Things with crab apples: jelly, three ways

Once we got our crab apple cider vinegar made up and set aside to ferment, it was time to turn to the rest of the crab apples!

The apples had been cleaned and left to soak in cold water with vinegar overnight. The extra time allows for any damage and bruising to the apples to be easier to see.

The next steps were to remove the stems, then cut the apples. These crab apples are small enough that I just cut them in half.

This was the time to cut out any damaged bits – or remove some apples completely.

There were quite a few that looked fine on the outside, only to be bad in the middles. The above photo is what I removed from the apples, including the small batch I used for the apple cider vinegar.

Just a little something for the compost pile. 🙂

As I have some of our choke cherries and sour cherries in the freezer, I decided to make several small batches, including spiced jelly. Some of the recipes I saw said to cook and strain the apples first, cook the juices with the other additions, strain them again, then make the jelly.

I had no interest in cooking and straining these twice, and saw no reason to. Instead, I divided the cut up apples into three pots. I had two medium sized pots plus my smaller stock pot, so after I filled the two smaller ones, any left over apples went into the bigger pot. My smaller pots each held about 6 cups of chopped apples, and the bigger pot had about 7 cups of apples.

I then made my additions.

The spiced batch got a couple of cinnamon sticks, 2 pieces of star anise and about a tablespoon of whole cloves. The others got about 1 cup of frozen fruit added.

Next, water was added until the fruit was just covered. They were then brought to a boil, covered and left to simmer until soft.

The pot the choke cherries were in turned out to be just a touch too small, and I had to transfer it to my other stock pot to prevent it from over flowing.

After about 20 minutes or so, I stirred them down to break up the fruit a bit; I had to use a potato masher on the spiced apples, as the pot was too full to stir properly!

I continued to cook them until the fruit was quite soft.

This is the sour cherry batch on the left, choke cherry batch on the right. I forgot to get a picture of the spiced batch before I put it up to strain.

While the apples were cooking, I prepped for straining.

I currently have only one jelly bag, so I lined colanders set over large bowls with cheese cloth.

I used the jelly bag for the spiced mixture and hung it up in my usual spot. By then, I already had over a litre of juice strained out!

I had to get creative to hang the other two. I used one of those wire frames made to hold bags open, like for leaf bags. Thoroughly cleaned, of course. I set it up on the dining table and hung the tied off cheese cloth bags of apple pulp on the frame, with their bowls of juice set up under them and the colanders removed. I wasn’t able to get a good photo of the set up, though.

I then left the bags to drain overnight, though we did cover the various bowls with whatever we had on hand. One got a piece of cheese cloth stretched over it, another bowl was the perfect size for our mesh frying pan splash screen, and the big measuring cup got covered by a large mesh sieve. These all allowed the juices to keep dripping in, while keeping out any dust, cat hair, insects or whatever else might be floating about.

Note: they don’t need to be left overnight, but the pulp should be given at least a couple of hours to drain. Some recipes suggest to squeeze the pulp to extract more juice. This will result in a cloudy jelly, so that’s up to you! 😉

That was all done yesterday. Today, it was time to cook things down!

I did each batch one at a time, rather than all at once, starting with the juice that was already in the measuring cup.

This is the spiced apple pulp from the jelly bag. The pulp all went to the compost pile.

I ended up with almost exactly 5 cups of juice from the spiced apple and the choke cherry batches, and almost exactly 8 cups of the sour cherry batch. For each cup of juice, I added a 3/4 cup of sugar.

Which felt like an insane amount of sugar, but that’s how it works!

Each batch was boiled to the gel stage.

Before I started cooking any of them, though, I started sanitizing my canning jars. With how much juice I ended up with, I knew my dozen 250ml (1 cup) sized jars would not be enough. I decided to use one 500ml (2 cup) for each batch, then use however many of the smaller jars I needed to empty the pot. The larger jars will be for our own use, and the smaller jars can be given out as gifts, if we want.

I also made a discovery.

We have not been able to replace our damaged hot water tank yet, which means it’s still heating the water to extremely high temperatures. I figured I would take advantage of that and use it to sanitize my jars and implements.

I was able to set up all the jars in a large container on the counter near the stove. I was also going to use my candy thermometer, so I dug that out, washed it, then put it into one of the jars to scald. Shortly after, I pulled the candy thermometer out. The whole set up with the water had been sitting for about 5-7 minutes since I added the hot tap water, so I had to do a double take when I saw the thermometer.

It was at almost 100C.

That’s 212F.

The instructions I was following said to cook the juice and sugar mixture to 210F to reach gel state. My tap water was already hotter than that!!

The juices reached beyond 210F very quickly, so there was no way temperature alone was enough to reach gel stage, so I kept boiling it. After the first testing, I went to wash the thermometer and discovered there was water in it.


Looking closer, I discovered that the glass covering the bulb of the thermometer was gone! For all I know, this is damage from our move. I very rarely use the candy thermometer.

So I threw that out.

Which meant I was checking for the gel state using the *spoon test.

Each batch took me at least half an hour of boiling before it reached the gel stage.

Once each batch was ready, I filled some jars – I added cinnamon sticks to the jars with the spiced jelly – covered them, then set them aside to cool while I washed everything before starting the next batch.

My 8 cups of sour cherry juice mix, and 5 cups of spiced juice mix, each gave me the same number of cups of jelly, but for some reason the 5 cups of chokecherry juice mix resulted in only 4 cups of jelly!

I still don’t have the tools to do a hot water bath, so these are not shelf stable, and will need to be stored in the fridge.

I absolutely love the colours in these!

After they had a chance to cool, my daughters used some when making supper this evening. They made grilled cheese sandwiches with some of the sour cherry jelly spread in with the cheese. It was really good!

The Re-Farmer

Homemade Crab apple jelly, with flavour variations

Items needed:

  • cheese cloth or jelly bag
  • bowl to drain juices into
  • if using cheese cloth, a colander that fits in the bowl
  • canning jars, jar funnel and lids, sanitized
  • place to hang pulp bag over the bowl
  • large saucepan or stock pot with lid


  • crab apples, washed, stemmed and chopped. (no need to peel or core)
  • sugar

Optional flavour additions

  • about a cup of fruit or berries per 6 cups of chopped crab apples.
  • any combination of whole, not ground, spices, including cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, allspice, star anise, etc. to taste.
  1. Place cleaned and chopped apple pieces into a large pot.
  2. Add any flavour options desired.
  3. Add enough water to just cover the fruit. Bring to a boil.
  4. Cover and simmer for about 20-25 minutes, or until apples are very soft. Stir the fruit every few minutes.
  5. Mash the mixture with a large spoon or potato masher. Cook for a few more minutes.
  6. While the mixture is cooking, dampen a jelly bag and ready a bowl to catch juices, or line a colander placed in a bowl with cheese cloth (in 4 layers) and prepare a place to hang the pulp over the bowl.
  7. When the fruit is cooked until completely soft, spoon the mixture into the jelly bag over a bowl, or into the prepared cheese cloth. Tie off the bag and hang over the bowl to drain for at least a few hours, or overnight. (After draining, pulp can be composted.)
  8. Prepare canning jars and sterilize implements.
  9. Measure the juice extracted and place into a large saucepan or stock pot. Add 3/4 cup sugar per 1 cup of juice.
  10. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil, stirring often, until mixture reaches gel stage*. This will take about 20-40 minutes, depending on how much juice there is.
  11. Pour hot jelly into heated canning jars. Skim off foam, seal and set aside to cool.
  12. Process in hot water bath or store in refrigerator.

* Sheet test for gel
Dip a cold metal spoon into the boiling soft spread.  Lift the spoon and hold it horizontally, edge down, and watch how the mixture drops.  When the mixture reaches the gel stage, it will begin to “sheet”, with the jelly breaking off the spoon in a sheet or flake, rather than pouring or dripping.

Home Made Chicken Stock

The following is a “use watcha got” recipe to use up the carcasses of your cooked chicken (or turkey).  This stock is cooked down to be more concentrated, and should result in a rather firm, gel-like consistency when cool.

Decide ahead of time how you will store your stock, and prepare in advance as needed.  I used pint sized canning jars and sterilized the canning funnel, jars, lids and rings during the last hour or so of cooking.  You could also pour the stock into ice cube trays for freezing, or use freezer bags.

You will also need a colander and bowl large enough to hold your stock, plus a sieve and cheesecloth for straining.  Having a giant measuring cup is also very handy to stain into, making it easier to pour the stock into jars.


bones and skin from roasted chickens (or turkey)
pan drippings
onion and/or leeks
garlic cloves
vegetables such as carrots, celery (including leaves), celeriac, parsnips
herbs such as rosemary, thyme, savory, sage, bay leaves, ginger, parsley or dill
salt; optional
cold water
optional additions: lemon or orange zest, a splash of apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

homemade.chicken.stockNote: Quantities will depend on how many carcasses you are using.   For 3 carcasses, I used 1 large onion, a whole head of garlic, 4 carrots, and whatever herbs I had handy in my cupboard.

Seasonings will also depend on how the chickens were seasoned when cooked.  When I roasted ours, I first rubbed them with lemon juice and put the lemon pieces, with some bay leaves, into the cavities.  I also rubbed lemon salt, paprika, pepper and oil into the skin.  Because of this, I was able to be light on the salt and pepper when making the stock.  What salt I did use was lemon salt.

  1. Place your chicken bones and skin into a large stock pot.  Scrape pan drippings in (cooled pan drippings may be gelled, which is awesome).
  2. Add onions, cut into large pieces (skin can be left on, if you wish), or leeks cut into 2 inch or so chunks.
  3. Crush garlic cloves with the side of a large knife (skins can be left on, but I like to remove them) and add to the pot.
    Note: If you don’t have fresh onions or garlic, dried can be used.
  4. Vegetables do not need to be peeled.  Just scrub them, and remove the root ends.  Chop them into about 2 inch pieces, then add to the pot.
  5. Add fresh or dried herbs and other seasonings of your choice.
  6. Add peppercorns (or ground pepper, if that’s what you have) and salt.  If you’re not sure about the salt, leave it for later, after tasting.
  7. Add enough cold water to cover everything by about 1 or 2 inches.
  8. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.  Do not stir, as that will make your stock cloudy.
  9. Simmer for about 3-4 hours.
  10. Place a colander over a large bowl.  Carefully pour everything in the stock pot, into the colander.  Gently lift out the colander, allowing to drain, and set aside.  Colander contents can be discarded.
  11. Wash the stock pot out and place back on the stove.  Pour the stock, through a sieve, back into the stock pot.
  12. Taste for seasonings.  Adjust as desired.
  13. Bring the stock to a boil.  Reduce heat and continue to simmer the stock down until reduced by 1/3rd.
  14. Line a sieve with several layers of cheesecloth and place over a bowl or large measuring cup.
  15. Gently ladle the stock into the lined sieve.
  16. Fill prepared containers with strained stock (in batches, if need be) and seal.
  17. Refrigerate or freeze, as desired.


Using the carcasses of 3 chickens, I was able to fill 11 pint sized canning jars (all the ones I had available), plus have 3 cups of stock left over.

The second cooking down of the stock concentrates it a bit; if you wanted to, you could continue to cook it down more, for an even more concentrated stock.  Keep this in mind when you use it, as you may need to water it down a bit.


The Re-Farmer

Makin’ Mayo

Today, my daughters cracked open a new jar of mayonnaise that we bought just a couple of days ago, and discovered the seal was cracked.

Which means it had been sitting in our cupboard, with the vacuum seal broken.

So, that got thrown out.

Since we weren’t about to drive into town just to buy a jar of mayonnaise, and I happened to have the ingredients, I made a quick batch.

This is an easy mayonnaise recipe from the home economics cookbook I got from when I was in junior high school – a cookbook that is still one of my most used, because it’s filled with basic recipes like this one.

Homemade Mayonnaise

I also have these handy little pint canning jars to use to store it, too. 🙂  Since this is an uncooked version, I sterilized them first.

mayonnaise ingredients

The ingredients are pretty basic; dry mustard, salt, paprika (that is the amount in the recipe; when I’ve made it in the past, I usually used just a pinch), a large egg, vinegar and oil.

While you can adjust how much paprika is used, to taste, the quantities of the rest of the ingredients should stay the same.  That doesn’t mean you can’t get creative, though!  I’ve made this using olive oil, and avocado oil can be used as well.  You can use one egg, or two egg yolks.  Instead of white vinegar, try another light vinegar, such as white wine vinegar.  I wouldn’t use a dark vinegar, such as balsamic, as it would be overpowering, but go ahead and try it, if you want.  I’ve even successfully used prepared mustard instead of dry (not the bright yellow kind, but there are a lot of flavourful Dijon mustards out there that will work quite well).

The important thing about making mayonnaise is in creating the emulsion.  The original recipe was written before electric mixers were common, and the instructions say to add the oil, one drop at a time, while beating vigorously until it thickens!  Even with an electric mixer, it’s important to add the oil slowly.  Just a thin drizzle.

The need to thoroughly beat in the oil, as it is slowly being added, requires a bowl that is small and deep.  I used my 4 cup measuring cup, because even the bowl that came with my stand mixer was too big for a single recipe.  If I had doubled it, it would have worked fine.

If you are using a blender, immersion blender or food processor, however, the blades turn so quickly, it emulsifies before you know it!  Just add the oil in a steady stream.

Here is the original recipe, with my modifications added in [brackets].


1 tsp dry mustard [can use equal amount of prepared mustard, such as a dijon]
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika [can be reduced to taste, or none at all for an almost white mayonnaise]
1 large egg or 2 yolks
1 cup salad oil [can be any vegetable oil, olive oil, or avocado oil]
2 Tbsp vinegar [white vinegar or any light vinegar of choice]

  1. In a small but deep bowl, mix spices and egg
  2. Add oil one drop at a time, beating constantly until and emulsion forms (mixture thickens). [If using an electric mixer, pour the oil in a steady stream no larger than a pencil.]
  3. Beat in 1 Tbsp vinegar and the remaining oil in larger quantities. [Using an electric mixer, you can add all the vinegar now, or after all the oil has been added.]
  4. Add remaining vinegar and beat vigorously. [Pour into sterilized container.] Refrigerate.


Hint: let the egg come to room temperature, first.

Note: if the emulsion refuses to form and “breaks” (one of the reasons buying mayonnaise can be preferred!), it might still be rescued.  Take an egg yolk and beat it in another small, deep bowl.  Then, slowly add the broken mayonnaise, a little bit at a time, while beating vigorously.

If that still doesn’t work… well… there’s always the grocery store! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Home canned chili

Last night, I made up some chili in the slow cooker, for ourselves and my mother when she gets home form the hospital.  You can see my recipe here, though I slightly modified it this time.  I added a rutabaga with the vegetables, an extra can of beans, and used two cans of crushed tomatoes, instead of one, plus tomato paste.  I also skipped the cream.  Lots of fibre and iron in here, which my mother will need for the next while.

This morning, I put up 12 pint sized jars of the chili.


I don’t have the equipment to do a water bath, but these are not intended for long term storage.  Done this way, they should last 6 weeks or more, in the fridge.

I found a flat bottomed, rectangular roasting pain with rack while cleaning the Old Kitchen.  It was the perfect size to hold all the jars.  I put the jars on the rack and, after setting kettles to boil water to scald them, added hot tap water to the roasting rack, so there would be no chance of anything cracking.  I scalded the lids and rings in a stainless steel bowl, then poured boiling water into all the jars to disinfect them all.  I scalded my jar funnel, too.  I am so glad I picked that thing up!!

Once the jars were scalded and emptied, I could use the roasting pan to carry them all together to the crock pot.  I left the hot water in the pan.  To fill the jars, I would put some chili in, then use a (scalded) fork to poke at it and get out any air pockets, fill it the rest of the way (with a half inch head space) then poke at it again to get rid of the air pockets.  After removing the funnel, I popped a lid in place, then moved on to the next one.  Using the roasting rack made it much more organized.

Once filled, I put on the rings, but did not tighten them all the way, then moved them all onto some paper towel to cool slowly.  Once fully cooled, I’ll tighten the rings the rest of the way.  Not too tight, though.  I don’t want my mother to have a hard time opening them!

This took up about half of our 8 quart crock pot of chili.

So I had chili for breakfast. 😀

The Re-farmer

Chokecherry Vinegar Drink

I finally got some photos of a drink mixed using the chokecherry vinegar I made not long ago.

I have been using it for other things already.  One of the things I like to do is put some frozen mixed berries in container to thaw out over night and enjoy them with breakfast.  Usually, I sprinkle a bit of vanilla sugar over them while they are still frozen.  I tried it with a drizzle of chokecherry vinegar, and it worked out very well!  It made plain, ordinary toaster waffles really something!

I’ve drizzled some over fresh cantaloupe, which was also really nice.  It would work just as well over any melon or fruit salad.  The vinegar adds just the right tang.

For a drink, we spooned some over some ice (about 3-4 tablespoons for a large glass), then added ginger ale.20180811.chokecherry.vinegar.gingerale

Give it a bit of a stir, and that’s it!

Very refreshing.

I don’t actually enjoy ginger ale as a drink on its own, but I do like it as a mix.  Half and half with orange juice or cranberry juice, with frozen berries instead of ice, is a favorite of mine.  This chokecherry vinegar would be right at home in any drink like that!

Perfect for a 34C day!

Original recipe here.

The Re-Farmer