Not literally with fists or anything, but rather inside my head. There’s an interesting tree near my work that’s filled with tiny cherry-like fruit around this time each year. I’ve always admired the beauty of it, but never investigated if the fruit was edible.
A few weeks ago, I picked a few of them for identification purposes and after some Googling and asking others, I learned they were crab apples! I’d never eaten a crab apple. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in person until now.
My next step was to do some more Googling to figure out what I could do with them. This tree is on adjacent property owned by my work place. No one has ever picked these crab apples before to my knowledge. And the reason I beat myself up is because I’ve worked there for eleven years now and could have been taking advantage of the crab apple tree all this time.
A Pinterest search quickly found crab apple jelly, jam, and butter recipes which were super easy. So this morning we picked about three or four pounds of apples and brought them home. We washed them in a vinegar and water mixture and then removed the stems.
The crab apple is sort of like a very hard cherry but a little bigger. More like a small plum. And removing the stems is tough work on the fingers. We ended up using a set of nail clippers and a rose trimmer to speed up the process.
After removing the stems and giving them another wash with cold tap water, we put all of the apples into a large pot and added about four cups of water. We put a lid on the pot and put it on the stove on high heat. After coming to a rolling boil, we let it boil for about twenty minutes. The apples start to split but you really want them to boil until they are tinder all the way through.
Once we could cut through a few of them with ease with a knife, we turned off the stove and transferred small batches of apples (with the water they were boiling in) to our Ninja food processor. We gave them a few pulses until they were the consistency of apple sauce. Then we poured the sauce into another clean empty pot.
It took about four transfers to the blender to process all of the apples. Use the water too so that the sauce mixture isn’t too thick, and also because it has a lot of the juice from the split apples in it.
Once all of the apples had been processed, we had a pot full of maroon-colored apple sauce. We turned on the stove again on low heat and began adding spices to the sauce. Most of the recipes I found used some sort of sugar. I’ll explain in a bit. They also used ginger, all spice, coriander, nutmeg, or cinnamon. One recipe I found also used the juice and zest of one orange.
Most recipes used a mixture of brown and white sugar. A few also called for organic sugar. We started with half brown and half sucanat sugar. While these gave our sauce a sweet taste, it was still quite bitter. We finally decided to add some white sugar which really helped cut the bitter taste and made it much more savory.
Next, we added quite a bit of all spice. Talk about a rich autumn or Christmas scent! The all spice really pumped up the flavor. We decided to add a bit of ginger too but found it started weakening the savoring flavor we got from the all spice. We went ahead and added just a touch of cinnamon but I felt it didn’t even need that. The all spice and mixes of sugar were just fine. But in the end, the crab apple butter was amazing. We stirred it over the heat just until the spices were well blended and the sauce started to foam and steam.
We ladled it into jars, processed them in a water canner for fifteen minutes, and ended up with about 8 to 9 pints. And like I said, I beat myself up for not having tried this earlier. I say that mainly because the apples were free. We also had all of the other ingredients, including the jars. The only thing invested was time, which was well spent on the effort. Now I have some Crabby Christmas Butter which will make nice gifts this holiday season. That is, if I don’t eat all of it first!
For those who want it, here’s a more formal recipe and ingredient list. I added the spices to suit my own tastes so the amounts listed are just from the recipes I used for inspiration.
4 lbs. of crab apples
4 cups of water
1 cup of white sugar
1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of organic sugar (sucanat)
2 tablespoons of All Spice
1 teaspoon of ginger
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- Wash and remove stems from apples.
- Bring the apples and 4 cups of water to a rolling boil. Let boil for about 20 minutes until apples split and are tinder.
- Process the apples and water in small batches in a food processor or blender until they are the consistency of apple sauce. Pour the sauce back into a large pot.
- Over low heat, stir all spices into the sauce. Keep on low heat and continue to stir just until the sauce starts to foam and steam.
- Jar and process in a water canner for about fifteen minutes.