September is a super-busy time for gardeners, in the kitchen and in the fields. Still no frost so there is some hope of salvaging the last of the harvest, collecting seeds, digging up bulbs before they all succumb to the cold weather. And then what to do with the fruits of your labour? I just added another task/load of experiments when I finally pruned our lone crab apple tree. It doesn’t usually produce as much as it did this year, so I felt I could afford to pick some of the fruit, and still leave plenty for the bohemian wax wings who visit the tree most winters.
Crab apples are not frequently found in farmers’ markets, let alone supermarkets, but nonetheless there are plenty of good recipes on line which are worth making for jellies, chutneys, pickles and baking. I began by working out a couple of recipes that don’t seem to exist yet, and the possibilities with this bright little fruit seem pretty endless. Not wanting to deplete my tree any further, I am offering to prune anyone’s tree in this area and share the produce!
My tree (the same one you see in bloom on the header of this blog) gives those small, bright red, supposedly inedible variety. They look more like cranberries than apples.
Having snipped all the berries off the pruned branches (that is the hardest part), I chopped them roughly in the food processor. I dried the majority of them to make a salad dressing and muffins, and still plenty to put away for winter. With the rest I prepared, or rather am preparing, a liqueur which will be perfect as a festive drink. No pictures of the finished product yet, but the concoction should be ready to decant in mid-October. I will also think of some way to use the vodka soaked fruit at that time.
Crab apple liqueur
Fresh crab apples
Weigh the crab apples (I had about 1.25 lbs.) Add the same weight of sugar to the pot, cover the mixture with vodka, and stir. Stir every day for about a month, then strain into a bottle. Keep the container covered so the vodka doesn’t all evaporate or get infested with fruit/alcohol flies. I used a ceramic pot with a tight fitting lid.
Mine has been going for about a week now. Having sampled the small amount stuck to the spoon after stirring, I can vouch that it is delicious – and we look forward to using it in mixed cocktails and on its own. We shall see! And if you don’t have crab apples, this could be done with many varieties of fruits and berries.
Crab Apple Vinaigrette
It is difficult to give exact quantities in this, but then salad dressings should be tweaked to suit your own taste. If you usually make your own vinaigrette, you would probably find you need a little more salt and vinegar than usual, presumably because of the tartness of the fruit, but add a little at a time and taste to be sure.
1 large spoon of dried crab apples
Vinegar (cider or red wine) to cover, plus a little extra.
1 Tbsp. liquid honey
6 Tbsp. oil (olive, avocado, grape seed, sunflower)
1 tsp. salt.
Soak the fruit in vinegar for at least an hour. Add the honey and salt and mix well. Add the oil slowly, mixing as you do
This is excellent with any leafy salad.
Crab Apple Walnut Muffins
I expect most readers already have their own favourite recipes for muffins – in which case I would recommend just adding the dried crab apples in place of or in addition to any fresh or dried fruit. Likewise, the dried crab apple can be used in many other recipes, such as cookies, granola bars, or even savoury rice or stuffing dishes. I added some to porridge, along with a little cinnamon.
If you don’t have a recipe handy, here is the one I used.
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp ground flax seed
1/4 cup dried crab apples
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup milk (or almond milk)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup liquid honey
Combine the dry ingredients. Mix together the rest, and add to the dry ingredients, mixing just to blend.
Pour into muffin tins, and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes.