Sunday, August 27, 2006

Apple-Sumac Jelly

As I've mentioned before, this has been a spectacular year for fruit. After years of wanting to harvest wild grapes for jelly, for example, this year I've finally been able to do it, and leave behind many more than I took. The grapes are in the freezer right now waiting their turn in the jelly queue.

While picking grapes I discovered a little apple tree in front of the old apple tree in the far field that I'd never noticed before. It had a few apples on it--I took some, left a couple, and cut the well-laden grapevine off it. I'll go back and clear the grapevine further back, and maybe next year this tree will produce a real crop. It's great to have all these wild grapes, but the vines kill trees, so I try to take them off of any trees that I want to protect. The grapevines are winning (maybe because there's too much edge and not enough woods) so I don't have any compunction about taking the side of the trees.

Last year was my first successful foray into jelly-making, using a few crab apples given to me by a neighbour and apples off the tree in the yard. This year I'm right into it: starting with strawberry, raspberry (best), blueberry and peach (not so good) freezer jams (all except the peaches fresh-picked in the neighbourhood), and moving on to chokecherry, apple, and most recently apple-sumac jelly.

The fruit of the staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) is fuzzy, and quite unfruitlike. I've heard tell of a cold drink, reputed to be like lemonade, made with its juice. I've never tasted it, but doubt that's it's anything like lemonade. Nevertheless, here's a link to a recipe for it.

This is fruit as it was at the end of July. I gathered the fruit I used last week, by which time it had gotten quite dark. I was assured by people who knew that it was still suitable for jelly.

The juice I made for the jelly from the sumac fruit I collected looked and smelled like very strong tea.
To make the juice: rinse the fruit clusters, cover with water, bring to a boil, boil gently for about 10 minutes, crush through a sieve, strain though a jelly bag, or three or four layers of cheesecloth in a colander. (Get a jelly bag!) I cooked up the sumac with a few apples because I intended to use both in the jelly anyway, and to check the cooking time (until the apples are soft). I was nervous about both how it looked and how it smelled, but I went ahead. The juice will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

Make your apple juice the same way--for small apples, cut off the blossom and stem end before cooking; larger ones, cut in quarters.

Apple-Sumac Jelly

7 cups juice:
3.5 cups sumac juice
2.5 cups apple juice
1 cup commercial apple-cranberry juice (which had been sitting in the fridge), added to make up the 7 cups.

The proportion of apple to sumac juice was arrived at by the amount of each I had ready. The commerical juice was a whim I had. Different proportions and different bits of whimsy would probably work out as well.

In a large pot, stir in one packet of pectin crystals, bring to a boil, add 8 cups sugar and boil hard for one minute. Take off heat, skim, bottle and seal, according to whatever system you use for this.
The jelly is delicious! Mine is a little soft, either because of the commercial juice I added or because it boiled over (use a large enough pot!!), so might not have boiled hard for the full minute. But I like it soft, so am content. Jelly depends partly on the pectin content of the fruit you start out with, something best determined by how the jelly turns out.

I was inspired to write about this by a post I read at Roundrock Journal about the winged sumac (Rhus copaliina). The fruit looks something like that of the staghorn, but isn't in tight clusters. I wonder if you can make jelly with it.


John B. said...

I had no idea that people ate sumac fruits. I'll have to try some sometime.

Pamela Martin said...

If you try the "lemonade," let me know how it is. The berries have quite a strong taste, pleasant to some people, not others.

Lori Witzel said...

For whatever it's worth, I have made sumac-ade, and it's really tasty.

If I remember my "Useful Wild Plants Weedfeed Class" right, I think the tartness comes from malic acid, same thing that makes tart apples tart.

Please, someone, correct me if I'm wrong...

But John, don't eat the sumac berries -- they are woody/pithy and very bitter (lots of tannins in that material.) It's the outer surface of the sumac berries, steeped in water, that provides the tart.

Granny J said...

Interesting -- we have a chaparral bush called squaw bush or lemonade sumac here in the Arizona Mtns. Lori's advice holds for the bright red fruit/seeds of our bush, too. The berries are extremely tart if you just put one on your tongue. Never heard of jelly being made, however.

Pamela Martin said...

Lori--thanks for the report on the sumac-ade. I don't know about the malic acid, but the tannins make sense--explains the strong tea smell of the juice. Thanks also for saying not to eat the berries--my last comment made it sound as if one could--but of course I meant the taste of the juice.

Granny J, thanks for stopping by. There seem to be a lot of sumacs around North America, and most of them produce a fruit that is edible is some form. I think the one you mention is also known as skunkbush sumac (Rhus trilobata) I found this page on the USDA site that has picture of a lot of them, including tribolata. I think the jelly is a holdover from the pioneer days, not very common these days.

Anonymous said...

sumac is great. at work we have sumac out back and i grab a one red berry cluster and put it in a cup of cold water for hour and a half and thats the time frame of a good tasting ( INDIAN TEA ) and you can use every part on that tree. and smoke the leaves as well. ya make jelly/jam and eat the inside of the bark . its sweet.. and if you --- is backed up . grind the roots and you will be smooth again. remember the native american always knew this.

genericviagra said...

Apple- sumac jelly is a great new fruit , so I would like to eat something similar because It looks so delicious and very easy to make.