Crabapples – the not so humble fruit

As autumn has crept up on us, crabapples are becoming increasingly abundant.  Loaded on the trees they resemble bright yellow or red jewels, but all too often they can be seen just falling to the ground, wasted and unwanted.  This is such a pityas they make such wonderful preserves that can in turn be used as accompaniments for, or inclusions in, other dishes.

There is of course crabapple jelly that can be used as a spread for toast, bread or scones but this is merely tapping into the surface of their potential.  Owing to the fact that my generous friend Deirdre brings me bucketfuls from her trees each autumn, I have been able to experiment with them at my leiasure.

 Crabapple lemonade is a wonderful drink to prepare for children – it is a natural “soft drink”, devoid of any artificial colours, flavour or preservatives that saturate most commercial soft drinks.

 Then of course there’s crabappple paste that many feel rivals quince paste – it is certainly delicious with stronger flavoured cheeses with a lovely “bitey” aftertaste.

 Then there is crabapple and chilli jelly, delicious with roast pork.   This jelly looks extremely attractive in the jars and has a whole range of uses.  I also use it to glaze a leg of lamb towards the end of cooking time.  It can also be used as part of a cheese platter.  Try adding a little to a gravy or jus, or even a casserole style dish.

 Another good use for them is to make a pectin stock.  This can be made in larger quantities and frozen in 250ml containers.  This can be added to jams to help them set, as crabapples are high in pectin.   Their subtle flavour means that the flavour of the feature fruit of your jam will not be overpowered, but the addition of the pectin stock will make the jam set much quicker.  This in itself means that the jam will have better flavour. The amount to use is 250ml of the pectin stock to 1kg of fruit.

  So here are the recipes for all of  the above mentioned.  Try them out and you’ll see that the crabapple is not such a humble fruit after all.

 Crabapple Jelly

 1.5kg crabapples

Water

Sugar

 Wash the crabapples and place them in a large saucepan.  Cover with water and bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the crabapples are soft.  Pour the mixture into a colander, capturing the juice in a pot below.  Take this juice and pour it through a colander or sieve lined with 2 thicknesses of muslin.

 Measure the liquid into a large saucepan and for each cup of liquid add 1 cup fo sugar.   Bring to the boil and cook over medium heat for about 12 to 15 minutes or until setting point is reached. (To test for set, place about 2 teaspoons of the mixture on a cold plate.  If it sets then the jelly is ready).  Remove from heat and allow bubbles to subside for 2 minutes at most. If any scum has developed on the top of the jelly remove with a slotted spoon.  Pour into warm sterilised bottles and seal immediately.

 Crabapple and Chilli Jelly

 If you use yellow crabapples try inserting a birds eye chilli into the jelly as it sets.  This needs to be done within a few minutes of pouring the jelly into the jars.  It will sit  most attractively in the centre of the jar, and often leaves a trail of small bubbles in its wake as it is put in place, in which case it most certainly looks too good to eat.

 The amount of chillies in this recipe can be varied according to taste.

 1.5kg crabapples

100g birds eye chillies

Water

Sugar

10 to 12 extra chillies, optional

 Wash the crabapples and place them in a large saucepan. Wash and roughly chop the chillies and add to the pan.   Cover with water and bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the crabapples are soft.  Pour the mixture into a colander, capturing the juice in a pot below.  Take this juice and pour it through a colander or sieve lined with 2 thicknesses of muslin.

 Measure the liquid into a large saucepan and for each cup of liquid add 1 cup of sugar.   Bring to the boil and cook over medium heat for about 12 to 15 minutes or until setting point is reached. (To test for set, place about 2 teaspoons of the mixture on a cold plate.  If it sets then the jelly is ready).  Remove from heat and allow bubbles to subside for 2 minutes at most. If any scum has developed on the top of the jelly remove with a slotted spoon.  Pour into warm sterilised bottles and seal immediately if you are not adding a chilli to the jar, or if adding one to each jar, leave the jars unsealed for approximately 2 minutes, then insert the chilli so that it sits decoratively in the jar, then seal immediately.

 Crabapple paste

 1kg crabapples

1 cup water

Sugar

 Wash the crabapples and place them in a large saucepan with the water.  Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the fruit is soft.  Press through a sieve or food mill.  For each cup of puree add 1 cup of sugar.  Bring back to the boil, stirring and simmer over very low heat until a paste like consistency has formed.  It is important to stir very frequently.  It will probably take about 40 minutes to reach this point.  Pour into small jars and seal immediately.  Serve as part of a cheese platter.

 Crabapple pectin stock

 1kg crabapples

3 cups water

 Wash the crabapples and place in a large saucepan with the water.  Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes or until the fruit is soft.  Strain through a colander, then the resulting liquid through a sieve or colander lined with 2 thicknesses of muslin.

 Crabapple Lemonade

 This recipe can be made from yellow or red crabapples, but while both are delicious, the red ones naturally give a better colour.   This recipe makes approximately 5 litres.

 875g crabapples, washed and roughly chopped

875g sugar

1½ lemons, sliced

200ml white or cider vinegar

20 cups cold water

 Place all ingredients in a food safe bucket and mix well.  Cover loosely with a tea towel and leave to stand for 2 days.  Strain through a sieve and pour the resulting liquid into bottles, filled only to the neck.   Seal the bottle immediately.  (I use PET bottles as they have more “give”.  These can be purchased new from home brewing suppliers.  You can re-use empty soft drink bottles, but be sure that they are very clean indeed)

 The lemonade will be ready in one to two weeks.  Test for readiness by carefully unscrewing the lid to see if it has developed its “fizz”.

 Chill well before serving and always open carefully.

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    Comments:

  1. Hi There
    I was delighted to find your blog and also your section on crabapples. I was on holiday last week and found a fabulous crabapple tree with a ton of lovely rosy pink fruit on it in the local reserve by the lake. I grabbed a couple of bags before I left and began the search for yummy conserve recipes to make. Im going to try the crabapple and chilli recipe you have here but am a little concerned about the number of chillies you have reccomended. I bought an 80gm pack and that had 48 chillies in it. Birds eye chilles are extremely hot so Im terrified of the amount you have reccomended. can you clarify this for me? I was thinking of maybe using 5 chiilies at a push but thought with the wonders of modern technology I’d just ask rather than wasting a batch of these beautiful little fruit!

    I so hope you can get back to me in the next day or so so I can make it before the fruit need to delt to

    cheers
    Sarah

    - Sarah Thompson
    • Hi Sarah – by all means reduce the amount of chillies. I’d just use a few as you suggest, especially if you’re not used to that amount of heat (it’s pretty fiery).

      Good luck with it.

      Regards
      Sally

      - Sally Wise
  2. Hi Sally,

    I have a question regarding crab apple jelly – I have been making big batches using your recipe. The jelly has set just fine in 190ml jars, but not in 300ml jars. Not sure why, as I’ve bottled jelly (admittedly using fruits other than crabapples) in jars that size before. I re-boiled the jelly last night and added lemon juice, it was pretty thick and had definitely reached setting point. I re-bottled in the re-sterilised 300ml jars, certain it would set nicely. But this morning (some 15 hours later) it has the same consistency as it did before. Partially set but still a bit sloshy in the jar. I can only conclude it has something to do with the size of the jars. My question is whether it can be re-boiled a second time – and re-bottled into smaller jars? Alternatively, should I re-boil it and add some commercial pectin powder. Just not sure what would do the trick, but I don’t want to waste it!

    A very frustrating experience!

    Many thanks,
    Jane

    - Jane
    • Hi Jane,

      Frustrating when this sort of thing happens! Here’s some things that might have played a part along the way.

      Firstly the size of the jars does make a significant difference to the setting of the jam or jelly. Smaller jar are better as the mixture cools more quickly and this makes for a better set. Strange but true.

      Making large batches can also inhibit the good set to a jam. I’ve found it’s better to work with no more than 1.5 to 2kg of fruit at a time. It’s a bit more labour intensive by way of washing pots, but you get a quicker and better set. For instance, it I had 6 kilos of fruit, I’d have 1.5kg batches in 4 separate pots, rather than one large 6kg batch, or two 3kg for that matter.

      You can certainly reboil the mixture, but not for too long – the longer it’s boiled the more the sugar starts to caramelise and you lost the flavour of the fruit to the toffee/sugary overtones.

      Reboiling with lemon juice can work (as the acid helps extract the pectin), but often extra pectin is needed. You can buy Jamsetta from the supermarket or pectin powder from the Green Living website.

      Hope this helps. I f all else fails, use the unset jelly as a syrup for over ice cream or yoghurt, or use it to flavour cheesecake filling or ice cream.

      Regards
      Sally

      - Sally Wise
  3. Hi Sally,
    thanks for the crab apple paste recipe, which I used today. I tastes lovely. I sealed about 6 smaill jars immediately affter bottling. Regarding storage, how long do you think they will be good for use unopened, and also after opening?

    - delia
  4. We have a fully load crab apple tree and after making several batches of jelly i was wondering what else I could make. Thank you for the recipes I will certainly try the apple lemonade it sounds good.

    Regards From Syl
    in New Zealand

    • One of the nicest things to make is crabapple paste or ‘cheese’ (like quince paste or cheese and made by the same method). It’s delicious served with cheese or even with meats – turkey and pork are especially well matched.

      Once it’s made you can break off small pieces and use them in fruit buns instead of, or as well as, sultanas etc.

      Regards
      Sally

      - Sally Wise
  5. What wonderful recipes which I am looking forward to making!

    Just wondering – how long would the apple lemonade keep in a sealed bottle? Many thanks!

    - Karen Griffith
    • Hi Karen – it should keep for months, though it may go just a little alcoholic after a couple of weeks. If this is of concern to you, you can let a bit of the liquid out of the bottle (once it’s fizzy), screw the lid back on, then freeze the rest (in the bottle). When it thaws it is still fizzy. Amazing but true. By the way, be sure to use plastic (PET) bottles.

      Regards
      Sally

      - Sally Wise