Now this is the thing dreams are made of! Who would have thought that making jelly out of apples could be so good. Well, whoever you were, thank you!
I usually make jam, because I don't want to "waste" the fruit. When you use beautiful organic strawberries, blueberries, or peaches, who would want to?
My husbands uncle has a farm in northeast Nebraska that we are lucky enough to reap the benefits from. He is an older bachelor, who only lives and works there during the summer, but he has a huge garden that he plants each year. A select few of us get to work in the garden and harvest our share. I'll post more about the garden when the season returns to us. In the meantime, I want to discuss these apples with you.
On our uncles acreage there are random fruit trees and bushes that really aren't tended to, but apparently still thrive there. On a trip that my husband took to the farm last minute, to help finish up the harvesting of potatoes, he returned with buckets full of apples. Our uncle didn't know what kind of apples they were, but he remembered that past family members made jelly from them. The apples were very small, tart, and had pink flesh. Not great for eating, but I could see how they used them for jelly. Jam would be difficult to make with these without a food mill, of which I do not own - yet.
I did a little internet searching to try to figure out which apples these were, but was unable to find exactly what I was holding in my hand - so I still do not have a name for these apples. At this point, I figured the name didn't matter since I was told that you could use almost any apple to make jelly. Apples are high in pectin, so you don't need to add any to help the jelly set.
My goal was to can the jelly, so I could share them with our uncle since he was kind enough to let us have the apples. I won't get into canning on this post; that'll be at a later time. For now, let's get to this wonderful jelly!
Pink Apple Jelly
8 lbs. apples
10 c. water
6 c. sugar
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. brandy or cognac (optional)
1. Rinse the apples and scrub with a veggie brush if necessary. Remove the stems, and cut them into chunks. Then put them (cores and seeds included) into a very large stockpot.
2. Add the water to the stockpot, cover, and bring to a boil. Once bubbling, lower the heat a little, and do not cover completely. Cook for 20 minutes or until the apples are tender.
3. Line a large colander with a couple layers of cheesecloth and place over a deep bowl. Ladle in all the cooked apples and liquid into the colander. Let stand overnight or for a minimum of 3 hours. DO NOT press down on the apples to force more liquid out, this will make the jelly cloudy.
4. There should be 8 cups of liquid. Pour it into a pot, and attach a candy thermometer. Add the sugar and lemon juice, and bring to a boil. Skim off any froth that rises to the surface. At this time place a small plate in the freezer to test the jelly once it reaches the desired temperature.
5. Cook to 220 degrees Fahrenheit. At this time, spoon a small amount of jelly onto the chilled plate and return it to the freezer for a few minutes. If the jelly wrinkles, it's done. If not, continue to cooking and test again after 5 minutes or so.
6. Remove the pot from the heat, and add the liquor. It will spurt or fizzle, so do not have your face directly above the pot. Ladle into clean jars.
You can store the jars in the refrigerator or can them. I ended up with 7 half pint jelly jars, so like I mentioned earlier, I canned them. We also ended up with a little extra, so we got to enjoy some almost immediately (after it cooled).
Why add the liquor? The alcohol does cook out, but the liquor helps mellow out the flavor. I made my first batch with and the second without.
On my quest to make this jelly, I was educated on the different types of apples that are out there that I had no idea existed, and that delicious jelly can come from them with a little bit of work. I will definitely make this again next year when I get more of these cute little red apples with the pink flesh. Maybe I will even learn their name!
So, if you are lucky enough to come across these tiny pink apples, give this recipe a try. Even if you can't get a hold of these specific apples, try making it with other varieties such as Gala, Fuji, or Red Delicious. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. Your friends and family will thank you - if you decide to share!