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.
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.