Monday, November 24, 2014

More Fun With Crab Apples 3: The Juice

We continue our crab apple-themed posts (the original, part 1, and part 2 here) with some ideas for what to do with the juice part--the water the crab apples were boiled in, after straining out the apple solids.  Let's get to it!

Idea #1: Liquid pectin.  It's just the aforementioned liquid fraction. Boiling solublizes the pectin, so it's essentially a hot water extraction of the crab apples.  Pretty easy!  Check if it's strong enough by adding one teaspoon liquid pectin to one tablespoon high-proof alcohol (91% rubbing alcohol (isopropanol) or 95% ethanol), and waiting a minute.  If the gelatinous mass can be picked up with a fork (example in fourth photo here), it's strong enough.  If not, boil the liquid pectin down some more and try again.  To use in jam, take one cup liquid pectin per four cups fruit pulp and five cups sugar.  Mix pectin and fruit pulp, bring to a boil, mix in sugar, return to full rolling boil.  Boil one minute, pour into hot, clean jars, and process in a hot water bath or pressure canner, or by whatever method you prefer.

Idea #2: Crab apple-ade.  We take the liquid, dilute it by half with water, and add a teaspoon of sugar per cup to sweeten it.  Sweet-tart and refreshing!

Idea #3: Crab apple wine.  There are a few recipes here and here, but we're usually a little more cavalier about the process.  We'll post more details on our home wine-making adventures in the future, but our general process is this: Measure the specific gravity of the juice (left), add enough sugar so that the yeast will make enough ethanol to kill themselves...

...add the yeast to a half cup of the sweetened juice and let it sit for a few minutes to proof...

...then put everything in a stainless steel pot with a bungee cord-secured towel to keep out fruit flies. (Or 'primary fermentation vessel' if you want to sound legit.)  It stays here for about a week, then gets transferred to a carboy (or jug) with an airlock and left for several months while the yeast finish their magic.  When fermentation stops and the specific gravity shows sufficient alcohol to kill the yeast, we check the flavor and bottle it up! (Again, more details in a future post.)

Idea #4: Powdered pectin.  Remember the test to see if the liquid pectin solution is strong enough? Commercial powdered pectin is made by a similar process.  We tried to recreate that process on a kitchen scale.  We took one cup of the liquid pectin plus a half cup of 190 proof ethanol.  That precipitates a lot of the pectin as a gel...

...that can be filtered out of the liquid.  Don't throw away that liquid!  That would make for some very expensive pectin!  Instead, mix it with some Celestial Seasonings tea, and you'll have a Colorado Iced Tea.  What's up now, Long Island? (Note: the liquid has a very high alcohol content, so you don't need much to make a very potent drink.)

The filtered pectin gel can be collected...

...dried like fruit leather...

...baked at 150 °F until crispy, frozen, and ground with a mortar and pestle into a powdered pectin product. (In retrospect, it might be possible to skip the food dehydrator and freezing steps.) Our pectin is darker than the store-bought powdered stuff probably because we didn't do any of the washing steps that the commercial producers do before they dry and grind. This was a lot of work for a little pile of powder, but we were able to make it using only things we already had on hand.  It would also store longer and in less space than the liquid stuff, if we didn't have to use this whole batch right away to answer the critical question: does it work for jam?

We took some raspberries out of the freezer and made a mini-batch. (The sure-jell recipe called for one packet of pectin powder (about 0.25 cup) for 5 cups fruit and 7 cups sugar.  We ended up with about two teaspoons of our powder, so we cut the recipe to 1/6 scale.)  We also ran a control (without pectin; jar and toast on left in photo) to see if the jam would set on its own just from the sugar.  While both batches set, the one containing pectin is noticeably firmer (but still spreads easily). So, our powdered pectin made a difference! Yay!

Idea #5 (bonus!): Crab apple molasses.  In our first attempt to make powdered pectin, we tried just drying down the liquid pectin to a solid.  But instead of a light-colored substance to grind, we ended up with this dark-colored, gummy stuff.  So we tasted it.  It's good!  A lot like molasses, but with an apple flavor.  Time to make some crab apple molasses cookies!

We took our favorite molasses cookie recipe (thanks, Grandma!) and swapped regular molasses for crab apple molasses straight up. A couple things we found out: our crab apple molasses is a lot harder than regular molasses, and doesn't mix with the cookie dough very well.  We heated it up, and that helped some, but there were still chunks.  That's why it looks like we made craisin cookies in the photo.  In fact, Katie thought they were craisins at first! The chunks are chewy and sweet-tart, so it really is hard to tell a difference.  So far, 100% of household correspondents have concluded that the cookies are tasty.

What do you do with your crab apples?  Let us know in the comments section below!

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