Swan song? Hope not

The crabapples were plumper and larger than ever this year. This might not be a surprise after all the rain we had but for us, it is startling because in the spring it did not look as if the 25-year-old trees were going to make it.

After the snow melted, we realized serious bark damage on two-thirds of the trees. The bark had been chewed off all around from the ground to about a foot high. But then, as every year, the crabapples bloomed in the first week of May, making me want to cruise up and down our driveway again and again just to enjoy that gorgeous sight. Then came the drought in July, and the trees were still hanging in there.

And now this, a rich harvest! Such a severe damage to the bark is like removing the esophagus from a human body, totally disrupting food transportation. My explanation for the trees still being alive in mid-summer was that they must have had enough nutrients stored at the top. Whether these reserves could last a whole season I didn’t know.

I am marveling at this miracle, and at the same time I fear this might be the trees’ swan song. Meanwhile, I made crabapple jelly today, very much hoping that I will be doing exactly the same thing again this time next year.

Gingered Crabapple Jelly

To extract the juice from the crabapples, it is best to chop the crabapples coarsely in the food processor, then put them in the steam juicer. The amounts can be increased as needed with a juice to sugar ratio of 2:1.

2½ cups crabapple juice (unsweetened)

1¼ cups sugar

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

1. Mix the juice and the sugar and cook in a heavy pot over low-medium heat for 1 hour. Remove any scum with a ladle or a large spoon.

2. Put a teaspoon full on a plate and wait a couple of minutes. If it is still runny, cook a few minutes longer and test again. If it gels but it still a little soft, it’s fine, as the jelly will solidify considerably upon cooling.

3. Pour the hot jelly in sterilized jars through a canning funnel. Wipe the rim with a damp piece of paper towel to remove any drips and wipe dry with paper towel. Place the lids and the bands on the jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

9. Let cool and set for 24 hours without moving the jars. If processed properly, the jelly will keep for 1 year or more.

Makes 2 half-pint jars

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