Fall is the time for preserving all things Apple and Crabapple and for canning juice in odd shaped glass jars

When fall rolls around, besides the produce coming in from the garden, there is quite often a surplus of apples and crabapples that are looking to be used up.  Although keeping them as fresh as possible in some manner is always the most desirable option, looking for ways to preserve the harvest is at the forefront of food preservation.  And  making this easy, nutritious apple juice and canning the juice in odd shaped glass jars is just one way to do that.

The Apple

Most people have heard the 19th century proverb "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" and when one looks at the health benefits of apples, it becomes very clear where the proverb came from.  And that, despite the many varieties of apples and crabapples out there, they still remain a good source of healthy eating to help keep the doctor away.

According to the Healthline.com article 8 Impressive Health Benefits of Apples, an apple is a nutrient dense fruit with a 7 ounce (200 gram) apple containing 

  • Calories: 104
  • Carbs: 28 grams 
  • Fiber: 5 grams 
  • Vitamin C: 10% of the Daily Value (DV) 
  • Copper: 6% of the DV 
  • Potassium: 5% of the DV 
  • Vitamin K: 4% of the DV 
  • Provides 2–5% of the DV for vitamins E, B1, and B6.

In addition to how nutrient dense the apple is, according to the article 8 Impressive Health Benefits of Apples , an apple:

  1. May support weight loss due to being high in fiber,
  2. Could be good for your heart by lowering blood cholesterol levels,
  3. Linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes due to their high content of the antioxidant polyphenols quercetin and phloridzin, 
  4. May promote gut health due to the pectin contained in apples that improves the gut health bacteria,
  5. Might help prevent cancer due to the antioxidants an apple contains,
  6. Could help fight asthma due to apples being antioxidant-rich that may help protect your lungs from oxidative damage,
  7. May help protect your brain due to the quercetin in apples that may protect your brain from damage caused by oxidative stress.

A true nutrient dense food.  But equally as beneficial is the smaller version of apples, the crabapple.

The Crabapple

Although smaller and so more would need to be consumed, the crabapple packs a vary similar benefit in overall nutrition and benefits as the apple.  According to the Healthline.com article Are Crab Apples Edible?, one 1.2 ounce (35 gram) crabapple contains

  • Calories: 18
  • Carbs: 5 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram or 4% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin C: 2% of the Daily Value (DV) 
  • Potassium: 1% of the DV 
  • Copper: 1% of the DV 

They may be small, but they are mighty.  The added bonus to the crabapple is that they are relatively easy to grow, produce well most years and are able to withstand the winters.  As I explored in a recent blog post Establishing an Apple Tree Orchard and Planning an Orchard for a self sustaining future, this was one of the many factors I considered when planning my apple tree orchard and fruit orchard.  As I also explored in this article, although all apples will produce juice,  crabapples are a wonderful addition for making juice, jelly and sauce thereby allowing the other apples in a self sustaining apple tree orchard to be used for other things.

Being able to store the apples and crabapples for fresh eating is an important factor in obtaining the most nutrients from these fruits.  Although I could simply buy apples, I like the idea of storing apples grown right where I live.  As I explored in Planting an Apple Tree Orchard and Fruit Tree Orchard with goal of a Self Sustaining Food Forest selecting varieties that are later maturing and are good storage apples will help to extend my consumption of fresh apples later into the winter.  But in order to do so, I want to make sure I store them in a way that will ensure freshness.  Over the years, I have tried a number of ways to store the apples but have found wrapping in paper and storing them in the fridge as identified in the article How to Store Apples for Winter  to be most effective.  As I develop new storage systems such as root cellars or cold rooms, I may vary from this method, but for now if I have apples to store, this is what I do. 

Making juice from my orchard

As I explored in Converting an Apple Tree Orchard and Fruit Orchard to a self sustaining Food Forest although my trees are too young to produce many apples, my lone surviving Kerr crabapple tree from the initial apple tree orchard blessed me with an apple crop this year. Although there will not be enough to make apple sauce, apple jelly, frozen apple slices, apple cider vinegar and apple scrap vinegar and try this great sounding Crock Pot Apple Butter with Peels from Chocolate Box Cottage, there will be enough to make some apple juice.  But first to get them picked.Crabapple juice - picking the kerr crabapples

Considering that the most I would get in previous years was about one half gallon of crabapples since it's cross pollination partner was taken out by a plow wind, I was quite happy with the over 4 gallons of crabapples I was able to harvest.chokecherry juice - kerr apples

With crabapples picked, I head into the house to make juice.  Any apple or crabapple can be used to make juice in this manner, but for the bigger ones I like to freeze some slices off of them before making the juice.

Freezing apple slices

But first, I need to deal with some apples I had been gifted.  Being they have some size to them, I decide to make slices from them to put in the freezer for crisps, pies or apple bars, to name a few uses.  They are also great to just eat raw right out of the freezer.Crabapple juice - Freezing apples

With each apple, I sliced off pieces of apple around the core and placed the apple pieces on a cookie sheet to throw into the freezer to tray freeze AKA flash freeze. I make sure to keep the core to turn into juice.Crabapple juice - slicing pieces off the apple

In addition to the 8 Ways to Keep Apple Slices From Turning Brown, many articles and how-to-books recommend soaking the apples in a solution of one tablespoon of lemon juice per one cup of water for two to three minutes to prevent oxidation and subsequent browning of the apples.  However, when dealing with crabapples and homegrown apples similar to the varieties I explored in Converting an Apple Tree Orchard and Fruit Orchard to a self sustaining Food Forest , I find that I I don't like the slime it creates on the apple so I have resorted to simply slicing and getting them in the freezer right away.  They turn a bit brown, but by the time you add spices and what not, it does not matter I figure. Once frozen, I can bag them up.Crabapple juice - frozen apple slices

Prepping for juice

Although the cores will have less juice in them simply because the slices were removed, they can still be used for making apple scrap vinegar as instructed in the article How to Make Apple Cider Vinegar from Scraps.  But today, I am going to take them and add to the crabapples I picked and make some juice.Crabapple juice - apple cores for juice

To the apple cores I will add the crabapples I picked.  I could have washed them and pulled the stems off, but coming in straight from the tree I do not feel the need to wash them and do not find any need to pull off the stems.  I just cut out any bad spots.  Each crabapple will be cut in half to make a heaping gallon.  I am not concerned about being precise at this time, but I will add a few extra crabapple halves to compensate for the missing slices from the cores I am also using.  If it is just crabapple or apple haves, a full gallon is all that I need.Crabapple juice - halved crabapples for juice

I put the halved crabapples into a container that will hold a minimum of six (6) quarts and preferably one with a lid.  As this recipe can be be doubled as many times as you need and have containers for, I like to use my roaster because I can do a single batch in the small roaster and a batch and a half in my larger roaster.  The lid is necessary to keep the steam in and prevent dust and anything foreign from entering.

For each gallon of apple halves, I will add five (5) quarts of boiling water.  I apply the lid and allow it to sit on the counter for a minimum of 24 hours.  I have let it go up to 36 hours, but I would not want to take it much past that for fear of it starting to ferment.Crabapple juice - crabapples covered in water for juice

By pouring the boiling water over the crabapple halves it works under the same principle as a steam juicer.  As explained in the article How Does A Steam Juicer Work? the steam juicer "works by bursting the fruit with steam and then collecting the fruit’s juice as it freely drains from the pulp.".  But in this method, after the water initially bursts the fruit, the juice is then allowed to infuse into the water surrounding it as explained in the article What Does Infusion Mean In Cooking? .  And then, as the water cools the remaining juice is extracted through Osmosis by diffusion.  As explained in the paper Osmosis in Food,  "Osmosis is the physical process of a solvent passing through a membrane to equalize the concentration of solute on the membrane’s other side ".  Regardless of the method(s) employed, they work to generate a great juice. 

Because this method is a slow method of extracting the juice from the apples and does not involve continuous application of steam, I can't help but think it might preserve more of the nutrients from the apples, thereby giving a more nutritious juice to start with prior to canning.   Nutrients in foods start to be destroyed once the temperature gets to 117 F (47 C) as identified in the Healthline.com article How Cooking Affects the Nutrient Content of Foods and because a steam juicer uses steam which has a temperature of 212 F (100 C), I can't help but think it might destroy more of the nutrient value.   Granted, I am hitting the crabapple's with boiling water, but the temperature will drop down below 117 F (47 C) within a few hours to allow for a gentler extraction of the juice. Regardless, at the end of this process I will have a great tasting juice to can.

Odd shaped jar preparation

Prior to the completion of the juice extraction, I gathered together the jars that I will be using to can the juice.  Although I could use any sized canning jar, I prefer to use for this purpose the odd shaped glass jars I have gathered and been gifted.  As I explore in a number of blog posts around the topic of using odd shaped glass jars in hot water bath canning and pressure canning, commencing with Recycle glass jars, upcycle glass jars and repurpose glass jars....but, can I reuse commercially filled glass jars for home canning? I use the odd shaped glass jars interchangeably with regular canning jars.  The one caveat to this is that the jars and lids must be in good shape as I explore in Recycle canning lids, upcycle canning lids and repurpose canning lids....but can I reuse canning lids for home canning?.

After selecting the jars, I wash, rinse and sterilize them in preparation for canning the juice.Crabapple juice - reusing odd shaped glass jars

And, I bring the corresponding odd shaped glass jar lids to a boil and hold them in warm water while I extract the juice.Crabapple juice - odd shaped glass jar lids

Juice extraction

Once the 24 hours has passed, it is time to pour off the juice.  Using a colander and a container to catch the juice, I dump the entire contents from the larger roaster into the colander.  The crabapple halves are left in the colander and the juice and a few seeds are in the container, the lid from my roaster.  I always feed my spent apple and crabapple halves to the chickens but they can also be composted as well.crabapple juice being extracted

After the juice is poured off and the halves are disposed of, I give the colander a rinse to remove any loose particles and seeds that may have attached to the colander.  I set the colander inside the pot I will be heating the juice in and line the colander with a t-towel to strain the juice through and remove any "bits".crabapple juice straining

Once all the juice is strained I am left with this wonderfully clear, flavorful juice to can.Crabapple juice - the extracted juice

Jarring the juice

In order to can the juice in the odd shaped glass jars I prepared, I will need to bring the juice to a boil in the pot AKA open kettle method of canning.  But first, I need to add a little sweetener.  The type of apple or crabapple being used will affect how much sweetener I use and although other sweeteners can be used, I choose to use a white granulated sugar at this time.  The joys of this juice is that it can be sweetened as much, or as little, as I like.  I added a 1/2 cup to start and then added another 1/2 cup and tasted the juice after each addition, ending up with a total of 1 1/2 cups of sugar to this batch.  I make sure to taste slightly warm to ensure the sugar is dissolved but in doing so I have sometimes added too little and too much sugar to some batches.  But no harm, no foul should that happen.  It still tastes great when mixed with another jar of juice to equalize the levels of sweetness.Crabapple juice - adding sweetener

Once the juice has been brought to a boil, the hot juice is then poured into an odd shaped glass jar, leaving about 1/4 inch headspace. The corresponding one piece lid is then attached and tightened to the point of slight resistance as I explore in Canning Water...Yes, Water! - Reusing odd shaped jarsCrabapple juice - filling odd shaped glass jarsOnce the once piece lids are attached to the odd shaped glass jars, I had a decision to make as to process in a hot water bath canner or not.  

Canning the juice

Being that apples and crabapples typically have a pH of 3.0 - 4.0 the juice lends itself to hot water bath canning as recommended by the National Center for Home Food Preservation in the article Selecting, Preparing and Canning Fruit.  I confirmed that my juice was well in the pH range for safe hot water bath canning.Crabapple juice - testing ph of juice

Although I could have easily hot water bath canned the crabapple juice for 10 minutes as recommended, I chose to not do so. If I was going to hot water bath can the juice, I would base the required time on the size of the jars being used, using the times for the next larger jar if my odd shaped glass jars fell between a pint, quart or half gallon. For more information on hot water bath canning and pressure canning I would recommend the course The Abundant Pantry: Canning offered by Homestead Family.  Even for a seasoned canner like myself, I found it very informative.

For years I have simply jarred the juice in sterilized odd shaped glass jars, attached the sterilized lids and left them sit on the counter to seal.  The open kettle method of canning.  I make on average of 50 - 100 jars of juice a year and over the years have only had a couple go bad or loose their seal resulting in spoilage that is clearly evident.  Because of the high acidity level of the juice, botulism spores can not survive in this environment so that is not a worry at all. 

Having made this decision to proceed as I have for years, I jarred the remaining juice.  The next morning all the jars had sealed and I had a number of odd shaped glass jars of delicious, nutritious, clear crabapple juice to add to the pantry shelf where they will store for many years to come.  If I don't drink them first!crabapple juice finished juice in odd shaped glass jars

Final thoughts on making juice

Apple and crabapple juice have long been part of my yearly canning routine.  And although I was able to make a few jars from my own fruit orchard this year, I will hopefully be able to get some more apples and crabapples from friend's trees.  But as I continue down the road of Converting an Apple Tree Orchard and Fruit Orchard to a self sustaining Food Forest , I one day will have a fruit orchard where I do not need to gather apples and crabapples from other sources.

I hope you enjoyed my exploration into making crabapple juice from my own crabapple trees using things you probably already have in the house, little to no expense required.  However, there are many different ways of extracting juice such as using one of the juicers explored in The 7 Best Apple Juicers for 2022, by using one of the steam juicers outlined in Top 10 Best Steam Juicers to buy – Reviews, Buying Guide & FAQS [2022 Updated], or by using one of the apple cider presses outlined in The 5 Best Apple Cider Presses For 2022..  Regardless of the method used to extract juice, as I explore some of the on line courses I am taking through School of Traditional Skills, I anticipate that my fruit orchard will produce in abundance and I will be able to make all sort of juices for the pantry utilizing my tried and true method.

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Additional Resources

Crabapple juice from fruit orchard to juice - Pinterest link

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