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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?


EdZee said...

What's crabapple? I know crab and also apple but not crableapple. I don't think we have it here in our country.

Anyway, you have interesting blog topics here. Congratulations!

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