A few weeks ago, I happened to glance out of the front window at our crabapple tree. The apples were starting to ripen and fall to the ground. It was about time to start our yearly ritual of raking them up and disposing of the apples. I remember one day when the kids were having fun throwing them on the pavement until they smashed open. Then, one of those more-frequently-sounding anti-frugal alarms started going off in my head. There had to be something that we could do with this fruit. A quick search of the internet gave me two ideas: crabapple jelly and hard cider.
We paid a small price to pick apples at a wild orchard last fall. It was a fun, frugal, family activity and we’re still ejoying jars of delicious “apple pie applesauce.” What’s better than cheap apples? Free apples, of course! Step 1: Walk out the front door and employ the children to help pick a ton of apples. They thought it was a lot of fun.
Next, we used our fancy, purchased-from-an-infomercial juicer (from our less frugal days).
It took a while, but we came up with ten cups of juice for our first batch of jelly. The plan included making jelly for ourselves and to give as a Christmas gift. Family members really enjoyed the jars of homemade applesauce last year. To make the jelly, we boiled the juice with seven cups of white sugar. We skimmed foam off of the top as it cooked. Finally, we added pectin. In reading up on making crabapple jelly, many sources advised that we would not need to add pectin, because there is such a high amount naturally found in these types of apples. I figured that we should buy some just in case it didn’t set. I think we have some type of real apples, not crabapples. The jelly did not set completely, even though I added both packets of pectin. Batch number one is tasty, but very runny. I don’t think we can give it as a gift.
The jelly works fine for me our delicious homemade bread. But since we had so many free apples, I decided to try one more time. I started off with more juice and let it boil down for three hours. Also, I mixed white and brown sugars. The second batch also required two packets of pectin, but it did set. It is much darker. I think we can give these away, labelled as “Brown Sugar Apple Jelly.”
Well, we still had a lot of apples and I didn’t want to waste them. My next project was hard apple cider. After doing a little research, I was amazed at how easy it is to make alcohol out of juice. I wish I would have known about this during college. Basically, all you need is some non-pasteurized juice, a big container, some yeast, and an air-lock (although there is a hack you can try using a balloon). I pulled out my brother-in-law’s beer making equipment, purchased a packet of yeast for 99 cents, and started juicing more free apples. As opposed to the jelly, we were not supposed to boil the juice this time. We let it simmer to kill off the natural bacteria and to dissolve in some sugar (two cups of white and three cups of brown).
After about thirty minutes, we transferred it into the big container and waited for the juice to cool down to room temperature. Then, it was time to “pitch the yeast.” Most sources online said that you could just throw it in the mix. A few suggest making a “starter batch” the day before. I just followed the instructions on the package, mixing it in some lukewarm water before adding it to the juice. We have it in the basement and it is gurgling away (air escaping through the little bit of water in the airlock). I’m hopeful that this means it’s working.
Mr. Money Mustache experimented with hard cider as a frugal, DIY adult beverage, but he paid for jugs of apple juice. Since we used free apples, I like to think that we outdid the master on this this one. We have another week or so until we siphon out the juice for secondary fermentation. Then, it will be another few weeks before we try it out. We don’t drink that much, so if this stuff is good, we can save on buying any alcohol for quite a while. I will post an update after we try it out.
Changing goals and priorities can alter your perceptions in so many different ways. I never gave those apples a second thought, as they were allowed to fall to the ground and rot away. The apples that were so carelessly discarded before, are now being used as a resource to help us spend less and save more. This has definitely been a lesson in using what you have in order to get ahead.