Do you remember when, in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, Farmer Boy, Almanzo’s parents went away for a week and left the children at home to look after the farm? Mother kept a barrel of store-bought sugar in the pantry which was to last the year. One of her instructions to them while she was away? Don’t eat all the sugar!
But they made ice cream, and pulled candy, and pound cake, oh my.
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They looked into the sugar-barrel and they could see the bottom of it. Only Alice tried to be cheerful. “We must hope for the best,” she said, like Mother. “There’s some sugar left. Mother said, ‘Don’t eat all the sugar,’ and we didn’t. There’s some around the edges.”
Farmer Boy has to be my favorite of the “Little House” books. And why not – it’s about food after all! For the Ingalls, getting enough to eat was often a struggle. Store-bought sugar would not have been a common part of their larder. Not so for the Wilders.
One of the ways that Mother Wilder would have used her sugar was to make crabapple jelly. According to The Little House Cookbook, “No guide to pioneer preserves can omit crabapple jelly, one of the many adornments of the Wilder supper table.” You can find recipes and learn more about the food they ate at the Little House on the Prairie ® website.
Crabapples are native to North America. This tart, small apple is high in pectin; no added pectin is needed when making jelly. Crabapples are often added to other fruits for jelly making as well, in place of pectin.