crab apples

crab apples

crab apples

I’m not sure of the difference between a wild apple and a crab apple, but for cooking I don’t think it matters. Around the farm we have wild apple trees bearing fruits that range in size from marbles to a small cultivated apple, with skins that ripen to shades of green, yellow and orange.  But no matter what colour the skin, they are all very sour so that no matter how enticing they look, the flesh within puckers my mouth and makes me screw up my eyes. I don’t know if these trees have sprung from discarded pips or were deliberately planted, but their proliferation around Lakes Field suggests that there may have been some sort of settlement there in ancient days. Who knows?

crab apple tree in the garden

In the garden we have two cultivated crab apple trees; the earliest to ripen (in foreground of the photo above) has oval shaped fruit that turns a warm orangey red when ripe while the other one has small round apples that turn yellow. There’s a carpet of crab apples under the tree and the desire to preserve the last days of summer overrides the logic that I don’t need rows of jams and jellies in the pantry.

I’ve made Spiced Crab Apples from Edible Wild Plants & Herbs by Pamela Michael, which will be ready to eat with cold meats in December. The crab apples are cooked whole in vinegar, sugar and spices, potted and left to mature for three months so that the spicy syrup is absorbed by the fruit giving a mouthful of almost candied fruit.

pectin made from crab apples

Another batch of crab apples has been used to make apple pectin using Celia’s recipe. I only made a small batch, using whole crab apples, which is now sitting in small pots in the freezer. For someone who has vowed not to overproduce jam this year, it seems strange to make pectin expressly for that purpose, but my theory is that I can use it next summer when my shelves will be bare and I need to restock.

crab apple jelly with tomato and chilli

Making use of two gluts in one preserve is perhaps the most satisfying, so Crab Apple, Tomato and Chilli Jelly ticks all the boxes. I use this jelly when a recipe calls for Sweet Chilli Sauce, though it doesn’t have the same strength as a commercial sauce so I have to make allowance for that. It gives a lift to gravy and makes a super quick dip by spooning over some cream cheese. I don’t see why it couldn’t be spread on toasted muffins, though I’ve never tried it. The Crab Apple, Tomato and Chilli Jelly recipe is below.

crab apples under the tree

We sat outside eating supper last night and watched the apples fall to the ground so now I’m trying to avert my eyes whenever I walk past the crab apple tree so I don’t see just how much is going to waste. We’ll use some of the apples when we make cider and the hens will peck at a few, but it looks as though I need to get out the wheelbarrow to move them to the compost heap so they can rot down to be used on the vegetable garden next year.

recipe for crab apple, tomato and chilli jelly

1.5 kg crab apples (or cooking apples)
1.5 kg ripe tomatoes
3 chilli peppers
1 red pepper
150 ml cider vinegar
Sugar with added pectin

Roughly chop the apples and tomatoes – don’t skin or core them.

Finely chop 2 of the chilli peppers.

Deseed and finely chop the red pepper.

Put all your chopped fruit and veg into the preserving pan with the vinegar and add enough water to almost cover them.

Bring to the boil and then simmer until the apples are pulpy and everything else is softened.

Tip into a jelly bag and leave to drip overnight.

Measure the juice and weigh out 500g of sugar for every 600ml of juice.  You need jam sugar with added pectin as the chilli peppers stop the jelly setting, apparently.

Warm the sugar and add to the pan along with the remaining chilli pepper that’s been deseeded and very finely chopped.

Bring to a rolling boil and heat until it reaches 104C (or test for setting).

Pot as usual.

22 thoughts on “crab apples

  1. G’day! Used to LOVE crab apples when I was a child in the US, true!
    I don’t think I have seen them in Australia, and would love to try your crab apple, tomato and chilli and recently read about a pectin made from vegetable too!
    Cheers! Joanne

  2. I’ve never made pectin from crabapples, but I’m told it’s very good and strong! I think you’ve done really well with your glut Anne, and I love the idea of adding chilli to the crabapple jelly – we’ve never done that, but I can imagine how delicious it would be!

        1. Yes, of course I followed your instructions! I should have taken the apples off the heat while I waited for the pectin in the fridge to cool as that took five minutes (I forgot about it) and the pectin was a good set from that first test.

  3. Hi Anne … fab post. Crab apples! We have a very small tree although it is skyward bound. I laugh as the turkeys and wildlife leave it and its produce well alone. Loved your recipes, you have inspired me to make more use of those little tasty wonders. Thanks … 🙂

  4. Back in the days when I made lots of jam, I used to put crab apples in to help them set. I agree about the sour taste! AS a child, I think I tried them every year ~ but only once every year!

  5. How bout a couple of wee piglets to clean up your crab apple glut, if they eat enough you may be able to forgo the apple sauce accompanying the roast pork. Here in Australia you can buy cheese with pickled onions already in it, it is tastier than you would imagine but it always makes me think of jersey cows with their faces all screwed up at the thought of having to eat yet another onion!

    1. We do sometimes have a couple of pigs around at this time of year who get a fair amount of windfalls but not this year. The thought of cows eating pickled onions makes me smile – if they eat wild garlic the milk gets tainted.

  6. Really fancy a few jars of this in the cupboard, bet it would be great with squid, thai fishcakes etc. Good luck averting your eyes!

  7. Love your crab apple trees and your jelly with tomatoes and chillies looks wonderful! Haven’t tried the spiced crab apples yet as am still filling jars with jelly! Must stop soon or we’ll be eating the stuff for years! E x

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