Crab apple chutney is a great, flavorful way to prevent the fruit from going to waste. Credit: Courtesy of Sandy Oliver

The ancient crab apple tree — covered in spring with lovely pink blossoms that open into a cloud of white — earned its keep for years by simply being beautiful.

It seldom set fruit, sometimes a few scattered little apples usually eaten by red squirrels before anyone could pick them. A couple years ago, a friend came and gave it a careful pruning which improved its overall health and lo, this year, there were hundreds of apples all over it.

It isn’t as if I needed something more to do, what with cucumbers, tomatoes, squashes and green beans to deal with, but I couldn’t stand the idea that all that lovely fruit would fall off the tree only to be hoovered up by deer. So I shook down and gathered up several pounds.

One plan is to make my own homemade pectin because if those sour little rosy-cheeked babies have nothing else to commend them, they are full of pectin.

Some have been stuffed in a large jar and covered with some sugar and a lot more vodka and left to steep for a couple of months to develop into a cordial.

Three pounds went into crabapple chutney which is tart-sweet and really tasty. I won’t tell you that this is a snap to make. The recipe says to core them, and since they are pretty small, it takes your fine motor skills to pop out a tiny core from little apple quarters.

Once that is done, though, the rest is smooth sailing.

Drop them into a preserve pan, lay in the raisins, dried cranberries, the spices, chopped onion and garlic, add sugar and vinegar, and cook until it is all soft. I sweetened it a bit more at the end by adding honey, which smooths out the tart edges a little. Start with the quarter cup recommended below, stir it in well, then taste, and add more as you wish.

Crabapple Chutney

Makes 6 to 7 pints

3 lbs crab apples

1 cup raisins

½ cup dried cranberries

2 onions, chopped

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup white sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

1½ cups apple cider vinegar

¼ teaspoon dried ground sage

1 teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon allspice

½ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ cup honey, or more to taste

Quarter the crabapples and remove the core.

Put all ingredients except honey into a preserve pan, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer.

Cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and, if necessary, using a masher to break up the apples.

Stir the honey into the hot mixture, taste, and add more if desired.

The chutney will be done when a spoonful put on a tipped saucer doesn’t drip.

Put into sterilized jars, add lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...