Foraged Crabapple Jelly

During a bike trip with Huxley last year we came across a small public park in a nook of town where I didn't expect there to be one. At the edge of the park where two trees heavily hung with what I thought where plums. I didn't have a chance to excamine them at the time as I had a very tired, sad little boy on my hands. I did however, mark the spot in my memory with the intention of returning this year to harvest some of this "wild" fruit.

So this year, I drove by to check out how the plums where doing, just to realize that it wasn't a bumper crop of plums that was ready for the picking, but a wonderful variety of crab apples, yet just at the end of their prime. A couple of days later Huxley and I took a small step ladder and went harvesting/foraging.

I will have to make a note in my calendar to start checking on the fruit earlier next year, as it was really just the very end of the season, with the majority already having enterend the next stage of their purpose – to go soft so that they could distribute their seeds.





We still managed to gather about 4 kg.

After triming off the bad bits and using the really bad ones for tossing practice into the corner of our yard (which was a lot of fun for my 8 year old). I ended up with a large pot of usable fruit.



I washed the fruit and returned it to the pot, covering the fruit with just enough water to have it bop a bit. 


I gently boiled the fruit until it was mushy.


Transferring the fruit to a large cheesecloth, I hung it over a broomstick to drain all the juices overnight into a large bowl. (look at that lovely colour). 


I measured the resulting fruit juice and oogled its amazing colour. I used about 75% of sugar to the amount of juice and boiled it in a pot until it reached just about 220 degrees fahrenheit. Filled it into steriliesed canning jars and voila! My first ever crab-apple jelly. 

Note: I learned that it is best to make jams and jelly's in smaller batches, so I made the jelly in 3 batches of each about 1.2 liters of juice to about 800 grams of sugar. It jellied perfectly – thanks to the wonderful high-pectin content of crab apples.


The half-full jar in the middle was our immediate consumption jar. I love the slightly tangy flavour of the jelly. It is particularly yummy spread on a toasted bagel, then topped with extra old cheddar cheese.

I used some of the fruit mush to make a zucchini-crabapple bread. It tasted great and I will have to make note next time around to the exact ingredients. I started a bad habit of just trowing things together without exactly measuring them – so they are a tad hard to reproduce.

This time of the year I feel a kindred affiliation to squirrels. This year I've been able to put by Strawberry freezer jam and blueberry jam. There is frozen rhubarb and blueberries and a couple of bags of sour cherries to make swiss-type fruit quiche during the winter. I've made pickles for the first time and will be able to taste them in about a weeks time. I've also made elderberry jelly from foraged berries. Sadly when trying to make peach sauce, I ended up scorching a huge pot of them and didn't have the opportunity to purchase more peaches – lack of time. I've also dehydrated strawberries and peaches for use in nut less trail-mix for school snacks. There is a rum-topf downstairs awaiting some new fruits. 

Two bushels of tomates have been turned into frozen, ready sauce, as well as some frozen slow-oven roasted tomatoes. Last saturday I picked up another two bushels of tomatoes, although as it is at the end of the harvest, they are rather sad looking and I have to pick through them to pick only the nicest ones. My freezer is full, so I will put them by as whole bottled tomatoes and as passata (passata [pəˈsɑːtə] (Cookery) a sauce made from sieved tomatoes, often used in Italian cookery [Italian] – thanks wikipedia).





A bit of something..

There is a new hard drive on my desk. YEAH!, finally a chance to process some images from this summer. I got up at 4 am yesterday (not as planned) and started to sort and adjust. Instead of waiting for perfection, here are the first few.

How about starting off with pictures of some of our outings, wonderfully inspirational.


First week of summer vacation we went to Black Creek Pioneer Village.



We played games of days gone bye, talked to costumed people, ate a picnic lunch and romped around all day.


Huxley also started riding lessons which culimated in his riding day camp at the end of August. The barn is in Brighton, a mere 1 1/2 hr drive away from Toronto (yikes), however, it is completelty worth it as not only do his grandparents live in town, Sensei Maryann, his riding teacher is absolutely wonderful. She has an intutitive way with teaching children, and her horses are wonderful and very, very well treated.

Silver Lake Stables


More summer to come.

I have also been busy at work preparing items for the TWS Christmas Craft Fair. 

Details here.

This week I'm making pre-felt and rolling doll heads, as well as preparing holiday-inspired felting workshops (stop back soon for details. Then there are the tomatoes that need to be put by to keep the elderberry jam, the crabapple jelly and the pickles company.




A little taste of home

This time of the year is when we eat traditional Fastnachtschuechli at home in Switzerland. They are sold in all the local grocery stores and are only available in February and March (if my memory serves me right).

Fastnachtschuechli are to celebrate carnival Swiss-style. I miss this time of the year very much, as Halloween just doesn’t capture my heart the same way. I loved the lightheartedness of the Swiss celebration.

This year I decided to start a tradition of making the Fastnachtschuechli (can you tell I love saying it… Giggle), on family day , our mid February statutory holiday.


A little taste of home

A fun Challenge

My niece is turning 11 tomorrow. When I met my husband she was a scant 5 months old. Over the years she has spent many sleep-overs at our house and I love her like my own daughter. She is my girl-energy, my connection to the young women generation.


This is L. in 2008, the year we started a tradition:


Crazy-cakes for her Birthday at the beginning of February. This one was a very healthy, all organic vanilla-flavoured Gugelhopf, covered in a totally insane, and of course totally unhealthy amount of candy and blue-dyed, organic lemon icing. Inspired by Tessa Kiros' "Apple For Jam" cookbook– the Pandoro Birthday Cake on Page 417.


As you can see, it was swiftly munched up. 


Resulting in a pack of high-sugar strung children. Huxley was a sweet 3 and 3/4 in this shot.

The cake was such a hit with L. and her friends, that it started this crazy cake-making tradition. 

For the past two years we made a pop-rock cake with white chocolate. (It was eaten too fast for me to even take a picture). This idea came through a word game (don't ask…)

A few weeks back, in mid-january, I got a call from L. asking me if I would possibly be able and willing to please make her birthday cake again. I immediately said "Sure thing! Count on me!". Upon which followed an e-mail with this:


First I swallowed hard a few times – I am no cake decorator, I can bake an edible concoction, bake a cake with no recipe, but looking pretty – not so much. Could I possibly tell my niece that it was not possible? I would have felt bad. So some R&D was in order. After spending upwards of 5 hours zooming around the world wide web and hence taking a theoretical crash-course in cake decorating, I decided that it should be doable (somewhat). I had made plain marzipan many times and growing up in Switzerland, marzipan was sold in every bakery shop in the shape of cute animals and fruit. I learned about fondant, how to make it, how to apply it to a cake and how to make animals out of gum paste. I looked up addresses of suppliers in Toronto. Luckily just before I got into the car to buy me some gumpaste, I read a comment that called it edible, yet not palatable. So back to the idea of marzipan I went. 

L. came by for a visit a couple of weeks ago and we dyed the marzipan with gel food colours (something rather against my eating philosophy, but hey, can't always be perfectly adhering to my life manifestos.) Yesterday I baked a simple vanilla cake from a PC' Choice Organics cake mix (I needed to recoup some time, and considering how much other stuff was going into the cake I figured it wouldn't make a huge difference). I baked 2 8" vanilla cakes with some added white chocolate chips. Once cooled, I  added some butter-cream frosting, sprinkled the bottom layer with fancy white chocolate chunks put the second layer on it. The whole cake was then heavily frosted with all the butter-cream frosting I had left (this is why the cake looks so soft and cushy, rather than tall and hard-edged (note to self, add less butter cream next time). After I made the marshmallow fondant, L. helped me dye it to just the right shade of pink. 

This is what the final result looked like:


Some detail shots: 

L. made the bowl and the sleeping bag by herself. I helped with the pillow


L.'s slippers, with flowers of her own design


I made this little marzipan bear

This box is what L. left with:


Home-made too. 


Here is the note I got from my Sis-in-Law today:

Thank you so much Monika!!!! Your cake was amazing to look at and soooooo delicious! The girls loved it! That was very generous of you. As usual, L. was the belle of the ball with such an amazing cake and got to show it off …I took the paper off of it as soon as we got home and it sat in front of them for 3 hours before they got to eat it! Thank you...

I can go to bed and sleep well, then worry about what I might need to create to trump this years cake…

Recipe Links


Best butter cream Frosting  

Instructions to apply fondant: youtube, search for: applying fondant.

What this exercise has taught me is that no matter how challenging something looks, with dedication, RESEARCH, patience and courage, anything can be accomplished. And no, I won't be studying cake decorating and no!, I also won't be for hire to make cakes… (not to worry hubby!).



Having left the country of my birth – Switzerland – at the young age of 19, most of the traditions that I crave are traditions of my childhood. Sadly though, many of these can't be replicated here in Canada. Mostly due to the fact that you need crowds of people celebrating together – the Swiss are not culturally inclined to congregate in groups outside of Switzerland though, so I am missing out on much.

Some of the festivals that I really loved where the National Day celebrations on August 1st – big bonfires, rockets, crackers, sausages over the open fire (veggie sausages i.e. Quorn sausages would do quite well for that too). I also love Advent celebrations. Ah.. the memory of the smell beeswax candle dipping that was open to the public during late November and early December still brings a smile to my face. Somehow though, Advent is just not activily celebrated here. I am also in my most busy Olive Sparrow time during the fall and Advent, so mostly I also lack the time to fully immerse myself into the quiet time of preparing for the bit day.

The one tradition that I insist on honing here is to "Guetzle" (this comes from the word "Guetzli" – which is swiss-german for cookie) – so "Guetzle" is specifically used in Advent when one is baking a myriad of different Christmas cookies. My hips don't need a lot of cookies to keep their svelete shape, our family is small, I work by myself – yet "Guetzli" baking I want to do. I usually make upwards of 15 + different types.

About 5 years ago, my husband and I started to give my home-made cookies to his clients as a small gesture of thank you. We also gift neighbours, friends, my galleries that are in town, a few of the people in the public housing complex in our neighbourhood and often a spontaneous selection of people dropping by our house over the holidays. 

This year I made 50 baggies of cookies, each weighin about 1/2 lb. So this years output was around 25 lbs. Plus about 2 lb for us to have at hand for guests staying here. 


Many of the recipes I use are very old, traditional swiss cookies, combined with a few new ones I just like trying out. I also make some chocolate truffels every year, this time around I gave white chocolate ones a go – they are okay, but I don't think I will attempt them again for a while because the chocolate didn't firm up properly and I had to improvise with additions of cashews – they taste okay, but are not what I had in mind.

Another favourite is the Basler Läckerli – a ginger-bread-type with lots of dried fruit and candied peels – this year I added some of the sour cherries from our tree and I love the bit of tartness amongst all the honey sweetness. Nidelzältli are my sons favourite – cream, sugar and a bit of vanilla – essentially a soft granular fudge. There are also Brunsli – chocolate and almonds with eggwhites, rolled in sugar when rolling out – yummy… Chräbeli are my best friends grandmothers recipe – a traditional Anis cookie and the same dough that is used for Springerle (which I make with a lovely angel mold). Nusspraline – walnuts, coffee and icing sugar, not baked, but left to dry, then glaced with more coffee and icing sugar. 

The essential Swiss Christmas cookie is the "Mailänderli" (Milano cookie) – a shortbread cookie with an egg-wash


Here is the recipe from my mothers home economics cookbook from 1948:

500 gram all-purpose flour (but you can also put part spelt or whole wheat in it)

250 gram sugar

250 gram butter

3 eggs (+ 1 egg yolk)

finely grated peel of 1 organic lemon


Put flour, butter, sugar, eggs and the lemon peel into a large bowl and knead well, but not too long (so that not too much gluten develops).

Put dough into fridge for a few hours or overnight

roll out on a little bit of white flour

use your favourite cookie cutters to cut out shapes

transfer shapes to baking sheet (I always use parchement paper, not buttered)

brush egg-yolk onto each cookie

bake at 350 fahrenheit for about 12 – 15 minutes until the egg yolk has gone a beautiful colour.

Let cool and enjoy!

I love cutting out tiny cookies, so that each one is one bite. Takes a bit more time, but looks so pretty. As children, this was our standard cookie that we could help with. (the dough also tastes amazing – my son says so as well.)

On that note, I am now going to work on a few more dolls that have to be finished in time for Saturday.