Crab Apple Jelly

I love this thing. It’s a Mehu-Maija, or steam juicer, that I picked up at a second-hand store in Finland several years ago. It took some finageling to get it home:  one piece in each bag and then stuffed with socks and underwear. It was worth it, though. I bought it for 1 E, and they sell for a couple of hundred dollars new.

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I mostly use the Mehu-Maija to make juice for jelly. It is so much easier than cooking the fruit and then hanging it in a bag! This one is aluminum, so I don’t use it for juice that we will drink, but we don’t eat that much jelly, so I’m not going to worry about that.

I love the color of the crab apple jelly. You can also spice it with cinnamon or even steep mint leaves in the juice and make mint jelly if you like such things with your roast lamb. One of the best uses for crab apple juice, however, is as natural pectin. Forget that store bought stuff! I freeze the juice in ice cube trays and then throw a couple of cubes in with other fruit juice that I am using for jams and jellies.

Crab Apple Jelly

I started with one peck of crab apples. I washed them, sorted out any dried up ones and put them in the top pan of the Mehu-Maija. I didn’t cut them or take the stems off. Then I filled the bottom pan of the juicer with water, added the middle pan–this is where the juice collects–and put the top pan and the lid on.

I put a step ladder up to the stove to sit a stock pot on. This is so that the juice would run through the little hose on the front of the juicer and collect in the pot. It took about two hours to cook the apples down and get the juice out of them, and I had to add water to the bottom pan about half way through. I poured the juice out of the pot and after freezing some for future use, I had eight cups of crab apple juice. At this point, I watched a Halloween movie with my daughter, and then went to bed.

The next morning, I heated up the juice, and then added six cups of sugar. I decided to cover all of my bases, so I used a candy thermometer, but I also tested the jelly periodically with a spoon. When you hold a spoonful of jelly over the pot and tilt the spoon, the liquid will drip back into the pan. When the jelly is ready, the last few drips will come together to form a single one. This is called “sheeting.” Supposedly, this happens when the liquid reaches 220 deg. F, but I find that it happens just a few degrees shy of that. I decided to take my pan off the stove when I saw the sheeting, rather than wait for the temperature to get to 220.

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It was the right decision. The jelly is perfect. I love that red color!  Happy Autumn!

The Cider Press Rises Again!

To celebrate our marriage in 1994, Jay and I bought a cider press. We spent many glorious fall weekends squeezing apples and grapes, and turning them into cider, wine, hard cider and vinegar. The marriage didn’t last, but the cider press is still around. I’m afraid I haven’t treated it very well. It was stored in a shed that collapsed and it got really wet and then sat around for several years when I was either too busy to make cider or there were no apples on the trees that season.

The cider press when it was delivered to Rich.

The cider press when it was delivered to Rich.

This year the apple blossoms didn’t get hit with a late frost, and it looked like we would finally have a decent apple harvest again, so I decided to send the cider press for a “spa treatment.” It was long overdue. All of the metal pieces were rusty and seized up, and some of the wood was dry rotted. My friend, Rich Konkol, got the metal pieces apart and his neighbor sand-blasted and painted them. Then we picked the press up and took it to another friend, Chris Herendeen, who made a new follower, a new bottom tray, a new hopper and stabilized the supports.

The restored press with one of it's saviors in the background.

The restored press with one of it’s saviors in the background.

The press had its second launch yesterday. We made six gallons of cider from our own apples and pears, and there are plenty more on the trees. I now have five gallons of cider turning to vinegar in the basement, and some of the next batch will go in a carboy with an airlock to become hard cider. And, no, I do not pasteurize  my cider. I wash the fruit before it is pressed and cut out any bad spots. It is a gorgeous, opaque, somewhat thick, brown beverage that is more refreshing than anything else you can drink. Home-made cider from your own apples is the essence of autumn.

Two bushels of apples and pears from our trees and Mini trying to avoid my camera.

Two bushels of apples and pears from our trees and Mini trying to avoid my camera.

Here is a video of Rich at work. He is a welder and always works in a kilt. http://www.goerie.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013309179955