Saturday, August 30, 2008


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Crabapples are tart and tangy, and beautiful to look at. Their red or pink skins turn any product you make with them a gorgeous hot pink, too! They also grow well in my area (Western BC, Canada). Unfortunately, you need to have a tree growing in your yard, or know someone who does, because they are an old-fashioned fruit and you can't find them in stores. I sincerely hope that they come into fashion again, because I see lots of possibilities for this fruit beyond jelly and spiced or pickled crabapples-- chutney, pies, sauce, fillings, juice....

The trees evidently do well even when stressed for water. It's hard to find information about the nutritional and/or medicinal benefits of crabapple, but I was sure there would be some. After all, they contain pectin, which is excellent for helping clear arteries, and fiber, and that pink color must be a source of antioxidants! Apples are one of the best sources of antioxidants, so it stands to reason that crabapples would be, too.

Brazilian researchers place apple second only to cranberries in phenolic content and antioxidant activity, so crabapples would also fall into that category. In other research, when several fruits were tested ‘in vitro’ on human liver-cancer cells, apple rated third in antiproliferation activity. They concluded that “dietary cancer prevention is proposed to provide a new alternative biomarker for future epidemiological studies in dietary cancer prevention and health promotion.”
‘Antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of common fruits.’ Sun J, et al. Dept. of Food Science, Cornell Uv., Ithaca, New York, USA. J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Dec 4; 50(25):7449-54.

That tartness in crabapples indicates lots of vitamin C, as well.

A friend gave me a big bag of crabapples last week, and I finally got around to using them. I don't like making jelly and I was short on time, so I just picked through them and cooked them all, whole, in two large pots with some water until they started to burst. Then I ran them through my trusty food mill and ended up with a 20 cups of hot pink pulp! (Unfortunately, I didn't weigh the bag before I cooked them!)

I decided to use 12 cups to make a batch of crabapple butter in my slow-cooker, 2 cups to make a sorbet, and I froze the remainder for later. Both experiments turned out very well! So, if you can find someone who wants some crabapples taken off their hands, take them up on it!

Printable Recipe


Yield: 12 cups/ 6 pints
This is the most beautiful, tangy, mahogany-colored fruit butter! It would be delicious as a change from cranberry sauce with seitan roasts and cutlets, or on sandwiches and wraps. It's east to make in a slow-cooker because it doesn't require much attention and it will not scorch. I go easy on the spices because they can get too strong after long cooking.

12 cups raw crabapple pulp (see text above)
5 cups sugar
2 medium organic oranges, grated zest and juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/8 teaspoon ground fresh nutmeg
3/8 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice

Combine all of the ingredients in a 6 qt. slow cooker and turn to HIGH. Cook with the lid off for 8-10 hours, or until the mixture thickens and cooks down by half.

Stir the mixture throughout the cooking, every hour or so.

When done, the mixture should mound gently in a spoon, and when you place a spoonful of it on a plate, no liquid should exude from it. The mixture will be shiny and mahogany-colored.

You can water-bath can the butter for 15 minutes in half-pint or pint jars.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per 2 Tablespoons):
55.6 calories; 0% calories from fat; 0.0g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 0.7mg sodium; 29.8mg potassium; 14.4g carbohydrates; 0.5g fiber; 10.4g sugar; 13.9g net carbs; 0.1g protein; 1.0 points.

Sparkling Crabapple-Cider Sorbet  and fresh green grapes from my stepson's garden, sprinkled with rosewater

Printable Recipe


Servings: 8
Yield: 1 qt. 

This is super-easy to make and not only beautiful, but tangy and delicious, too!

2 cups raw crabapple pulp (see text above)
12 oz (341 mL) dry (alcoholic) or sweet (non-alcoholic) sparkling apple, peach or pear cider
2/3 to 1 cup sugar (light organic granulated) (amount depends on how tangy you like it!)
Optional: 2 teaspoons Instant Clear Jel OR 1/4 teaspoon Xanthan gum or Guar gum  (See this post about Instant Clear Jel.)

Blend all of the ingredients in the blender until smooth. If the mixture is not cold, refrigerate it until it is. Process in your ice cream maker according to the directions in your manual. Scoop it out of the machine and place in a covered container. Freeze until firm before serving.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per 1/2 cup serving)
: 112.9 calories; 0% calories from fat; 0.1g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 2.6mg sodium; 101.4mg potassium; 29.1g carbohydrates; 0.8g fiber; 16.7g sugar; 28.3g net carbs; 0.1g protein; 2.1 points.



Veronica said...

I miss crabapples and regret that we never saw as much potential in them! As a kid we had a neighbor with a crabapple tree that dropped fruit in abundance, but that tree was chopped down years ago.

Speedwell said...

I think I'm going to drop dead of craving before the book comes out (whine, moan, pout). That meatloaf looks gooo-oood. I've been feeling deprived lately--kale has yet another good month to go here in Texas, and I can't find Field Roast anywhere, and Whole Foods promises I can buy Field Roast by the case and then forgets to order it for me. Poooooor me.

Thanks for your hard work, Bryanna. Wish I could help out.

Jenni (aka Vegyogini) said...

My maternal grandparents had a crapabble tree in their backyard when I was growing up. I have fond memories of picking and eating them and they are something I miss. I have seen them occasionally in the grocery stores here in Los Angeles, but I've never purchased them.

aTxVegn said...

I've never ever seen a crabapple and imagine I never will. The sorbet is an amazing color.

Carrie™ said...

First off, the meatloaf looks killer! Is Field Roast available in Canada? I enquired a couple of years ago, but was told it wasn't being sold here. I've only ever heard good things and am very curious.
I love what you did with the crabapples. Apples are one of my favorite fruits and I eat one every day. When I was a kid, there were some trees that neighbours had that grew very small apples that we called crabapples, but I don't know if they actually were. We were always told not to eat them so I assumed they weren't good for you. You've set me straight. Now I must source some out because that sorbet has my name all over it!

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Carrie, field Roast is NOT available in Canada-- yet! I think David is going to try to find a Canadian manufacturer eventually. He just got through moving his Seattle production plant, then we have to wrap up the book, so I guess we will have to make our own until that happens!

JohnP said...

The crabapples are so beautiful! One of my favorite fruits!

Anonymous said...

Now I have more recipes to go with my crabapple pie recipe. Thanks so much.

Mrs S said...

I have a crab apple tree which is currently loaded with fruit! I can't face making more jelly so I'm really excited by the sorbet! Thank you for providing a recipe that's not a jelly!

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

I hope you like it, Mrs S!

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

I hope you like it, Mrs S!

KitteeBee said...

I just learned we have a crabapple tree, on the side of our house. I have no idea how to know when they're ripe, but I am on it!


Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

They should be ripe now, Kittee!

Nadya said...

~ 8 years ago I got a *mystery* crab apple (label had fallen off) very inexpensive at a local nursery - at first I was disappointed that it had clusters of blueberry size fruit (I was hoping for plum size, that I'd tasted down the street) - now I love them! They are ripe now, & 'hold' on the tree for quite awhile -
This morning I plucked a small handful & add to musli - coconut milk kefir w/ grated apple, & a handful of crab apple 'berries' - plus a few Red Rowan berries to top it off (sweeter than the standard orange Sorbus, this one is a cross between Mt Ash & Hawthorne) -

Thanks for speaking up for the humble Crab!

Unknown said...

Thanks for posting the crabapple butter recipe. I recently found abandoned crab apple trees in a parking lot and picked a large bagful and made spiced crabapples from an old Maine cookbook. They're wonderful! But last night I found another abandoned tree at the edge of a mall parking lot and the fruit were large and plentiful so I want to go back to pick a bagful tonight -- and now I have a new recipe to use! While I love the spiced crabapples, and they go wonderfully with cheese, there are really only so many you can eat. Having another use, like crabapple butter, will bring them to my table for another occasion. And what a nice holiday gift they'd be! I love to find abandonded fruit and nut trees in my community and use the fruit to make something special. Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

We have 2 crab apple trees in our yard that we planted from twigs, not knowing what they were. One has thorns and one does not. They appear to set fruit in alternate years. I miss munching on crab apples, as we did as children (under the dire warnings of "poisoning" from our parents), so I look forward to enjoying these bitter fruits once again!

Jeremy said...

The tree with thorns is probably a hawthorne, and the fruits are actually called "haws" (not crabapples). You can use the same recipes though, let us know how your haw-recipes taste!