This past week I have been so busy getting ready for thanksgiving that I forgot to write about our jelly-making adventures!!
My neighbour has a big crabapple tree in his back yard, and kept offering them to us, as long as we picked them ourself. One crisp fall day at the tail end of apple season, I headed over there to do just that.
On his advice, I brought a big king-size bed sheet along, and carefully spread it on the ground under the tree. My plan was to shake the tree, watch as all the beautiful, crisp, red apples fall onto my sheet and happily carry them back home to process into sweet, apple jelly.
Well, if you know anything of my past adventures in new things, you'll know that things don't always go the way I am expecting. This was no exception, as the tree proved to be too solid for me to shake, the brances, too high for me to grab easily, and the apples that I could reach, too soft to use. So I hopped, and swung my arms at the branches, I climbed the fence beside the tree and tried to shake them off, and I got my toddler to help me pick up the ones on the ground that looked ok. In the end, we resorted to picking a bunch of them off the brances we found out back that he had just pruned off the tree the day before.
Back the in the kitchen, we dump all the apples into the sink and inhale the sweet smell of ripe fruit, and start to sift through all the leaves that had fallen from the tree onto my sheet with the apples. You see, when you shake a tree to get apples to come off, they aren't the only thing that falls... I had oodles of apples, leaves, and ladybugs all over the kitchen. What a mess! We tried to catch the ladybugs before they escaped into the cracks and corners of the kitchen to do who-knows-what, and we sorted through all the mushy apples and leaves.
In the end, we decided to phone grandma Sonia for help, as she is the absolute expert in anything related to the finer art of housekeeping. I need to just plug my brain into hers and download all of the amazing facts and information she has stored in there.
She came over two days in a row and we cut up the apples, boiled the juice down, made the jelly, canned it and picked some more apples to start over again. Here are some of the lessons that I learned:
1. Don't shake the apples out of the tree. You will also get all the just-about-to-fall-off-becuase-they-are-so-rotten ones, dried up leaves, ladybugs, and even a few caterpillars if you are really lucky. Also, the apples that do appear usable, end up getting bruised by landing on the ground.
2. Send your husband with a ladder and a bag to pick the apples.
3. Phone your grandma at the first sign of trouble.
4. Especially if you are thinking of substituting icing sugar for real sugar.
5. Don't use icing sugar in jelly, because it has cornstarch in it, which will thicken your jelly before it is done, making you think it's done, and leaving you with lots of cloudy, runny, sweet crabapple juice.
6. Cloudy, runny, sweet crabapple juice apparently makes good pancake syrup, and can possibly be spread in between cake layers or poured onto bread pudding. (or at least so says my grandma).
7. cooking with grandma is lots of fun, and very educational.
8. cooking without grandma is risky, and very scary.
9. Google has no search results for 'substituting icing sugar for sugar in jelly'. There! Now they should. :-)