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Crabby Appleton

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I planted a crabapple tree in our front yard in 1995 because I wanted to make crabapple jelly once before I die. This bewilders my friends, who have begun to snicker, but the crabapples are finally big enough, so get a pencil:

Step one: Ask your neighbors' young children to come over and pick the crabapples. Tell them to bring a tall ladder, because the risk of climbing up high, falling, breaking an arm, and possibly missing school for a few days will provide an added enticement. They'll be over in 90 seconds, so have a basket ready for them to fill. Tell them you only want a basketful, but they're welcome to take more home. This is another way of telling them they aren't getting paid, except in crabapples.

Step two: When the basket is full, dump the crabapples in the sink. Then, pick up each one, cut both stem ends off, and make a tiny tic-tac-toe cut through every one, taking out the tiny center core. You'll want your glasses, the ones you say you don't need, but bought just in case you ever get old. This goes on for hours, unless you can blackmail someone into helping, but don't give them a sharp a knife or they'll kill you with it.

Step three: When the apples are all finally cut into tiny pieces, you'll remember that you have a food processor, and could have done it in 10 minutes, so take a moment for yourself, have a glass of wine, and contemplate who the moron was who invented jelly.

Step four: Put the pieces in a pot. Put enough sugar in another pot to equal the apple-filled pot, and weigh them both. If your scale is hidden in a closet under your daughter's wedding dress, just heft the pots in your hand. While you're balancing them in the air like the blind lady of justice, your son will walk by, look at you disgustedly and snort. No jelly for him.

Step five: Add the sugar to the apples, and bring it to a boil. Stir until the liquid is clear. If this doesn't happen soon, remember, clear jelly is overrated. Take the pot off the stove, cover it, set it aside, and go to the pool for several hours. Read a book about a woman who marries a really rich guy and never makes jelly as long as she lives.

Step six: While you're gone, all the people who made fun of you have walked by the pot and taken a spoonful, so you'll have less to schlep into jars later, but put the pot on to boil again, stirring it with a rubber spatula until it runs off in thick sheets, rather than just dripping. (Or, simply stir it until your spatula melts, and you're not sure if some of the little pieces are crabapple or rubber.)

Step seven: Spoon the jelly into old but clean pickle jars, let it cool, put the lids on and refrigerate. It will last a couple of weeks, especially if no one is allowed to eat it but you.

Step eight: Find a neighborhood kid named George, show him your "cherry" tree, and give him an ax.

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