Crabapples Might Make You Crabby

My friend Lynn lives out in the county. Her rural setting generates gifts to me such as gooseberries, lily bulbs, and most recently, crabapples. I thought crabapple trees were ornamental. “Oh, no,” Lynn assured me, “you can make crabapple jelly.” She lowered her voice and added a poetic tone when she said the words crabapple jelly. I accepted the gift.
“Could I make a pie with some of those apples?” I asked Lynn.
“Oh, I don’t think it would taste very good! You’d have to add a lot of sugar or some raisins to sweeten it up. But crabapple jelly, it’s beautiful and oh, so good!”
The next day my husband, Dale, came home to find a box blocking the front doorway. His eyes grew big, a delighted smile crossing his face, “A whole case of Free State beer!” He flipped back the lid to find the recycled box, filled, not with amber bottles arranged in rows, but Lynn’s crabapple harvest.Lynn's crabapples
“Crabapple jelly,” I read aloud from the index of my Ball Canning cookbook, “page 35.” It looked easy. Only two ingredients, crabapple juice and sugar. 4 cups of juice yields 6 jars of jelly.

Crabapples are actually easy to process – no peeling, no coring, just wash, and throw in the pot with water.
When the apples were soft, I pressed them through a sieve, lined with cheesecloth. Squeezing the juiceVoila, crabapple juice! Isn’t it pretty?Crabapple juice After adding the sugar, I let it cook in a big pot on the stove. Stirring with a long handled, wooden spoon, I watched as the liquid bubbled and foamed, checking periodically to see if it had reached the magical gel point.
Gel point – it’s when the hot mass has boiled to a point that it begins to solidify, to gel, to convert from juice to jelly. I had made blueberry jam this way once. It didn’t end well. Maybe I should have used pectin. Ripping open a box of pectin I scanned the recipe list and, sure enough, there was a recipe for crabapple jelly. Too late now, my jelly was gelling. I spooned the ruby jelly into jars – filling only 3, not the 6 that the Ball Canning book promised. I scrapped the pot into a small bowl, smearing the last, little bit on a toasted English muffin. Yumm. It tasted like the country.Crabapple jelly
Switching methods, I made the second and third batches with the pectin recipe. It was much faster and resulted in a whopping 11 jars from each pot of jelly.  JellyBut there was something wrong with it; the color was a pale pink, the shade of my grandmother’s pink Depression Glass dishes. The jelly from the first batch was a deep ruby pink with a touch of amber. The darker jelly had a rich, earthy aroma, whereas the pink jelly was light and airy, barely scenting the kitchen with a hint of crabapple. Two kinds of crabapple jellyA taste from the tip of a spoon left me thinking I had 22 jars of pink tinted jellied sugar. Where was the flavor? Never having made crabapple jelly before, heck, I’d never even eaten it before, I scratched my head, wondering which recipe came out right.
Three batches of jelly later, the bottom of the beer box was still covered with crabapples. Earlier, as I washed the crabapples, I had set the nicest fruit aside to try Pickled Crabapples, crabapples(page 86 in the Ball Canning cookbook.) But what would I do with all these leftover apples?

A whisper in the back of my mind said, “Make Pie.”
I turned to my vintage cookbook collection to find a recipe for Crabapple Pie. The first three books left me empty handed, but the good old, Farm Journal Pie Cookbook had a five star recipe for Rosy Crabapple Pie. Five stars! Not a bad place to start. I began cutting up those tiny crabapples, grateful that the recipe specified, do not peel. crabapples are littleWith Lynn’s warning of it not being very tasty, I mixed the diced apples with sugar and flour making sure every apple cube was coated with sugar, I spooned them into the pie shell and added vanilla, (yes, vanilla) and water – 1/3 of a cup of water. Really? There was only 1 T of flour in the recipe, was the water really necessary? Ignoring my intuition, I dotted the pie with butter, covered it with a top crust and slid it into the hot oven.Crabapple pie in progress
Pie baking and jelly making dishes covered every counter – sticky spoons, measuring cups, and dirty pots. It was time for clean-up. I reached for the long handled wooden spoon, resting on a saucer in a puddle of the first batch of jelly. When I picked up the spoon, the plate came too. Startled, I set it back down and pried the spoon out of the jelly that had cooled on the plate. Oh, dear. I thought. This is a problem – my jelly had gelled too much. That must be why I only got three jars. I cooked it too long and my crabapple goodness had simmered away leaving me with very tasty glue. I tested the jelly-ness of the last spoonful I had scrapped into the small bowl. It was very sticky but I knew what to do with it. Put it inside tiny pastry turnovers.
With the leftover pie dough I rolled out and cut circles, and spooned a blob of thick, sticky crabapple jelly in the middle, folded them over and pinched the edges. Ten minutes later I pulled a tray of cute little crabapple turnovers from the oven. Who would be crabby with such a tempting snack?crabapple turnovers
The kitchen was cleaned up. The jelly jars, in pretty, pale pink rows with three jars of dark intruders, were sending out periodic pops as the seals sealed. The pie was cooling on the counter, still bubbling up through the slits in the top crust, a sure sign that the pie was done.018
Dale came home from work and surveyed the bounty, especially the pie. “Here,” I handed him a cooled turnover, “Have a few of these for a snack.” We each bit into a crabapple jelly turnover. “What do you think?” I asked.
“It’s very tasty, what’s inside?”
“Crabapple jelly.”
“Oh, I thought it was gummy bear.” He grabbed another turnover as he left the kitchen.
Gummy bear? Humm. So that’s how you make gummy bears, overcook your jelly!
Picking up the phone, I called Lynn. “Is there anything I can do with the over cooked jelly?” Yes, there was, I could spoon it out of the jar, re-heat it, and dilute it with apple juice to thin it out.
Popping the top off the first jar of jelly I stuck a knife in to test the spread ability. I could probably make pulled taffy with my concoction but not a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. crabapple jelly With effort I emptied the three jars of thick, sticky stuff into my pot, for the first time, feeling happy about only getting three jars of jelly. Adding apple juice, I watched closely and stopped the cooking as soon as it started to set up. It may come out too soft but if that happened, I’d call it syrup and pour it over my pancakes.
“Would you like a piece of pie?” I offered Dale.

He cut into the pie, dividing it into 8 equal pieces, and started to remove the first slice. (Warning: the next few pictures might make your stomach turn.) The pie fell apart on his plate, separating into a wet, goopy bottom crust, an unincorporated pile of diced apples, with a loose skin of top crust. Crabby crabapple pie sliceThe parts didn’t seem to belong together. The V shaped gap in the pie pan filled quickly with a runny, pale pink liquid, diced apples dropping into it from either side. Crabby crabapple pie
“What happened to it?” Dale asked.
“I don’t think it cooked long enough.” I lifted the glass pie pan and peered at the bottom crust through the glass, “But it looks done.”
He tasted it. “This just might be the worse pie you ever made.”
I tasted it. Tart. Needs more sugar. Runny. Needs more flour. Not set. Needs more time in the oven. It was enough to make me crabby. But I was no longer a pie baking rookie. I was ready for the challenge of Rosy Crabapple Pie.
Dale served up a second piece. “Hey!” I called. “Don’t eat any more of that pie! I need those apples for a re-do!”
I peeled the top crust off in wedge shaped sheets, with the pretty, crimped edges still attached. I poured the filling into a pot. I scraped the soggy bottom crust into the trash. I started over.to the trash
My filling was minus two servings so I used an 8” pie plate for the re-do. I tasted the mixture. Crabapple pie re-doIt was earthy. Similar to rhubarb. I knew that you could sweeten up a rhubarb pie by adding strawberries. Strawberries and apples? Didn’t sound good to me. How about raisins? Lynn had mentioned they would add sweetness. I added 2 T of raisins softened in 1/4 cup of water. They would sweeten things up and make up for the apples Dale had eaten.

I added a 1/3 cup more sugar to the pot. I added more flour to thicken it. Too much. I thinned it back down with apple juice. I tasted it again. Sweeter but missing something. I thought, “apples and raisins … it needs cinnamon.” I added cinnamon. I added nutmeg. I tasted again. Yes. This will work.
I poured the filling into the new pie crust, dotted it with butter, added the top crust and slid it into the oven.
When the timer rang I gave it five more minutes, just in case, then pulled the pie out of the oven. Twice baked Crabapple Pie
While it was still warm, I called Dale to the kitchen. “Let’s see how my twice baked pie turned out.” I cut it and served the first perfect slice. The crust was flaky and crisp. The filling had the right amount of fruit ooze. The bottom crust was flaky, not soggy. The vacant space in the pie plate stayed vacant, neighboring pieces holding onto their own filling. But how did it taste?Twice Baked Crabapple Pie
“Much better!” Dale called from the table.
I took a hesitant bite. “I think it’s good!” I took a bigger fork full, with a raisin in it. “Oh, the raisins taste good with the crabapples!” My twice baked crabapple pie was a success!Rosy Crabapple Pie ala mode
Scraping his plate clean Dale said, “This is a Barb original, you should write the recipe down!”

When life (or Lynn) gives you crabapples, don’t get crabby! Make jelly. Or pickles. Or pie.

For those who like to live on the dangerous side or are blessed with an abundance of crabapples, here is the recipe – just don’t get crabby if it doesn’t work, okay?

Barb’s Twice Baked Crabapple Pie

This recipe comes with absolutely NO guarantees. Try it with good humor.

Pastry for a two crust 9″ pie

6 cups diced crabapples, (do not peel, but please remove the cores)

2 T raisins, soften in 1/4 cup warm water

1 1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup flour

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon (or more to taste)

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

Put apples in a medium saucepan, add water, cover loosely, and simmer until almost soft, about 10-15 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat a few more minutes until thickened to pie filling consistency, adding more liquid if needed (water or apple juice).  Taste. Whatever it tastes like in the pot is what it will taste like in the pie. Adjust seasonings to your liking adding more cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins and/or sugar as needed. Pour into pastry lined 9″ pie plate. Dot with butter. Cover with top crust, crimp edges and cut slits to vent. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes until crust is nicely browned, steam escapes from the vents, and you can see the filling bubbling up through the slits. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Pastel quilt last block

The Pastel Project – A week later

Are you getting tired of my pastel quilt project? Well, you are just going to have to bear with me, because I’ve been working on this, off and on, for over 14 years and this time I’m not stopping until it’s done.

The final block is appliqued – it was nice to sew on an easy block at the end! And no berries!

Pastel quilt last blockAnd the blocks are all sewn together minus the lower right hand corner where I had to design something to fill the space.Pastel quilt nearing completionI refuse to take this off the design wall until it’s finished. And that just might be TODAY!

Unless … Humm … How would this quilt look with a swag border?

Let’s see what others have on their design walls this week. Click here to go to Patchwork Times Design Wall Monday, even though I’m writing this on a Tuesday.

Pastel heart of flowers

Pastel UFO project update

When I was in High School my US History teacher gave me a challenge. He didn’t know he gave me a challenge but in a conference over a quiz that I must have failed he said I didn’t care about US History so he didn’t really expect much out of me. Say what? The next semester I got an A in his class. Didn’t do so well in Chemistry or Algebra that term but aced the US History.

It’s been a week of pastel applique which means, like Chemistry and Algebra the Color Cats and Tiny Stars haven’t got much attention. The goal is to complete this pastel quilt top by Oct 1. Here’s the current status report:

I’ve completed three more blocks

And have several more sections sewn together Pastel quilt in progressAnd I’m down to the final applique block080When I get to the lower right hand corner I will need to come up with something to fill in the blank space. Check back next week to see what I come up with!

And since I linked to Design Wall Monday last week and promised a progress report, I’m linking in again today. Click here to see what everyone is up to.


UFO Challenge

In Pennsylvania I have a group of quilting friends who enjoy working on quilt projects together – projects that inspire, challenge, and yes, sometimes frustrate. Block swaps, row quilts, puzzle quilts – there have been many over the years but our current project is a different sort of project – it’s a UFO challenge.  It’s time for some of those long neglected projects, the Un-Finished-Projects, the ones cluttering up the closet.

UFO (Un-Finished-Projects), WIP (Work in Progress), PHD (Project Half Done), whatever you call it, we all have them. Some have more than others (who, me?) We love them and we hate them (who me?) Most of all, we dream of finishing them.

The rules are simple – make a list of 6 projects, number the list. Turn in one fat quarter as an entry ticket. Every other month a number will be drawn. Whichever project on your list matches the selected number; it’s the one that gets your attention for the next two months. Can you finish it? If so, your name gets entered in a drawing for the whole basket of fat quarters. If not, pay a one fat quarter penalty.

I can do this!

I selected 6 of my most charming UFOs. I numbered my list and sent a note with my entry ticket fat quarter. My note was a wish of sorts:  “Don’t choose # 3 first!”

A text message came: “We drew #6 . Good luck!”

Whew! It isn’t #3! Thank goodness!

I consulted my list. What did I write down for #6 ? “Appliqued border on Scrappy Spools quilt.” Oh darn, I should have made my wish specify not #3 or #6.
I went immediately, on the very first day of the challenge, to the closet and got out UFO #6. Yes, I did. I pulled it from its 6 year holding place on the closet shelf, unfolded it, and admired the piecework. Tucked among the folds I found the borders – already cut to size. “This should be easy. Besides I have two months!”

Awaiting appliqued borders

Awaiting appliqued borders

Two months came and went. It was time to send proof to Pennsylvania, evidence that I had indeed completed my UFO #6.
There was just one problem. Although I had gotten it out, unfolded it, and confirmed that the borders were cut, I didn’t touch it again for two solid months. Oh, there are excuses for sure, some are actually legit. Suffice to say, I failed in round one. So, I cut a fat quarter of an interesting wood grain fabric, folded it and sent it to the penalty box.

I got a new message, “We drew #2, Good luck!”

A quick look at my UFO list confirms my fear, “Not number two!” I moan to no-one. I should have updated my wish list. I should have enclosed a note that said, “I hope you don’t pull #2 OR #3.”

UFO #2, due is Oct 7.  There it was, in my own handwriting: Grandma’s Album Quilt in Pastels. Complete the last four blocks, set together, and complete the top. Was I nuts? Even without a contest I don’t think I could get that much done in two months, after all I have been working on this project off and on for 14 years. I sigh. What’s done is done. They drew #2. I might as well get to work.

So, today my design wall is full of pastel blocks.
Last night I finished appliqueing the oak leaves. 081

There are three blocks remaining. As of right now I have them drawn out as full size patterns.

And I’ve started joining sections. All that I and I still have 7 weeks to go! Can I do it?

Is this the year I will finally be able to mark this project off my list?
Check back next Monday for a progress report.

In the meantime, let’s hop on over to Patchwork Times to see what others have on their design walls. Click here to go to Design Wall Monday.

To read an earlier post about the pastel quilt click here.



Color Cats are Back

Earlier in the summer I posted about using pre-printed panels in combination with Back Basting Applique’.

Dum, ta, da, dummm ….. here is the first completed block in my Color Cats series.Color Cat #1For each cat I’m using solid fabrics to illustrate an aspect of color theory. Today’s cat is a split complimentary harmony. Here, I’ll show you on my good old Grumbacher color wheel.I haven’t linked to Patchwork Times, “Design Wall Monday” in awhile, so let’s do that today! To see what others have on their design walls, click here.

To see the original post about the Color Cats, click here.

To follow me on Facebook, “like” me at Barbara J. Eikmeier, Quilter.


New Subscribe Button

After a series of problems I am breaking up with my subscribe button. I thought he was cute. Clean-cut with a polished, simple style.  And he was easy for me to understand. But he wasn’t supported by his designer, so all his beautiful features started falling apart. Irritation set in, and we began fighting. I wanted him to do things he wouldn’t do, or couldn’t do – like send notifications of new posts to my subscribers. I gave him a second chance. He got the times wrong, he skipped subscribers – for no good reason, and he sent duplicates to others. Was he playing favorites, or was he trying to get me to break up? My frustration built to a crescendo and I finally took him down. I slid him over to the unused widgets area of my website where he stayed in timeout while I cooled off.

Today, I went looking for someone new. I am optimistic about this new relationship but wanted to warn you that the new guy looks and acts different the other. In the long run, this should be a good thing!

If you were a follower when I was with the other guy and would like to once again receive e-mail notifications, please re-enter your e-mail address and click on the subscribe box.


Day of Stars

Okay, so here’s the deal – on Nov 1, 2013 I began hand piecing tiny, little 3″ eight pointed star quilt blocks. The idea was to sew one block a day and at the end of the year I would have 365 blocks – enough to make a full sized quilt. Sounds great, right?

And it has been. Most days.

All winter I stayed on task, completing seven stars a week. Then spring arrived and travel started and new deadlines cropped up and before I knew it I fell into a pattern of dropping behind, and getting caught up, then falling behind again.

I missed reporting on my blog about reaching the halfway point – and the halfway point really was one of my favorites.

Halfway point May6, 2014

Past the halfway point May6, 2014

Then I missed reporting about block #200. And it was really special – 200 little star blocks all sewed together hanging on the design wall. I didn’t even get a picture!

And I missed posting a May report and a June report. If you’ve been following this project you may have thought I stopped altogether.

Nope. I have continued stitching my stars on airplanes, in the car, during meetings, and from my favorite chair at home with the evening news on TV. I make a few stars, sew a few stars together, make a row, sew the rows into a section, quilt a section, sew two sections together. Day after day, star after star – marking each one on my little pocket calendar.

In spite of myself and my schedule, the quilt is growing.

It’s just that instead of a star a day I need an occasional day of stars!


Color Cats

My design wall hasn’t been very busy this spring and early summer but today there’s something to talk about.

I drove to and from Denver last week and, as all quilters know, a road trip isn’t complete without a stop at a fabric store or two! At a quilt shop in Colby, KS, way out on the western edge of the state, I found a panel of happy cats. I’ve been keeping my eye out for pre-printed designs that I could use with back basting applique and thought these cats looked fun.

Printed on a cream background the lines show through on the back side which means I don’t have to draw a pattern on the wrong side for Back Basting Applique, I can just start right in with the basting step!

See how well the lines show on the reverse side?

See how well the lines show on the reverse side?

This fabric has been out there for awhile, I think it was printed in 2009, but if you want to try this you may still be able to get a panel from the shop in Colby. Click here for their Facebook page. Here’s the fabric’s identifying information.311I’m appliqueing my cats in solids and making samples for a color theory lesson at the same time. Here are my fabrics for the first cat. I use an old Grumbacher color wheel that I bought years ago in a art supply store.317And because I didn’t have to worry about enlarging a pattern or drawing it on my background fabric I started right in with the basting step and got to work which brings us to Design Wall Monday. And this is what’s on my design wall today – a partially completed color cat!327Let’s link in with Patchwork Times and see what others have on their design walls today. Click here to go to Design Wall Monday.

And check back later for a full report on the Denver trip and an update on my Star A Day project!

A completed block

Design Wall Monday – After the Quilt Show

Does your quilt guild hold an annual quilt show? Mine does. It was a week or so ago. So, although it’s not on my design wall today I thought I would share a quilt I put in the show.

Beyond the Cherry Trees, 96 x 96. A reproduction quilt from Sentimental Stitches

Beyond the Cherry Trees, 96 x 96. A reproduction quilt from Sentimental Stitches

It’s called, “Beyond the Cherry Trees” and it’s huge! 96″ x 96″. The quilt was hand appliqued with the  Back Basting Applique technique described in my book, Back Basting Applique Step by Step. The project was offered from Sentimental Stitches as a block of the month, I faithfully downloaded the patterns each month for over 2 years. I did a pretty decent job of staying caught up as the block of the month was in progress, that is, until I got to all those berries in the borders!

For years I have collected red and green reproduction fabrics, just waiting for the right project to use them in. I’ve seen other interpretations of this quilt done in more modern fabrics but I adore these funky blocks, especially when stitched in the reproduction fabrics. So there was no doubt in my mind that I would be keeping it traditional.

When I completed the top a year or so ago, I took it to my friend Theresa of Always Quilts. Theresa does incredible machine quilting but I wanted this quilt done a little differently. I like to think of those funky blocks as the Baltimore Album Quilt’s country cousins. Being a country girl myself, naturally, I’m attracted to them. So I didn’t want dense, perfect quilting with balanced feathers and swirls. I wanted funky. And I just wanted the background between the blocks to be quilted. That way, when it came home, I too could have some fun adding quilting to this long term project. Poor Theresa. My request was WAAAAAY outside her norm. But she did what I asked. The day she finished her part, she sent me a text saying it was ready for pick up. I replied, “Are we still friends?”

When I got the quilt back I spent hours and hours at my HQ Sweet 16 quilting in the ditch around each and every applique motif, then adding quilting on top of the appliques.

As I quilted in the ditch I added a few more swirls and tendrils and whatever else moved me to fill in the space evenly.

A completed block

A completed block

For a grand finale, I added a tiny piping of gold and a red binding. I would like you to think it was for the special finishing touch but the truth is that I was down to the deadline for getting it done in time for the quilt show. Adding the piping allowed me to stitch the binding on entirely by machine. Voila! Finished in time.

I like this quilt with it’s quirky blocks and uneven borders. And apparently visitors to our quilt show liked it too. It came home wearing a 3rd place viewers choice ribbon in it’s Bed Quilt category.

About that Bed Quilt category, I don’t expect anyone will be sleeping under this quilt – at least not in my lifetime!

Let’s link to Judy’s Patchwork Times today and see what others are working on. Click here.