Jelly is more time consuming than jam when you have to extract your own juice, but well worth it. Jelly is made with the juice of a fruit while jam or preserves are made with the whole fruit. You can save lots of time and make your own regular apple jelly or grape jelly by starting with store bought juice and begin at step 7. Canning jelly at home also allows you to experiment with different flavorings. I like adding cinnamon and nutmeg to my apple jelly for an apple pie taste.
Crab apples are ready to pick when they are a dark red. I usually try to pick them in late Aug. before they get too ripe. Worms love ripe crab apples so I like to pick them when they are partially red with a bit of green, before the worms get to them. This year I was way too late and really had to sort them carefully. I keep an eye out for good trees with lots of fruit and then go knocking on doors asking if I can pick their fruit in exchange for a few jars of jelly.
For jelly making you will need the following items. 2 large pots, a jar rack, something to strain the cooked fruit in, to extract the juice, jars, lids and seals. I also find it very helpful to have a canning funnel and a magnetic lid lifter.
5 cups of juice made from 8 cups of crab apples- about 3 pounds and 3 to 4 cups of water
One packet of pectin
7 cups of sugar
1. Wash the crab apples in a clean sink. Pick stem off and cut off the blossom end, watching for any worm holes.
2. Place the cut and washed crab apples in a large pot and pour the water over them. The water should just cover the apples without them floating.
3. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to med low. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until apples are soft.
For crystal clear jelly- do not stir. If you don't mind some cloudiness then stir every 5 minutes.
4. Fill a second large canning pan with water and place over high heat. Once it comes to a boil, lower empty jars into water using the jar rack. Leave in boiling water to sterilize.
5. Place seals into a small sauce pan and heat over low heat.
6. Once the fruit is softened remove from heat and place pulp in a jelly bag to strain the juice out. If you do not have a jelly bag, you can line a colander with a clean smooth dish towel, place this over a bowl and pour the pulp into it. My grandmother always used a pillowcase hung from a broom stick. She'd place the broomstick over the back of 2 chairs and it would drip into a pot below overnight.
You can either make jelly clear or cloudy. The only difference is that clear jelly has no fruit pulp in it at all and cloudy may have small amounts of pulp. I make cloudy jelly because then I can squeeze every drop of juice out of the cooked pulp. For clear you do not want to squeeze- just let the juice drip naturally.For clear jelly, do not squeeze or push the pulp down to get the juice out. Let it sit untouched for 3 hours or overnight. For cloudy jelly I twist the bag to squeeze all of the juice out quickly. Discard pulp.
7. Pour the 5 cups of juice into a clean 6 to 8 quart heavy bottomed pan. Stir in one package of dry pectin. DO NOT EVER TRY TO DOUBLE A JELLY OR JAM RECIPE. When you double a recipe it takes much longer to heat to boiling and this additional cooking time will throw off the "set" of the final product. It makes it way too runny and more like syrup instead of jelly or jam consistency, so only cook one batch at a time. You can add 1/4 tsp of butter to reduce foaming.
8. Over high heat stirring constantly bring the juice and pectin to a hard rolling boil that does not stop when stirred.
9. All at once, pour the sugar into boiling juice. Bring mixture back to a hard rolling boil and boil for 1 minute. 10. Remove from heat and pour into the hot sterilized jars. I pour the hot jely from the pan into a plastic pitcher to make filling the jars faster and easier.
11. Wipe the rim of each jar thoroughly so that a seal can form. 12. Place a seal on top of jar and then screw the band on just until tightened. Do not crank down to tightly.
13. Place sealed jars into the jar rack and lower into the boiling water bath. The water should come up at least one to two inches above jar tops. Process ( boil with lid on) for 5 minutes. At altitudes above 1,000 feet, increase processing time as indicated: 1,001 to 3,000 feet - increase processing time by 5 min.; 3,001 to 6,000 feet - increase processing time by 10 min.; 6,001 to 8,000 feet - increase processing time by 15 min.; 8,001 to 10,000 feet - increase processing time by 20 min.
14. Once time has been completed. Remove pan lid and turn off heat. Let jars sit in water for 5 minutes.
15. Remove jars from hot water bath and set on cooling racks in a draft free place. Leave jars alone and do not touch or move them for 24 hours. Jelly will keep for up to a year in these jars.