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Crab Applesauce from Juice-Making Pulp

crabapple pulp in a food mill crabapple pulp in the food mill (photo by jhy)
You will need:
Pulp left from making Crabapple Juice
A large pot- I use a 1- gallon kettle
A food mill
Clean jars or containers to store the applesauce

This recipe assumes that you have pulp left over from making Crabapple Juice. Don't throw that pulp away! There is a lot of food value left there. You will need to put it through a food mill, since it was cooked with the cores and skins on.

crabapple applesauce a dish of tart crab applesauce (photo by jhy)
Carefully empty the pulp from the jelly bag into the food mill. If it is this type of mill, you will need to set it over another pan to catch the sauce. A one-gallon pan works perfectly. Then press the pulp through the sides of the mill. When you are finished, wipe down the sides of the mill to capture any crabapple sauce that is sticking there and discard the pulp. As you can see, you get a wonderful pink applesauce, all with natural flavors and color.

Add sugar or sweetener to taste. I like things tart, and find that 1/4 c. sugar or Splenda to quart of crabapple applesauce is just about right. Store in the refrigerator, or package in containers for the freezer. It freezes well. This may also be canned. I'll add a post about how to do this kind of thing soon. Personally, I don't like to can applesauce. I think the extra heating time destroys some of the flavor and texture.

As you can see, one can still buy this old-fashioned style of mill. I haven't used any of the newer kinds. This one works great and I love using the tools I've worked with since childhood.

At some point the pulp will become quite dry. You must make a judgement call as to when to stop forcing it through the mill. You don't want to waste good food, but you don't want to ruin the texture of the sauce.

Making Crabapple Juice

alt text crabapple tree loaded with fruit (photo by jhy)

You will need:
Something to gather the fruit in- I use a shopping basket with a handle
A large pot- I use a 2- gallon kettle
A jelly bag (and frame, or some way to suspend it)
Another pot- I use a 1-gallon kettle, to catch the juice below the jelly bag
Clean jars or jugs to store the juice
(Optional- food grinder, or potato masher)

Crabapples may or may not be considered a wild food. Not many people plant the trees except ornamentals any more, so your best bet to find one would be to look in old farmyards, and around abandoned homesites. This is so much like foraging that I'm going to consider this a wild food.

You need to find a tree that has large crabapples. That is to say, the fruits will be about 1- 1 1/2 inches in diameter, somewhat egg shaped. The crabapples with fruits the size of a dime are not likely to be any good for eating.

Pick as many as you want, but you'll need 20 cups of fruits to make one batch of juice. Half a brown shopping bag will be plenty. It's fine to have some that aren't quite fully ripe, especially if you think you'll be making syrup or jelly from the juice, because the unripe fruits will have more pectin. Picking up drops from the ground is fine, but you'll have more insects and debris to deal with.

alt text wash the apples (photo by jhy)

Wash off the crabapples. They aren't usually very dirty, but this removes any dirt that may be there. It gives you a chance to pick out the bugs, grass, and twigs. You'll want to pull off the stems, and cut off the blossom end. I usually just cut straight across the blossom end taking a minute amount of the bottom of the fruit. The stems pull off fairly easily if you pull down against the side of the fruit instead of straight out away from the fruit. Leave the skins and the cores; they are no problem. Discard any apples that have wormholes through them. Sometimes you can salvage half the apple, but they are so small that if a worm got in, the flesh is usually all damaged. Minor skin blemishes won't matter at all for juice.

Now you need to boil the fruits to release the juice. Measure 20 cups of the prepared whole fruits. Cutting up the fruit is recommended by most recipes. This is really laborious with so many small fruits, and crabapples are a bit hard too, making it extra difficult. I finally switched to running the fruits through my food grinder using the coarsest cutting wheel. This worked great, but I decided to try something even easier. I started cooking the fruits whole, but as soon as they softened up a bit I used a potato masher on them and then finished the cooking. This is the easiest of all! The ground fruit yielded a little more juice, but the time savings is immense.

Cut up or not, put the apples from 20 cups of whole fruit, and 8 cups of water in the large kettle. There is nothing magical about these amounts. However, I know I will get 2 full quarts of juice from that amount. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the fruit is no longer floating.

alt text crabapple juice being strained through a jelly bag (photo by jhy)

Set up the jelly bag over the second kettle, and pour the cooked apples into the jelly bag. Leave this to strain the juice for several hours. If you want perfectly clear juice, don't squeeze the bag at all. If you don't mind if the juice is a little cloudy, you can gently squeeze it (I don't squeeze it, because I make applesauce from the pulp)

Pour the clear liquid into clean jars or jugs and store in the refrigerator for use within a few days. It may be canned to keep just as juice. That is explained at Preparing Crabapple Juice for Storage

Tips for using a jelly bag. If yours looks like this one, make sure the bag is tied tightly enough that the weight of the pulp doesn't pull it off the frame.

Pour or ladle the hot fruit in carefully. The juice can splash if it is forced through the fabric.

If you wet the bag first, it won't stain quite as much. I don't think this matters much... it's a jelly bag, right?

Eating What Nettles You

The common stinging weed, Nettles– all varieties are edible and tasty.

tall nettles
tall nettles (photo by jhy)
Do you know of a weed patch filled with nettles? Nettles are those tall weeds that make your legs or arms itch and burn instantly when you touch them. Well, you can take true revenge and eat the monsters for dinner! This article will walk you through the very simple process of preparation.

There are several species of stinging nettles, all in the genus Urtica. The herbaceous plants are common in North America, Europe and Great Britain. The stinging is caused by small pointed hairs on the stems which release histamine, serotonin and possibly formic acid when touched. (In the southern hemisphere there are species whose toxin is more potent.)

Nettles are very nutritious! They are considered a delicacy in many parts of Europe. They are rich in vitamins A, C, and D. They also contain iron, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Surprisingly, they are also high in protein. Most green leafy vegetables do not provide protein.

The first picture is the leaves of Urtica dioica, the most common type. These plants are fairly mature, almost ready to blossom in mid June. This is about as mature as you would want to harvest for eating, but they are still ok. When the plants flower and become more mature small calcium carbonate granules called cystoliths form in the leaves. These can irritate the urinary tract, so it’s best to eat younger leaves.

nettles harvested
harvest the younger leaves (photo by jhy)
Wearing gloves, harvest the tips and upper leaves of the plant by any method you like- break them off or cut them. I filled a colander with the leaves quickly. Remember that greens cook down a lot. This would be enough for a large serving for one person, or a side dish for two.

Wash the greens. Like any fresh-picked produce, be sure to look for insects and remove them. Once nettles are good and wet the stinging effect is removed. And cooking or drying removes the toxic properties.

nettles cooking
boil gently for 10-15 minutes (photo by jhy)
Simmer the greens gently for 10- 15 minutes. The leaves I harvested needed to be cooked for 15 minutes.

cooked nettles
a serving of nettles as table greens (photo by jhy)
Serve as you would any green. You might like them with oil and vinegar, or perhaps butter and lemon. Purists might go for just a little salt or non-salt seasoning. Nettles taste similar to spinach.

If you did not add salt to the water you cooked the nettles in, use it to water your houseplants when it cools. (You can do this with any fresh vegetable juice- the key is that there was no salt added to the water).

Next time you come across a patch of young nettles, take some home for dinner!

Who is Grazing the Ditches?

I am! Wild Foods are fun. They are usually free, and with a little care and education, they are perfectly safe.

Very often, wild fruits and vegetables will have move vitamins and minerals than cultivated varieties. There are great tastes out there just waiting to be sampled.

This blog will be an experiment in trying wild foods I'm familiar with, and trying some new things. Posts will probably not be very regular, but hopefully the directions will be clear.

Come along with me and graze the ditches! (and fields, swamps, hillsides, woods...)