My friend lives in a neighborhood in the suburbs where the developer in their infinite wisdom decided to line the streets with crab appletrees (on the city owned meridian (I think that's what it's called. At any rate, it's public land.)). This is the suburbs and these people have no interest in picking the apples to use them. They'd rather rake them off the lawn when they fall off and rot. The apples are actually quite good. They're not super bitter. Like a tart granny smith.
There was a television series aired here in NZ several times over the last year called "The Great British Garden Revival". When they did the fruit tree section, they covered crab apples, and had a couple of ladies who made jelly and a variety of other goods. It made me want to have some crab apple trees (not that I do).
I suggest you track it down and watch it, they may have even made some on the show, as it went into a decent amount of detail.
Of course, I can't sit here and declare that crab apples aren't exactly an in-demand product, and that it's best to make products with them and sell that. But.. it is my opinion, of course
Crab cider and juice is awesome. I'd try mixing some batches with 'normal' apples;
I've tried making a fully cabapple cider and it was too sour for me, and I like sour...
Crabapple jelly is beautiful.
In NZ it's not just for toast-it's quite common to have it with roast meat, especially pork.
Kind of like cranberry jelly I suppose.
When I make jams and jellies, I nearly always use commercial pectin and quite a bit of lemon juice.
While crabs have high levels of pectin and set pretty well, I find the amount of sugar you need makes things way too sweet for me.
I've only made 'normal' apple butter, but I imagine it'd be great with a mix.
Same with apple sauce.
They make great chutney. I don't peel them and don't fiddle around cutting the the core out, I do this.
I might reduce the vinegar and increase the water if the apples make things a bit tart.
Crab apples are great for making hard apple cider. I make alot of my own cider and wish I had access to more crabs.
according to Claude Joliceur in The New Cider Makers Handbook (a great book for getting into cider making, though kinda spendy) crabs have several things going for them:
1: Tannins, this is what makes them bitter/sour. Most table apples here in the states are very low in Tannins, which contribute to the mouthfeel and complexity of a Cider (or wine).
2: Sugar, Crab apples actually have higher percentages of sugar than normal apples (we just don't taste it because of the tannins), this leads to a stronger finished product both in terms of alcohol by volume and just overall flavor.
However, rarely can you make an excellent cider out of only one variety of apple and so, as mentioned by leila, I'd blend them with some other types.
Hard Cider is actually pretty easy to make, with endless nuances to make a better product.
I'm guessing that these are native or naturalized trees? If they are on your property, or a property that doesn't mind you tinkering, It's completely doable to cut back the tree and then graft a more desirable variety of apple onto them. This could help you get a better blend for even better cider (or less fun uses for apples like eating and the like).
If you core the apples before you make cider, then you can use the squeezins to make apple sauce or fruit leather.
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R Scott wrote:If you core the apples before you make cider, then you can use the squeezins to make apple sauce or fruit leather.
Or dump the squeezins (now that's a good word!) cores and all in a foodsafe bucket, just cover with water, drape a cloth over and eventually you'll have vinegar.
It's weak though, and I tend to keep adding apple bits and bobs over time to try and strengthen it up.
Joseph Fields wrote:Last year I could not figure out why my sheep were refusing to touch the grass. I have two huge crab apple trees that were loaded down. The sheep sat under the apple trees and ate them as they fell.
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