Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Studio 5: Canning Utah's Wild Fruit


There are a lot of comfort foods in the world... I'm sure you have yours. But for me a Peanut butter and jelly sandwich is tops. I thought the jam of choice would always be raspberry, that is, until my friend Heather gave me a jar of Crab Apple Jelly.


It has knocked raspberries off the pedestal! It rules! There is something about the tart sweetness of the Crab Apple Jelly combined with Peanut butter that makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

Throwing 6 cups of sugar on even the very best fruit may make it sweet but can often hide the natural flavors. I opt for low-sugar pectin recipes. It's the best of both worlds. Still sweet, but a little tart and full of that fresh fruit flavor. Not to mention lower in calories! 

You can find Crap Apples in every state, so it's not unique to Utah, but it highly under rated and largely left untended and ignored.

In fact, when you do locate a nice Crab Apple Tree, ask the owners permission to pick, but I'm almost positive they'll be happy you did!

I can tell you there is HUGE crab apple tree behind the Carl's Junior in Centerville.  Also one for the Walgreens in South Jordan.  Keep an eye out, you're bound to find them.  It's actually easiest to spot these trees once the fruit is ripe.  They will be bright red and hanging heavily on the tree.  The ripen between Mid-August and early September, depending on the weather.

Pick only unblemished fruit.  This will save you quite a bit of time cleaning and prepping them.  

The best way to extract the juice is with a juicer.  There are other, more laborious methods (you can read on the internet), but using a juicer makes super quick and less messy work of it all.  If you don't have a juice, you probably know someone who does.

The juice will have quite a bit of foam on top, skim this off.  Place in an airtight container and place in the fridge overnight.  In the morning it will have separated.  Heavier particulates will have dropped to the bottom. a little more foam on top and in between a gorgeous light pink Crab Apple juice.

Carefully skim off any remaining foam on top and then ladle off the clear juice.  Sometimes, if I disturbed the bottom part, I would just let it sit a while and it would separate again.


CrabApple Jelly

4 cups Crabapple juice (use juicer, need about 12 cups)
3 cups sugar
1 package low sugar pectin (or 3 Tbsp from the container) I used Ball brand

Pour four cups of the Crabapple juice into a pot.
Mix a quarter cup of the sugar and a package of low/no sugar pectin and add to the juice.
Bring the mixture to a full boil.  Add the remaining sugar and bring back to a full boil. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly.
Pour into six 8 oz jars.
Process in a boiling water bath for ten minutes.


Ball Jelly Maker Recipe instructions
{Because I did a Review on the Ball Jelly Maker, I've included these recipes as well}
 

Pour four cups of the crabapple juice into pot fitted with stirrer.  Make sure it is room temperature.  If it's cold, put in microwave for 1 minute or so to take the 'cool' off of it.

Sprinkle pectin over the juice and whisk a bit to dissolve (I have a rubber coated whisk to it won't hurt the Teflon coat.  If you don't have that you will want to whisk the pectin and juice in a bowl separately, then add to pot.)

Press JELLY button.  The cook time will automatically default to 25 minutes.  You can add up to 5 minutes manually if you want to).

Press ENTER

When the machine beeps (about 4 minutes in), slowly add sugar.

When timer is finished, skim off any foam and place in hot jars.  Process for 10 minutes.



Chokecherries


Last year, during labor day we were driving through the La Sal Mountains near Moab and came across a huge patch of Chokecherry bushes.



Unexpected, but thrilling!  We grabbed any bag we had in the car and picked until they were full. 



My husband processed them all at home and now we have a freezer full of syrup and jelly.


As appetizing as they look, you really can't eat Chokecherries as a fruit.  It'll dry your mouth out...hence the name.  However, add some sugar and you'll have a beautiful Garnet colored jelly and syrup that is a favorite in our house.  It still has a bit of that astringent taste to it, which makes it very unique.

Chokecherry Syrup
6 cups Chokecherry Juice (use extractor)
3 cups sugar

Add juice and sugar to large pot.  Stirring constantly, bring syrup to a rolling boil and let it boil for 1 full minute.  This will thicken your syrup… too long and it will be very thick…. not long enough and it’s too runny.  Test it.

Take syrup off the heat and add 1/2 tsp almost extract.  Skim off any foam from the surface.  Fill hot jars and process for 10 minutes (or freeze at this point).

Chokecherries are unique to the Rocky Mountains and can easily be found along roadsides.   They bloom clusters of small white flowers in the spring, which is a great way to locate the bushes ahead of time.  They ripen mid-August through Labor Day.

Prickly Pear Cactus
  
One of the few plants that has both fruit and vegetable on it.   The Nopales (green pads) can be pickled, or fried.  The fruit (or Tuna, as it's called in Mexico) is the beautiful juicy fruit that produces a unique flavor that is hard to describe.  Watermelon/berry is the closest I can get to a flavor, but even that doesn't really cover it.



There are hundreds of varieties of this plant, but all produce a beautiful 'cactus flower' in the spring (May) and is ready to harvest mid August through Labor Day.  It's a good idea to watch and check early in the season, as ripeness depends on moisture and heat.



The farther south you go in Utah, the large fruit you will be able to harvest, but we do have smaller fruit in our deserts (near Salt Lake City).

A hard plastic bucket and long pear of tongs is all you need to harvest.  Although I would recommend long pants and closed toed shoes as well (speaking from experience).

 The easiest way to get the juice from Prickly Pear Cactus is with a juice extractor.  Simply put the fruit in the basin, boil water underneath and watch the stunning Magenta colored juice pour out.  It makes a beautiful jelly but a delicious Lemonade as well.

Because we were too late in the season to get ripe fruit I ended up at one of the many Mexican grocery stores in Utah.  They'll carry the fruit (without spines!) towards the end of summer, which is it's season.  Prices range from .69 to .99 a lb.  Of course, you won't get the same satisfaction as finding your own, but it's good in a pinch! :)




Low Sugar Prickly Pear Jelly
 
4 cups prickly pear juice (requires approx. four pounds of fruit)
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 cups sugar
1 package low sugar pectin (or 3 Tbsp from the container) I used Ball brand


Pour four cups of the prickly pear juice into a pot and add a half cup of lemon juice.
Mix a quarter cup of the sugar and a package of low/no sugar pectin and add to the juice.
Bring the mixture to a full boil.  Add the remaining sugar and bring back to a full boil. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly.
Pour into six 8 oz jars.
Process in a boiling water bath for ten minutes.



Ball Jelly Maker Recipe instructions

Pour four cups of the Prickly Pear juice and Lemon Juice into pot fitted with stirrer.  Make sure it is room temperature.  If it's cold, put in microwave for 1 minute or so to take the 'cool' off of it.

Sprinkle pectin over the juice and whisk a bit to dissolve (I have a rubber coated whisk to it won't hurt the Teflon coat.  If you don't have that you will want to whisk the pectin and juice in a bowl separately, then add to pot.)

Press JELLY button.  The cook time will automatically default to 25 minutes.  You can add up to 5 minutes manually if you want to).

Press ENTER

When the machine beeps (about 4 minutes in), slowly add sugar.
When timer is finished, skim off any foam and place in hot jars.  Process for 10 minutes.





Prickly Pear Lemonade
 
A few years ago I did a segment on Cool, Creative Lemonades.


For this recipe, I followed my easy basic Lemon Simple Syrup (follow the link to get it).

1 part Lemon Simple Syrup
1 part Prickly Pear Juice
2 parts cold water
Ice

Enjoy!

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