 1⁄4 inch headspace, and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Alternatively, you may cool, seal, and store the jelly in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. The heat level of the jelly may mellow as it ages.
Note: Wear gloves when handling habaneros. Otherwise, you’ll have to contend with burning hands for the next day or so. Not fun.
More from The Fruit Forager’s Companion:
This excerpt is adapted from Sara Bir’s book The Fruit Forager’s Companion: Ferments, Desserts, Main Dishes, and More from Your Neighborhood and Beyond (Chelsea Green 2018) and is adapted with permission from the publisher.