One of the responses that we can all take to the looming peak oil/climate change crisis is to work to make our communities more resilient (for more on this, check out the Transition Town movement). And one of the ways to build resilience is to increase reliance on locally-sourced food and decrease reliance on food that requires a huge expenditure of fossil fuels to get to your table. In our corner of northwestern Ontario, there are no farms within 150 kilometres, so getting locally-grown food usually means growing it yourself, or depending on a generous neighbour with a green thumb! There are exceptions, though. I’ve already written about our abundance of wild blueberries and right now, it is crab apple season and there’s an abundance of crab apple trees in our community. I’ve been busy picking and preserving a large amount of crab apples that friends have been kind enough to donate. I’m not a huge fan of jelly, so the few jars that friends give me will last us all year, but I have been remembering my Grandma Penner’s whole crab apples preserved in syrup, and wondering about duplicating her recipe. I don’t have her original one, so I looked through an old standby, the Mennonite Treasury of Recipes, as well as searching on-line. By tweaking and combining a few recipes I found, I’ve come up with one that is an updated version of her classic that I like. Here it is:
Grandma’s Spicy Crabapples
8 cups crab apples
4 1/2 cups granulated sugar (I used fair trade organic)
3 cups water
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
3 – 4 cinnamon sticks
2 Tbsp cloves
2 – 3 Tbsp chopped fresh ginger
Sterilize jars by your favourite method (I put the jars and the lids into a 225 degree F oven for at least 10 minutes, and then leave them in there until I need them)
Combine sugar, water, and vinegar in a large stainless steel saucepan. Put cloves and ginger into a cheesecloth or tea ball – you can also put the cinnamon sticks into a tea ball but I just let them float during the cooking, and removed them at the end. Bring mixture to a boil and boil for at least 10 minutes, stirring to ensure sugar dissolves completely.
Wash crab apples, leave stems on. Prick with a fork (I used a corn-on-the-cob holder with a sharp metal point) to avoid bursting fruit. Add crab apples to boiling mixture and return to a boil, boiling until tender. The length you will need to boil them will vary depending on the size and ripeness of your apples. I found I just heated them back to boiling and then took them off the element and let them sit for 10 – 15 minutes. This decreased the number of apples that turned into mush. Don’t overcook!
Pack crab apples into a hot jar to within 2 cm of top rim. Add hot vinegar and sugar liquid to within 1 cm of top rim. Wipe jar, centre sterile lid on jar, apply screw band. Boil in canner, with jars covered with water, for 20 minutes. After cooling, ensure jars are sealed, store in your pantry. We used to eat them for a light Sunday supper of cheese, buns, and pickles. Or they would be a good accompaniment to pork or chicken.
Here’s the end result:
And here’s what the crabapples looked like when I got started. There’s also a bowl of rosehips in the front, which I’m hoping to turn into jelly.
I also made some crabapple sauce, thanks to my friend Suzanne who let me borrow her food strainer (along with sharing her crab apples!)