Sunday, July 20, 2008

Crab Apples and Sled Dogs

What to do with 10 quarts of crab apples? Hmm...

Growing in front of our house in the front section of the dog yard is a large crab apple tree. Who planted it? I don't really know. Why did they plant it? Again, I don't really know but I suspect they planted it as an ornamental tree. It was there when I moved in eight years ago. It has lovely white blossoms in the spring, bright green leaves, and small crab apples that start bright green and turn bright pink by the end of July or early August. Given that it bears fruit each year, this year, Eric and I decided to make it not just an ornamental tree but also a useful tree.

The big crab apple tree in the corner of our front yard.

Our house

Another view of the crab apple tree.

Our crab apple tree is also known as Sobo's Squirrel Tree since the squirrels love to play in it, and Sobo, our four year old Siberian Husky, loves to sit at the base of the tree and wait for the squirrels. Sobo is one of two primary lead dogs for our sled dog team here at Maryland Sled Dog Adventures LLC. Somehow, much to Sobo's chagrin, the squirrels always manage to escape the tree without Sobo catching them. Of course, the whole process involves hours of Sobo circling the base of the tree and barking at the squirrels, mind you. At some point, Sobo usually loses interest and mosies off. Heavan forbid that during the self appointed squirrel hour, I should need to go somewhere and thus, bring Sobo inside. This scenario usually results in me helplessly chasing a much faster Sobo through the yard with little or no success.

Sobo loves to sit under the crab apple tree.

Sobo surveys his domain from under his favorite tree.

Forget about Waldo...Where's Zoe?

In years' past, we've just let the crab apples drop to the ground and provide fodder for the deer and rabbits. (Of course, once the deer and rabbits finish eating the downed crab apples they then move on to my hostas and day lilies so this was not a perfect symbiosis).

Crab Apples ripening on the tree.

Is your bucket half empty or half full?

This year, we decided to harvest the crab apples and make crab apple jelly and crab apple butter. Yum!

Early this morning, with temperatures and the heat index forecast to hit 100 degrees here in Baltimore, Eric and I ventured outside early to pick a bucket full of crab apples for a full batch of crab apple jelly and crab apple butter. After about 45 minutes of picking and repositioning the ladder, we harvested approximately 10 quarts of crab apples.

Eric picking crab apples.

Repositioning the ladder under the tree

The neighbors' cat wondered if we could harvest a squirrel or two while up there!

More harvesting of crab apples.

Eric and Sobo share a hug after picking crab apples.

Yesterday, having not made jelly or jams before, we decided to do a small trial batch. Earlier in the week, I purchased mason canning jars, sure jell and a large sieve. Yesterday, Eric and I harvested approximately four quarts of crab apples from the tree.

While Eric installed new brakes on the dog truck (for more on Eric's exploits with the dog truck visit our other blog entries, Everything But the Dogs and Dog Boxes), I made up a test batch of crab apple jelly and crab apple butter. We sampled the finished products with our Sunday morning breakfast this morning and...yum! While the crab apple butter is light pinkish brown in color, the jelly is a brilliant pink color that is quite stunning.

Crab Apple Jelly

Crab Apple Butter

Crab Apple Butter spread on toast.

All gone!