While on a recent walk into my village, I spied three grand crab apple trees positively laden with ruby red, blemish-free apples. When I got home, I emailed the owner of the house and asked if they had any excess apples I might pick. They said all the apples were excess since they didn’t do anything with them. Baskets in hand, and a promise to deliver some canned goods, I went down to collect the beauties. There’s nothing like foraging in your own neighborhood!
Crab apples (malus coronaria) are the only indigenous apples to North America. They are abundant, not sprayed, and are mostly free for the picking. Crab apples are high in Vitamin C and minerals. A great option to preserve for winter in many ways.
I made crab apple jelly (of course). The high pectin makes it easy to get a good set without adding commercial pectin. From the pulp I had after extracting the juice, I ran through a food mill which left a smooth rosy coloured puree to which I added a small amount of corn syrup and made crab apple fruit leathers using my dehydrator. Delicious snack. I also tried a pickled crab apple recipe which was a disaster. Despite pricking the apples all over, my apples burst during processing and ended up looking like a rough apple sauce! The taste was good but aesthetically unappealing. I also made a jam with plums which turned out to be quite nice. Tart from the crab apples but balanced from the addition of the plums. This recipe is from Canadians Topp & Howard.
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Plum and Crab Apple Jam
With crab apples still in abundance, try various approaches to preserving this fruit as a jam, jelly, pickle or leather. They can also be fermented and turned into crab apple cider. So flexible, so inexpensive, so good for you!
3 cups quartered, unpeeled crab apples (washed) in 1.5 cups water plus one 4-inch cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes until soft. Remove the cinnamon stick. Press apples though a food mill or sieve to remove skins and solids.
To the puree in a Dutch oven, add 4 cups of sliced blue or purple plums. Add 5 cups of sugar and ¾ cup of red wine or grape juice. Bring to a rapid boil for 20 minutes stirring frequently. Check the gel. Remember both crab apples and plums are high in pectin so look for a loose set. It will firm up as the jam cools.
Ladle into hot 250ml jars and process in a water-bath or atmospheric steam canner for 10 minutes adjusting for altitude. Let rest 5 minutes before removing the jars.