Unfortunately for the poor Crab-apple, I have taken to calling them crap-apples over the years, call me childish if you will, but they are crap apples: Never one to please you on an autumn stroll, a crab-apple straight of the ground won’t do much for your taste buds, that tart sharpness is better put to use in the kitchen with a few store cupboard staples, than wolfed down straight off the tree.
In the same way as hawthorn berries, crab-apples pack a lot of pectin, especially in the skin. It is for this reason crab-apple jelly is the most obvious choice when converting this fruit into something edible. Surely there can be other uses for them than just jelly? After having a good think about it, I decided there were.
Crab-apples make particularly good ammunition: In my youth many a brisk October day was spent with friends and black widow catapults, nailing each other in a primitive form of paintball. Yes, they do hurt! Especially because they rarely explode like paintballs and ping off skin and bone mercilessly.
Crab-apples are sometimes added to batches of cider to make for a more interesting flavour. In some cases crab-apples have been crossed with other varieties of apple types and you do come across a few trees which have a more favourable taste, but very rarely.
In terms of gathering, they are very easy to harvest, either shaken straight off the tree or collected off the ground. It takes barely anytime to get yourself a good hoard to take home to process into something a little more user friendly.
When I returned home with my batch of Sussex Crab-apples I wasted no time in getting stuck in to some apple experimentation. Baked, crab-apples become quite palatable in much the same way as cooking apples do. I felt they might make quite a useful addition to a chutney, I had just made a batch so I fancied something different and decided to concentrate on using the pectin-packed apples for a spot of jelly making and maybe a little boozing…
Weston’s finest Crab-apple jelly:
This will make a clear jelly, if you are after a cloudy one then mush the apples through your muslin when the time comes…
- 8 cups of Quartered Crab-apples
- 3 cups of white sugar
- A pinch of cinnamon
Wash the apples and chop them into quarters (skins, cores and all). Place in a stainless steel pan and add enough cold water till you can just see it sitting between the apples.
Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer for 12 minutes.
Remove the apples from the heat and place in muslin or an old pair of pantyhose. To get a clear jelly it is important that you DON’T squeeze the mush out, but leave the muslin bag to drip into a saucepan in its own time.
Take the strained juice and place back on the hob and bring to the boil again. Add the sugar and the cinnamon and stir for about a minute. Boil hard for an hour until the setting point is reached (108-110C), then skim off any foam.
Pour into warm sterilized jars, allow to cool and seal. Place in the fridge till needed.
Other uses: Booze!
I mentioned earlier using it for boozing…why not? In this case it is important to pour out a little of your jelly before it has reached the setting point, basically just after all the sugar has dissolved. This will give you a rich apple & cinnamon syrup, perfect for using with alcohol.
The syrup is a wonderful addition to mulled cider (make sure to use a dry cider or it may be too sweet) or can be mixed in an old-fashioned glass with a little vodka and lemon juice over ice. If you are feeling a little Latin, then try using a light rum, a few lime quarters, the syrup and crushed ice and give it a good muddle (mix) and you will end up with what is referred to in the cocktail business as a Caipirissima.
To do the crispy apple slices pictured above, simply heat a little golden syrup in a pan, core and finely slice an apple (use a mandolin if you wish), dip the slices in the syrup and place on greaseproof paper. Put in a preheated oven at 190C till browned.
Crab-apple trees are extremely common throughout Britain, they tend to be found just as frequently in cities as they do in the countryside, so you have no excuse where you live. Crab-apple season is upon us people! Put plastic shopping bags to good use and go fill them up, add a few hours in the kitchen and you wont have to buy so many Christmas presents for relatives!