Recipe: Habanero Crab Apple Jelly

Two new books from Chelsea Green Publishing this year discuss new uses for foraging in both food and drink.

The Fruit Forager’s Companion: Ferments, Desserts, Main Dishes, and More from Your Neighborhood and Beyond by Sara Bir, due out in June 2018, is the ultimate how-to guide with nearly 100 recipes for budding foragers looking to do more with what’s right outside their back doors.

Dishes like meyer lemon kimchi, habanero crabapple jelly, pawpaw lemon curd and fermented cranberry relish help readers make use of all types of fruit that grow wild in public spaces around the country, but which are rarely picked or used. Sara Bir — a seasoned chef, gardener and forager herself — offers readers a primer on foraging basics and even demonstrates some growing techniques to cultivate your own lesser-known fruits for a more thrilling taste adventure — and emotional connection — beyond bland and often boring supermarket shelf produce.

Bir, a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, is the founding editor of Paste Magazine. She has written for a variety of other publications, including Serious Eats, Saveur and MIX, among others. She was featured in the Da Capo Press anthology Best Food Writing 2014.

Pascal Baudar’s The Wildcrafting Brewer: Creating Unique Drinks and Boozy Concoctions from Nature’s Ingredients was released in March and features 65 recipes for wild sodas, country wines, herbal beers, meads and more, all made from foraged and sustainably-farmed ingredients.

Wild-plant expert and forager Pascal Baudar opened up a new world of possibilities for readers wishing to explore the flavors of their local terroir in his first book, The New Wildcrafted Cuisine. Now, he is doing the same for fermented beverages, revealing both the underlying philosophy and the practical techniques for easy-to-make, delicious concoctions at home.

An author, expert forager, and self-described “culinary alchemist,” Baudar is based in L.A. and has been named one of the 25 most influential tastemakers by Los Angeles Magazine. Over the years, through his weekly classes and seminars through Urban Outdoor Skills, he has introduced thousands of home cooks, local chefs, and foodies to the flavors offered by their wild landscapes.


Habanero Crab Apple Jelly

Recipe from The Fruit Forager’s Companion by Sara Bir
Yield: 3-6 half-pint jars (720 milliliter – 1.4 liters)

Crab apples, with their high pectin content, make a luxe and silky jelly. The habanero is optional, but its complex fruity and floral character makes for an interesting jelly that’s just as well suited to a grown up PB&J as it is to accompany cream cheese on a toasted bagel. You could substitute minced fresh jalapeño instead.


5 quarts (1.8 kilograms) fresh crab apples
Up to 4 cups (800 grams) granulated sugar
1-4 habanero peppers, stemmed and minced (keep the seeds if you like it very spicy; discard the seeds if you prefer less heat)


1. Rinse the crab apples well, and then sort them to remove leaves and small branches. Trim off any bruised spots, but leaving the stems and blossom ends on is fine. Halve the crab apples and put them in a 5- to 6-quart (5 to 6 liters) Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stockpot. Add enough water to cover by an inch or so, but not so much that the crab apples are floating all over the place. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 40 minutes to an hour, until the crab apples are very soft and the liquid is rosy. Remove from heat.

2. Transfer to a jelly bag or large colander lined with two layers of cheesecloth set over a large bowl. Strain without disturbing for an hour (don’t press out the solids or the final jelly will be cloudy). You should wind up with at least 4 cups of juice. Discard the mushy crab apple solids.

3. Pour the liquid into the Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook gently for 10 minutes, skimming off any foam with a large metal spoon. Add 1 cup (200 grams) sugar for every cup of juice, plus half of the minced peppers, if using. Stir to dissolve. If you have a candy thermometer, clip it on now. Boil gently, periodically skimming off scum as it collects around the rim of the pot. Some of the minced peppers may get skimmed off as you do this, but don’t worry; your jelly will still be plenty spicy later.

4. Cook until the jelly reaches 220 F on a candy thermometer or passes the gel test on a chilled plate. This could take up to 45 minutes, so be patient. Add the remaining half of the peppers during the final 10 minutes or so of cooking.

5. Ladle into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace, and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Alternatively, you may cool, seal, and store the jelly in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. The heat level of the jelly may mellow as it ages.

Note: Wear gloves when handling habaneros.