This year there is a bumper crop of apples here in New York, both crabapples and your standard apples.
Why? Well, it’s probably a combination of reasons–but I think one of the biggest is that LAST year in the spring we were hit with a hard frost that killed most of the apple blossoms before they had a chance to be pollinated. So in 2012 those trees happily soaked up sunshine and water all summer without putting forth any apples. . . and all of that energy was stored in the roots. So this year when they put out flowers and they were pollinated, they had plenty of energy to make tons and tons of apples. I’ve noticed trees bearing apples that I’ve driven by for years and NEVER noticed apples on before.
The crab apple trees in the yard next to my church are just LOADED with small red crab apples. I asked permission to pick some and have brought home several batches.
Now these particular crab apples are about the size of large cherries. They are hard, EXTREMELY tart, and red all the way through:
(note: they are crab apples–if you cut them through the middle you can see the little star shaped pattern of five apple seeds–I just cut off a slice here to show you the color)
So what can you DO with crab apples? Well, a lot–as long as you have some sugar. Two years ago I made crabapple butter–it was a lovely pink color! I have a friend who has used crab apples from these same trees to make crab apple jelly. This year I have already made Spiced Crab Apples and Crab Apple Juice (which is about as tart as cranberry juice!). Although these particular crab apples don’t have a lot of meat on them, you can use crab apples (with a bit of work and a foodmill) to make crab apple sauce as well. I’ve also read that the tartness of crabapples can balance out the sweetness of other apples if you are fermenting your own hard cider!
I bet some of you are thinking “why bother, that sounds like a lot of work!”. Well, that’s true. I don’t know how much crab apple juice we will drink (I only made 2 Qts), or even if we will like the Spiced Crab Apples (which are sort of a sweet sour preserve along the lines of my Old Fashioned Pickled Peaches or Watermelon Rind Pickles)–but to me, the fact that there is free food out there, just hanging and going to waste. . . well it bothers me. There are so many folks who don’t have enough, and prices on things keep getting higher. I like experimenting with different foods and knowing how to use them–who knows, at some point I might be glad that I did.
If you are looking for more information on how to use crab apples, the Cooperative Extension from the University of Alaska Fairbanks has a nice printable four page handout on cooking with and preserving crab apples which you might find useful.
And don’t worry–I’ll be posting an article on the Spiced Crab Apples soon!