A selection of crab apples picked up from Lakes Field this morning. The hedge around the field contains several crab apple trees and I often wonder why they grow there and nowhere else on the farm. Perhaps they were part of a homestead at one time for certainly old maps show buildings further down the track from the main farm or maybe the trees have sprung from apple cores thrown away by labourers years ago as they worked in the fields. Who knows?
At this time of year, the apples drop from the tree and litter the ground underneath. The tiny green crab apples look particularly unappealing and even though the larger ones with their orange blushed skins look as though they might provide a sweet mouthful of flesh, experience tell me that it isn’t so. They are all very sharp. Although they might not be suitable for the fruit bowl, there’s still plenty to do with crab apples.
Top of my list every year is to make Sweet Spiced Crab Apples. Collect about 500g crab apples, wash them but don’t peel or core them, cut large ones in half and put them in a pan with vinegar and sugar at a rate of 1 part vinegar: 3 parts crab apple: 3 parts sugar with some ground ginger, cloves and cinnamon stick. Stir to dissolve the sugar, simmer until the apples are just soft but still in one piece and then transfer the apples to jars, leaving the liquid in the pan. Remove the clove and cinnamon stick, boil the syrup until it’s reduced by about half and then pour over the apples and seal the jars. Keep the crab apples for a couple of months before you use them, by which time the apples will have absorbed the syrup to make an almost candied fruit. You can see from the photo above that while the 2014 crab apples on the right are still whole, the 2013 apples have swollen with the syrup. We eat these with cold meats.
We mix crab apples with our eating and cooking apples to make a slightly tarter mix for cider making and last year I made a batch of crab apple pectin, which has been very useful for jam making this year. I’m toying with the idea of making Crab Apple Butter as I imagine that spreading toast with a spiced, fruity butter would be rather delicious. The problem is that as we don’t eat much jam or sweet spreads, I’m not sure it will all get used and I don’t want it to sit on the shelf gathering dust beside the elderly jars of Blackcurrant with Lavender Jam. I know what you’re thinking. Blackcurrant with lavender. Why? I thought it was an inspired combination but I was wrong and I should really just throw it out. But you never know, one day it may taste wonderful. Maybe not.
Do you make Apple Butter? Does it have another use apart from a spread? Please, do tell.