Thursday, 14 November 2013 09:51

Crab apple thieves can be so hard to find

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If the rules of Finders-Keepers apply to crab apple branches that reach out over a public sidewalk, I call dibs.

Still, before I go raiding, I’ll wait until it’s a little darker outside. Until there are a few fewer passers-by. Until people indoors, having closed their curtains, mightn’t peer outdoors, to see whether a tree is being invaded by a crab apple bandit in a bright, coral-orange, rain jacket.
(So much for camouflage.)
Meanwhile, I have a bucket. I have warm socks. And I have a pair of flock-lined yellow dish gloves
to wear against a little too much cold, and the occasional apple-residing spider that might want to hop onto my hand, as a kind of co-operative burglar alarm, meant to make us urban foragers go all Miss Muffet-y and run away.
I’ll wait one more hour.
30 minutes.
And, bucket in hand, it’s time.
I step out into the night, crunch through the first fallen and crispy gatherings of leaves of the season, and over the cobs of fallen pine cones, down the street, around the corner, and up to my quarry.
And that’s where, for just a few moments, I pause.
Trespassing, you see, isn’t normally in my nature, and it’s now that I can hear the voice of my mother, sucking in her breath with shock and dismay. My mother, who above all, taught me never to lie, never to steal. To consider the sidewalk a polite boundary. To respect personal property and privacy.
All spring and summer I’d been watching this tree.
From the time the tree flowered I had its jelly in mind.
And after visiting it every day while out walking, as it flowered, fruited, and then ripened, I both
knew I’d never be able to resist, and that, with the exception of a troop of adolescent boys who lately had an impromptu crab apple fight in the street, nobody else cared about the sour little apples dangling within reach.
Probably, I told myself, the tree was only there in the first place because someone spit a seed in the shrubbery one day. Or a magpie dropped one into just the right conditions.
However, it came to be there, though, and no matter whose property line hems in its roots, this branch that overhangs the sidewalk, is my branch.
And tonight, after I tie the handle of my flea-market found pail to my waist with a scarf, and as three pounds of burgled apples begin to plonk into the bottom, I glance across the street at a neglected chokecherry bush, and promise to come back for its syrup tomorrow.

Crab Apple Jelly
4 1-cup canning jars
3 lb crab apples
3 cups water
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar

Remove stems and cut away blossom ends from crab apples. Do not peel or core.
In a large pot over high heat, bring crab apples and water to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until apples are softened. Crush crab apples using a potato masher, then cook for 5 minutes more.
Soak and then wring out a clean jelly bag and suspend it on a frame over a large, clean, glass measuring cup. Fill bag with crab apples and let drip, without squeezing bag, for about 2 hours or until the juice measures 3 1/4 cups, adding additional water if necessary to make the mark.
In large clean pot, combine juice and sugar and bring  to a full rolling boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 15 to 18 minutes or until gel stage (see below). Remove from heat and skim off foam.
Using a funnel, fill clean, hot, 1-cup canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Cover with prepared lids. Screw on bands until fingertip tight. Place in a boiling water canning bath for 10 minutes. (for more information on safe canning, visit
Gel Stage Test:
• Chill a few small plates in freezer.
• Remove pot from heat while performing gel test.
• Place 1 tsp hot jelly or jam on plate and place in freezer for 1 minute.
• Remove from freezer. Push finger through surface, which should wrinkle.
• If surface wrinkling doesn't occur, continue cooking and repeat test every few minutes.


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