Crabapple Picking in the Gallatin Valley Autumn


Just about 5 years ago to the date, I attended a jam and jelly making class, put on by Blue Chair Fruit's Rachel Saunders.  This class changed my life forever (Kris describes it as "possessed").  That fall, I purchased a freezer full of local fruit while in season. I made jams, jellies, marmalades, butters, sauces--you name it. Every waking moment I was thinking about what I could put in a jar next. Every day off all winter long our house smelled just like grandma's on a Sunday.

So fast forward.

I finally realized I missed one important part of Rachel Saunders' class.  Rachel preached "pick what is in season and process it when it is in its prime and ripe".  So now I try to pick and process as much as possible while fresh.  Ok, I still have fruit that I freeze, but let’s face it, "in-season" tends to happen all at once in Montana.

Here is a recent foraging excursion Kris and I went on two weeks ago, and the fruits of our labor.

Chuck Picking Crabapples Kris Picking Crabapples


CrabapplesThe trees were loaded this year, and in no time at all we had 25 lbs of tart little crab apples. Now starts the discussion about what to make? I am always cautioned not to get too weird, and to control the spice level so other people can enjoy whatever I am making.  This batch of crab apples will make Crab Apple Fireball Jelly, Crab Apple Butter and Crab Apple vinegar. I've included the recipe for the jelly below. Enjoy!


[su_heading size="20" align="left"]Crab Apple Fireball Jelly[/su_heading]

  • 10 lbs Crab Apples
  • 16 Cups Water
  • 15 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 2/3 Cups Lemon Juice
  • ½ Cup Fireball Whiskey, plus some for the cook.

Wash the crab apples, remove the stems and and cut in half.  Place in stainless steel stock pot, add the water and and slowly simmer over low heat covered until soft, about 20 minutes, do not stir it breaks up crab apples and clouds the liquid.

In a cheese cloth lined mesh strainer strain the boiled crab apples.  The crab apple juice is for the jelly. Reserve the boiled crab apples for making the butter.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Wash the appropriate number of jars, ring and lids. No need to sterilize the rings and lids in the oven or hot water.  Place the jars on a sheet pan lined with a wire rack and sterilize in a 250-degree oven for 30 minutes.

Place 3 spoons on a plate in the freezer for testing the jelly.

Place the strained crab apple juice in the copper jam pan, add the 15 cups of granulated sugar and lemon juice and bring to a boil and simmer, scraping off scum as mixture boils. Save the sugar scum for the crab apple butter.

As the crab apple jelly reduces, it will darken in color.   Turn the heat down continue to skim the boiling mixture and simmer until the jelly reaches your desired thickness. This can be tested by placing the jelly on one of the frozen spoons and cooling.  The set point will be plus or minus 220 degrees.  This batch set at 219 degrees.

Add ½ cup of Fireball Whiskey and continue to simmer until mixture returns to 219 degrees.

Pour jelly into jars leaving ¼ inch head space, screw on rings and lids. Heat in 250-degree oven for 15 minutes to seal. Remove the jars of jelly from the oven and let cool at room temperature. The jars will pop as they cool and seal. This my favorite part and the cooking process and means success. Retighten the rings as the jelly cools.   Store any unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use immediately.  Sealed jars can be stored at room temperature.


Recipes | Russian Cream with Raspberries


I have something new and exciting for you this week. Recipes! Periodically, we will sharing some of our favorite Buck’s T-4 recipes from both past and present. We hope to give you a deeper look into our kitchens, the minds that work the culinary magic and allow you to make at home what you have enjoyed at Buck’s. To start off, I picked one of my favorite T-4 traditions, Russian Cream with Raspberries.

To my dismay, I tried this delightful dessert in my first week at Buck’s and since have never really given the other desserts the time of day. I’m not the only one who has suffered from this problem because when I asked Mike, Chuck and Dave when this dish first appeared on the menu, none could quite remember–it was so many years ago. Before Dave’s time, before Chuck’s too and Mike’s best guess, 1980. That was 31 years ago and the most incredible detail is that it has never left the menu. Sometime around 1980 a new pastry chef who’d come from Jackson brought the recipe with them and while many subsequent chefs have tried to contemporize the sweet, they've never succeeded. If you've tried this dessert at Buck’s before then you know why failure was inevitable. And if you haven’t had the privilege of indulging in Russian Cream, make this very soon (tomorrow?) and you’ll know why, too.


Russian Cream with Raspberries
Yield: 8-6 oz servings

1 ½ tsp Gelatin (Knox, e.g.)
¼ Cup Water
2 ½ Cups Regular Whipping Cream
1 ¼ Cups Sugar
2 1/4 tsp Vanilla
20 oz sour cream
Frozen Unsweetened Raspberries, slightly thawed (Or other berries of choice)*

Place gelatin in water and dissolve over low flame until clear. In a large saucepan, heat cream and sugar over low flame until sugar melts and mixture is hot. Add vanilla, then gelatin. Stir mixture vigorously with wire whisk until gelatin is thoroughly dissolved and well-mixed. Remove from heat and add sour cream, mixing continuously with whisk. Place in large container and cool until firm (preferably over night).

Alternate layers of cream blend with your frozen raspberries or other berries of choice in 8 parfait glasses, wine glasses or other clear glass of choice. Top with fresh whipped cream and garnish with a sprig of mint.

If not serving immediately, skip the whip cream step and cover individual portions and refrigerate until ready to serve.

*Eek, frozen berries? Really? Yes, really. The beauty of using frozen unsweetened berries in this dish is that as they thaw the juice that is released has a nice slightly sweet but still tart flavor that mixes with your cream. It is the balance you are looking for.  If you have fresh berries on hand or the ones at the store can’t be resisted then I recommend doing a blend of fresh and frozen so you still have that juice. But, be creative and tell us what combinations you come up with.