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Open a Jar of Sunshine: Jalepeno Crab Apple Jelly and Chutney

High Blush Crab Apples High Blush Crab Apples
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Want it your way? Everyday?

No, I’m not about to espouse the virtues of large chain fast food burgers, especially in a city with a handful of decent options, both long standing fixtures (e.g. Chez Lucien on Murray Street) and up-and-coming indie operations (e.g. Burgers and Fries Forever on Bank (392)). In fact, I won’t be addressing burgers at all.

Let us consider the weather. Of late, there seems to be neither rhyme nor reason for the continued chill. Though, meteorologists probably have a completely plausible explanation: the polar vortex is real; global warming has affected the ocean streams; Canadians chanted “We are winter” during the Olympics, so Mother Nature is obliging….

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a contingency, a jar of something to open in case of emergencies? Ever heard of “canned” preserves?

The media may be flogging recipes to celebrate the arrival of spring. I’m thinking about bottled summer sunshine.

Thanks to generous friends (Kris, I’m looking at you!) and family (thanks Mom!), Jenn and I were gifted with and processed almost 20 kg of crab apples into jelly last summer and fall.

Crab Apple Tree

Crab Apple Tree

Unripe Crab Apples

Unripe Crab Apples

Crab Apples in the Sunshine

Crab Apples in the Sunshine

Foraged Crab Apples

Foraged Crab Apples

Crab Apples at the Farmers' Market

Crab Apples at the Farmers’ Market

Making a jalepeno crab apple jelly is somewhat easy, a spicy sweet yet tart confection.

Making a jelly that gels to a desired consistency, without adding pectic, is another matter. Fortunately, apples are packed with the stuff!

Jalapeno Crab Apple Jelly

Halving Crab Apples

Halving Crab Apples

Weighing Crab Apples

Weighing Crab Apples

Simmering First Batch of Crab Apples

Simmering First Batch of Crab Apples

Simmering Second Batch of Crab Apples

Simmering Second Batch of Crab Apples

Crab Apple Juice

Crab Apple Juice

Crab Apple Pulp

Crab Apple Pulp

Crab Apple Jelly

Crab Apple Jelly

What You’ll Need:

  • 600 g of crab apples
  • 1 L of filtered water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves
  • 2 stars of star anise
  • as many fresh jalapeno chiles as you dare (roughly chopped)
  • 300 g of cane sugar (regular granulated sugar works too)

Method:

  1. Prepare the crab apples by washing them, removing their stems, and cutting off their blossom ends.
  2. Put the water, apples (halved or cored), spices, and chiles into a metal-bottomed pot set to medium-heat and bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low or low. You want a simmer.
  4. Simmer the mixture until the apples discolour and fall apart (45 minutes to an hour).
  5. Filter the mixture through a “jelly bag” or double layer of muslin (cheese cloth), passively. If you force the liquid through, the jelly may become cloudy. We used a muslin lined chinoise set over a large pot (our canning pot).
  6. Add the sugar to the liquid.
  7. Attach a candy thermometer to the pot and heat the filtered liquid to 105C (approximately 220F), which is the “setting” point for jellies and jams.
  8. Test the liquid by placing a dribble onto a chilled plate.
  9. Leave it to setup for a minute. If the top wrinkles when “pushed with your finger,” the mixture is ready to strain.
  10. Jar and serve the jelly chilled.

This apple jelly is acidic enough to can with a water bath. The method we used involves boiling the rings and jars in water, completely submerged (at least 1 inch), for 10 minutes. Afterward, we took the pot off the burner and waited 5 minutes. Then, we added the lids, funnel (plastic), metal tongs, and jar tongs.

We carefully filled each jar, leaving a little under an inch of head room. We wiped the jar rims, carefully lidded the jars, and screwed on the rings until “finger” tight.

Finally, we placed the lidded jars of jelly carefully into boiling water, again completely submerged (at least 1 inch), for 7-10 minutes.

When removed and left to cool, the liquid and air cooling inside each jar should form a vacuum causing the lids to indent inwards. If this doesn’t happen, the canning process failed. Employ the jelly before it spoils.

Sterilizing Canning Equipment

Sterilizing Canning Equipment

Jarred Crab Apple Jelly

Jarred Crab Apple Jelly

Now, being someone who loathes waste, I salvaged the pulp from the spent crab apples and chiles by forcing everything through a food mill. Too tart and spicy for apple sauce, I made jar upon jar of chutney. The apples were hand-picked and grown without pesticides. The least I can do for quality ingredients is waste nothing.

[Aside: Originally, I was going to save the cores and peels to make an apple cider vinegar, but I didn’t have a big enough vat or a cold enough dark place to let the liquid ferment. This summer, I’m properly equipped to try again.]

Crab Apple Chutney

Crab Apple Chutney

Crab Apple Chutney

What You’ll Need:

  • 2.25 kg cooked crab apple/chile pulp
  • 2 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 250 g onion (finely chopped)
  • 200 g candied ginger (chopped)
  • 400 g raisins (sultanas work best)
  • 450 g brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tbsp white mustard seeds (brown mustard seeds have a bitter taste)
  • 2 1/2 tsp black cardamom (or green, shelled!)
  • 1 1/4 tsp all spice (ground)
  • zest of an orange

Method:

  1. Put everything into a metal-bottomed pot set to medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low or low. You want a simmer.
  3. Cook, stirring often.
  4. The chutney is done when the mixture is jam-like and you can make a path along the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon or spatula that holds its shape.
  5. Jar and serve the chutney chilled.

One application we came up with for early failed batches of jelly was as a glaze for wings.

An application for the chutney involves Ace Bakery‘s annual sandwich contest. Two years ago, I submitted a pork belly banh mi.

This year, I took everything you’d expect on a ploughman’s plate and stuffed it into a sandwich: sliced chicken dressed in vindaloo or Thai red curry paste and grilled; sharp cheddar cheese shredded and melted; crab apple chutney; young spinach leaves.

Sliced Chicken Breast

Sliced Chicken Breast

Chicken, Chutney, Cheddar

Chicken, Chutney, Cheddar

Plougman Lunch Sandwich

Plougman Lunch Sandwich

Wine-wise, the sandwich pairs well with a chilled late harvest blend.

African Harvest

When it comes to eating seasonally, I am a proponent of Chef Jeff Crump’s approach. In his book, Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm, the corporate chef of the Ancaster Mill recommends finding the best possible ingredients. It is why he advocates eating responsibly and as sustainably as possible. But, he refuses to forgo ingredients like fair trade coffee, vanilla, olives and olive oil, rice, white truffles, and buffalo mozzarella, a sampling of “10 things worth the food miles.”

My favourite chapters from his classic tome include seasonal coping strategies those of us in a Northern climate can employ. When produce is in-season, practice age-old methods of preserving and canning.

Chef Crump returns to Ottawa (May 1, 2014) to raise money for Farm Radio International, a “Canadian non-profit organization that helps African broadcasters harness the power of radio to meet the needs of small-scale farmers.” Funds raised will help African broadcasters “deliver practical, relevant and timely information to tens of millions of farmers over the airwaves.”

Crump will work with Chef Andrée Riffou of Ottawa’s C’est Bon Cooking to prepare and demo small plates with “African flair” at St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts (310 Saint Patrick Street)

There will also be wine and a silent auction.

Tickets are $75/person. They are available via Eventbrite (with a $2.49 transaction fee) or at Cardamom & Cloves (440 Preston Street).

African Harvest: A celebration of food and farmers

African Harvest: A celebration of food and farmers

Mild-mannered IT professional by day and food blogger by night, I founded foodiePrints with a single intention, to share my love of all things food. My first post shared a recipe. Many followed. Eventually, I learned Ottawa prepares and serves great food. Thereafter, I started meeting restaurateurs, chefs, cooks, farmers, and other local producers, all good people. Ideas for food-related content swirled in my head. foodiePrints grew into a place to put them. From exploring foreign and domestic cuisines to shopping for exotic ingredients and cobbling together my takes on dishes in my meager kitchen, there are stories to tell. Welcome to foodiePrints. Here, you will find stories about food and drink, cooking, and eating in Canada’s capital. Be it food-related or just food-for-thought, I hope you find something tasty here.