Mom’s Pickled Crabapples

When a friend asked whether I had a good recipe for pickled crabapples, I realized that I had neglected a wonderful treat my mother used to make every year.  I couldn’t find Mom’s recipe in her recipe boxes, so I called my sister Patsy, who told me that she might have it.  

An hour later she called back.  “I found the recipe, and it’s in Mom’s handwriting, so I bet she copied it from Grandma’s,” she reported, and read it to Jerri who wrote it down for me.  I think that the most remarkable thing about this recipe is that it includes detailed instructions for making the pickles.

When Mom’s recipes include instructions, most are terse comments that obviously assume the reader knows how to cook.  For instance, her recipe for Grandma Hopp’s cake doughnuts did not even mention that the dry ingredients needed to be mixed with the liquid.  After listing the ingredients, she merely wrote “Roll out, cut, and fry.” 

In contrast, the recipe for pickled crabapples includes a number of specific instructions:  Don’t peel the apples or remove the stems, let the hot syrup cool to lukewarm before adding the apples, don’t bring the apples to a boil, be careful not to burst the fruit, process the jars at 180º.  These details probably explain why Grandma and Mom’s pickled apples always looked good and were favorites at church potlucks.  

If you follow the instructions below, your pickled apples will wow your friends with a stem on each apple, intact skins and fruit that retains a hint of crispness.

INGREDIENTS:

9 cups crabapples about 1 inch in diameter (about 54 crabapples)

1 qt. plus 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

4 cups granulated sugar

1 T ground cinnamon

1 T whole cloves

1 tsp. mace

1 tsp. allspice

PROCEDURE:

Start by picking and washing the crabapples.  Remove leaves and discard any fruit with cuts or other defects such as worm holes. For the best result try to select fruit that are in the same size range. Don’t peel or remove the stems from the apples.

Put the vinegar and water into a large saucepan or Dutch oven.  The pan should be of non-reactive material.  An enamel or stainless steel soup pot is ideal. Stir the sugar and spices into the vinegar and bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer the syrup for about five minutes.  

Remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool until it is lukewarm.  Add the apples to the cooled syrup and heat the apples and syrup until it just begins to simmer.  Be careful not to burst the fruit.  Remove the pan from the heat and cover it.  Let the apples marinate in the syrup overnight.

Wash and rinse five one-pint canning jars.  Using a spoon or small ladle, carefully fill the jars with the apples.  Fill the jars to within a half inch of the top with the syrup and seal them with lids and hand-tightened rings.

Put the sealed jars into a jar rack in a canner, add enough cold water to cover the jars with about an inch and a half of water and bring the water to 180º.  Process the jars for twenty minutes.

Remove the jars from the hot water and allow them to cool.  Check that the jars have sealed by pressing the center of each lid.  If it springs back, that jar must be refrigerated.  Sealed jars can be shelved in your pantry.

NOTE:  Pickled crabapples are best if allowed to mature in the jars for a week or two before eating.  

If you want more pickled crabapples, feel free to double this recipe.  You may prefer to pack the apples in quart jars.  If so, increase the processing time to thirty minutes.

Blenda’s Summer Cole Slaw

“Have some slaw.” I am certain that I heard my mother offer her cole slaw more than a thousand times to someone at the table. She served it with fish, chicken, pork and sandwiches. When we went on a picnic, we often had cole slaw to go with the hot dogs. Hamburgers for supper came with mustard, ketchup, fried potatoes and slaw, and when we ate bratwurst there was slaw on the table in addition to or in place of sauerkraut.

Mom’s cole slaw was a lot like Jerri’s, cabbage dressed with mayonnaise and vinegar (and sour cream in Jerri’s recipe), but there is a separate tradition of cole slaw made with vinegar and oil dressings. Some are sweet, others sour, but they all taste good to me.

A few weeks ago, I encountered an outstanding member of the vinegar and oil slaw family. We were visiting Carl, one of the ministers who married us a half century ago. He also was the husband of Jerri’s best friend at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas. Carl served as president of Southwestern for several years and moved back to Winfield after his wife, Mary Lou, died.

When he bought a home near the college and remodeled it, he included a beautiful kitchen in the plans. The counters, sink, stove and oven seem to murmur, “Come on, Carl, try us out. We’ll help you make some wonderful foods.” Unfortunately, Carl thus far seems deaf to their invitations.

However, he does have a good taste in restaurants, one of which has now served us two excellent lunches. College Hill Coffee was started by Blenda Hoskinson in 2002 and now occupies a lovely bungalow near the college. As the name suggests, the restaurant offers a wide variety of coffees, espresso and other hot drinks plus cold drinks ranging from iced coffees to chocolate milk and Italian sodas.

But College Hill also makes excellent sandwiches, wraps and salads. When I ordered my sandwich, the young woman at the counter asked me which side I would like with it. As I scanned the list chalked on a slate, Summer Cole Slaw caught my attention. When I asked what it was, she said it was really good cole slaw. I am not sure, but she may have added softly that it was awesome. College Hill is that kind of college gathering place.

Trusting youth, I decided to try it. It is awesome and incidentally goes perfectly with the Grilled Cuban sandwich. As the friend of a regular and well-known customer I decided to ask for the recipe. Blenda reached for a cookbook on a shelf next to the counter, leafed through a few pages and showed me how they made that wonderful slaw. For a few seconds I feared that she was promoting a commercial cookbook until she explained that it was a recipe she included in Tried and True Recipes That Measure Up from College Hill Coffee.

When I asked how she came upon the recipe, she told me that she had begged it from a lady who brought the slaw to a potluck at the First Baptist Church in Augusta, Kansas. I tried to buy a copy of the cookbook, while Blenda tried to give it to me. Finally we compromised: I paid her what the book cost her, so I got a discount and we parted as friends. Jerri and I are both looking forward to visiting Carl and College Hill Coffee again.

If you happen to be passing through Wichita, Kansas, I suggest a side trip to Winfield, which is only forty-two miles distant. If you happen to be on your way to Tulsa or Bartlesville, Oklahoma, Winfield is actually on the way. You’ll see a vibrant college in a prosperous small city, and have a lunch to remember. And if they don’t have Blenda’s Summer Cole Slaw on the menu that day, chances are excellent that they will have an alternative that will be just as awesome.

INGREDIENTS:

2 packages cabbage cole slaw mix (from store)
2 cups unsalted peanuts
1 16 oz. package frozen peas
2 T grated onion
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plus 2 T sugar
1 T poppyseed
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup cider vinegar

PROCEDURE:

Remove the dry outer layer from the onion, grate two tablespoons and put them into a large mixing bowl. Dump two packages of slaw mix, two cups of unsalted peanuts and a pound package of frozen green peas into a large mixing bowl. Mix everything together.

Make the dressing by whisking together the oil, sugar, poppy seed, mustard, salt and vinegar.

Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and stir until everything is well blended.

Put the salad into the refrigerator to let the flavors meld for an hour before serving.

NOTE: I followed Blenda’s recipe exactly. After I made it, I realized that a restaurant might want a bit more slaw than a family. If you are making the slaw for a group of eight or fewer, I recommend cutting the recipe in half.