I get a lot of requests for crabapple jelly. Last year, I sold out in the middle of the Christmas season so I thought I’d make more this year. My faithful helper Caitlin (also my beloved niece) and I booked a picking day. We went out to Okotoks – a nice couple there lets us pick their tree. Their son-in-law is an arborist and trims the tree yearly so it yields like a real working tree would in an orchard. The branches were heavily laden. We picked 2 1/2 large bins. Caitlin was sure it was the same amount we’d picked last year – I thought it was perhaps twice as much.
I had been at a funeral two weeks prior and noticed they had a great tree. I called and received permission to pick there. So we went and picked everything we could reach which was easily another bucketful. I started processing soon after and by the time I was done straining the juice, I had filled three 8 litre buckets and my huge canner (probably 15 litres). This seemed like more than I’d had last year. Yes. Yes it was. By the time I was done making jelly for 11 hours, I had 225 jars. Yikes.
That night I wrote an email to my supplier asking him if he knew the variety of tree it was. He wrote back saying he didn’t know but he’d picked the rest of the apples (the high ones) and would I like them. I had to drive out and give them a big jar of jelly in any case. When I got there, he handed me two huge bags. Turned out to be 35 more pounds of apples. I did some internet research and found a crabapple butter recipe. It is delicious – 35 lbs of apples yielded 45 jars (would have been more but I burned one batch).
I often wondered why people didn’t use their crabapples themselves. I suppose the answer is that no family can eat 225 jars of jelly and 45 jars of butter in a year.
Recently, I gave a small jar of jam to a wonderful woman named Tasha who works with me. I left it for her on the desk wrapped in a piece of paper. The day she got it, I received this poem on my FB Page.
Jam goddess, Jam goddess you are so nice
And simply saying “thank you” would not suffice.
Imagine if you will my utter delight,
To find on my evening shift, some jam in my sight!
Unwrapping the paper, I squealed with glee
“Irene made raspberry chocolate jam just for me!”
Looking to my left after scrambling for a spoon,
I saw a hungry psych resident contemplating its theft!
Another spoon was found and we each gave it a try,
And after we had a taste, we both let out a happy satisfied sigh.
Thank you Irene 🙂
Mrs. Beeton’s Family Cookery and Housekeeping Book: A Useful Guide in Households, both Large and Small (1905) has four recipes for Orange Marmalade made with Seville Oranges. They are all complicated because, as anyone who makes Seville knows, there is a lot of work involved. At the bottom of the first recipe she writes: NOTE: The best marmalade is made by Keiller, and many are of the opinion that when it can be bought so cheaply and good it is scarcely worth making it at home. (I checked and you can still buy Keiller’s Marmamalde lo these many years later). Course, you can also buy it from me.
Here is one of the recipes:
Equal weight of fine loaf sugar and Seville oranges, to 12 oranges for one pint of water. Average cost, 6d per lb.
Let there be an equal weight of loaf sugar and Seville oranges and allow the above proportion of water to every dozen oranges. Peel them carefully, remove a little of the white pith and boil the rinds in water 2 hours, changing the water three time to take off a little of the bitter taste. Break the pulp into small pieces, take out all the pips and cut the boiled rind into chips. Make syrup with the sugar and water; boil this well, skim it, and, when clear, put in the pulp and chips. Boil all together from 20 minutes to ½ hour, pour it into pots, and, when cold, cover down with bladders, or tissue-paper brushed over on both sides with the white of an egg. The juice and grated rind of 2 lemons to every dozen of oranges, added with the pulp and chips to the syrup, re a very great improvement to this marmalade.
Time: 2 hours to boil the orange-rinds; 10 minutes to boil to syrup; 20 minutes to ½ hour to boil the marmalade.
Seasonable: This should be made in March or April, as Seville oranges are then in their perfection.
About two years ago, I started to hear about the world famous but seldom seen Meyer Lemon. Mostly, my source was the Harvest Forum at iVillage*. I heard from my local fruit monger that Superstore sometimes carried them but I didn’t have any sense of when they were in season or what they looked like. Then, I went to Texas to visit my BFF. I am teaching her to do small batch jam making. She had Meyer Lemons in her fridge so we made a small amount of marmalade winging the recipe. I don’t normally recommend this but by now, after 1000 jars of marmalade plus or minus, I have some sense of what the basic drill is. In any case, those Meyer Lemons made great marmalade.
Flash forward to my visit to the Dentist (four small cavities – time to start brushing between tastings). My dentist laughingly says she should underwrite my jam business because it so clearly drives business to her. But I digress. She had seen Meyer Lemons at Superstore and made curd. Making curd is out of the question for me because I can’t stop eating it. But again I digress. I whipped over to Superstore to be told they had Meyer Lemons a week ago. I was dejected so had to buy myself a chocolate croissant. A week later, my dentist came through for me again – Meyer Lemons had been spotted at Costco. I leapt into the Mazda and headed for the store, thinking, if they don’t have them, I’ll get customer service to call around and see if there are any left at the other stores (always contingency planning am I). Long story short, a cornucopia of plenty greeted me. I put numerous boxes in my cart and then answered questions from other customers about what the hell those were and what the hell one did with them. Interestingly, these Meyers were not quite the same as those in Texas – they were larger and orange in colour.
I got home, adjusted the recipe my recipe for the volume of each clamshell of lemons and got busy slicing. Damn things are full of seeds but luckily, I had learned how to “supreme” citrus so I cut the core out of each half lemon which removed most of the seeds with it. I only cut myself 4 times. The recipe called for soaking the peel overnight, then boiling for 30 minutes before adding the sugar (if boiled in sugar solution, peel will not soften). The next morning, I leapt out of bed, turned on the stove, and added the sugar. I was well on my way to achieving a merry boil when I realized I should have boiled the peel first in the soaking water. Oh well!! There was nothing to do now but forge ahead. After all, one cannot retrieve sugar molecules once they are in solution unless one has lab equipment. Luckily, Meyers have a very soft skin and the marmalade turned out well. It was thick with loads of peel which I know my customers love. I now firmly believe that, like apricots, the divine purpose of Meyer Lemons is to give their little lives to Marmalade. Holy schneikies – it’s good.
*Drops voice* I would say it’s my new favourite but I’m afraid the other marmalades will hear me. ssshhhhh!!!!!
*Harvest Forum is a discussion board of all things canning. It has been around for a long time and is a valuable source of the kind of information you never find in books. Many of the people who post there and answer questions are expert canners – some teach canning in University extension classes. I highly recommend this site for new canners as well as experienced ones. I learn something almost every time I go there.
My good friend and a huge supporter of Jam Goddess is in Paris. He told me that he would try to find some of Christine Ferber’s Jam for me. I sent him the name and a place where I think it’s sold. Hallelujah!! This morning I received the following text message from Paris “Found it”. I’m so excited. Ready the bread Raoul.
I am happy to say that I managed to get my hands on 35 Kilos of Seville Oranges. Here’s a photo of how much marmalade that produces. I won’t show you the empty scotch bottles.
Every summer we would travel to the Okanagan Valley in BC where we’d climb ladders and pick fruit while other kids got to go to the beach. No really. We’d race home with the car packed full and our feet resting on boxes of fruit in the backseat. Upon arriving at some ungodly hour in the middle of the night, we’d go to bed and my mother would start canning. Continue reading