Awesome Apple Offerings, Plus an Heirloom Crab Apple Jelly Recipe

| 1/24/2011 2:55:00 PM

If you are looking for rare heritage apples at very affordable prices, be sure to check out Wagon Wheel Orchard and the Wagon Wheel Orchard blog. Rick Godsil is a third generation fruit grower and he and his family are now growing over 700 varieties of apples and pears. They offer bench grafts for just $9 each, with a 7-tree minimum order. When we placed our order with Rick last week, he told us about the remarkable ruby colored crab apple jelly and the tree his grandmother makes it from.  His story appears below.  

Grandma GrGrandma Grueuls Crab Apple Jellyeuel’s Crab Apple Tree and Jelly Recipe

By Rick Godsil 

I’ve always believed that the best food has a great story behind it, adding something beyond taste and texture to the meal.  This is definitely true of my Grandma Greuel’s Crab Apple Jelly.  In 1959 she and my Grandpa bought an old farmstead outside of Macomb, Illinois.  On this property were already well-established crab apple trees growing in the fence rows here and there.  My mother and her siblings would harvest the small 1” dark red fruit in the fall and bring in a bushel to Grandma’s kitchen.  To this day we harvest crab apples with the great-grandchildren that Grandma (about to turn 90 years old) still processes with some help into a beautiful vibrant red jelly.  For many years Grandma has included small jars of jelly into her Christmas gifts, a very welcome addition!

Grandma always has us wash off the fruit and pull the stems before we set the harvest on her kitchen table.  All the youngsters present help in cutting the small apples into halves or quarters, removing the small black seeds.  A few of the kids (some in their 60s mind you) might try sampling a fruit or two at this stage.  A good crabapple will pucker your face up like you’ve bitten into a lemon.  Grandma always reminds us not to peel any of the apples so that the jelly will get the maximum amount of color from the skin.  She places the fruit pieces in a very big kettle and puts just enough water in to cover the apples.  When I was young she was still doing this on a wood burning stove in the summer kitchen!  She cooks the crab apples just until they’re tender.  We take a long break afterwards to let the water cool and to tell old stories around the kitchen table.  After the pot has cooled to lukewarm we pour out the kettle into a large colander lined with a few layers of cheesecloth.  Grandma always makes sure that the colander is well drained before beginning the next step.  She puts one of the kiddos on duty to boil the jelly jars and get them lined out on her harvest table.

We take turns squeezing and wringing out the cheesecloth until we have collected about 7 cups of juice.  This goes into a medium sized pot along with a packet of pectin and a small dab of butter (“keeps down the foam”).  This gets heated slowly with increasing heat until it reaches a full boil.  At this point we dump in 9 cups of sugar and bring the mixture back up to a full boil for one minute.  Grandma gets a very large metal spoon down and skims off any remaining foam.  Now the juice is ready for the jelly jars.  She stresses that it’s important to get the hot mixture in quickly (fill to within ¼” of rim) and to make sure and wipe the rims of the jars clean with a moistened towel.

2/3/2011 10:54:49 AM

It took me a while to find the bench grafts for sale, they are not on the Web site but are listed in the blog on Jan 4th 2011.

anne jansen
1/28/2011 1:41:35 PM

thank you for that cute story about the heirloom crab trees. I would like to say that in all my 30 odd years of making the most beautiful ruby red crab apple jelly I never ever needed to add pectin, as these apples are just loaded with it's own jelling qualities and if you want your jelly to turn out perfectly crystal clear it probably would be better to drain the juicy pulp through a fruit draining bag. I have always used several layers of plain cotton dish towels tied up over my stainless steel bowl. I always hang this overnight or at least for several hours. I have never although I have been squeeze the juice by hand because this will be a sure bet that your jelly will be cloudy. I also found using a 1 to 1 ratio is plenty of sugar while still keeping that tangy bite that makes this jelly so great I particularly love it on swedish pancakes. Memories of the how to's can fade over the years but the procedure must remain constant to have the best possible results. Even year after year of making the most beautiful crystal clear ruby red jelly, I still marvel at the beauty of nature and it's bounty.

Moon Over Martinborough
1/25/2011 11:46:47 AM

I love heirloom recipes. When my partner and I moved from Chicago and eventually settled on a rural property with an olive grove in New Zealand, we rediscovered a cherished carrot cake recipe. It had belonged to a dear Chicago friend who'd passed away years before. We started baking this amazing cake for our friends and neighbors here in Martinborough, and suddenly the entire village was after the recipe. It took some convincing before my partner agreed to share it. Since you've shared yours here is ours, along with the story:

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