Fall brings a crispness in the air, changing leaves and crab apple pie. Yes, you heard right. Crab apple pie.
I discovered crab apples about three years ago and fell in love with the tartness they offer. I can never look at a regular apple pie the same way again.
Crab apples don’t ripen until around October, depending on the weather that year, and they have a fairly short window in which they are ripe enough to use, but not overripe.
During that time, I am picking and preparing apples in every spare moment I have.
There are four ways I have found to use the apples. My favorite (and the most labor intensive) is for pie filling. This takes a lot of apples and involves a lot of cutting, but it is worth it in the end.
I also like to make apple sauce and apple butter out of them. This is still work, but a lot easier than the pie filling. You will need a food mill, and if you can recruit an extra pair of hands or two, it speeds things up quite a bit. A side product from the apple sauce and butter is apple juice. You have to boil the apples quite a while to start with to soften them up. Once they are done, simply mix a little sugar into the leftover water to make a great juice.
All of these have the great taste of apples, with the extra bonus of the tart flavor of the crab apples.
Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!
Crab Apple Pie Filling
(makes 7 quarts)
12 pounds apples, washed and cored
5 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups Clear Jel
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
5 cups apple juice
2 1/2 cups cold water
3/4 cup lemon juice
Cut sides off of apples, removing seeds and stem. Measure 33 cups. Then in a large pot (I use a deep fry pan and basket), heat one gallon water to boiling and add one-third to half of apple slices, return to boiling and boil for one minute. Transfer apples to a large bowl, cover. Repeat with remaining apples. Next, in a large pot, combine sugar, Clear Jel, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Stir in apple juice and cold water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Add lemon juice and boil one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in apples, mixing well. Spoon into hot quart jars, leaving one-inch head space. Process in water bath canner 25 minutes.
Crab Apple Sauce/Apple Butter
To prepare apples, wash, remove blossom and stem ends, then cut in half. Do not core. Mix 28 cups of apples and 16 cups of water in large pot, boil for 25 minutes. Strain liquid from the apples and set aside for apple juice. Then put the crab apples back in a pot and add 1/2 cup water for every 2 cups apples. Stir until well mixed and boil 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly. Put the pulp through a food mill to remove seeds and peels. This pulp is then used for apple sauce and butter.
For apple sauce: Combine 10 cups pulp and two cups sugar. Bring to a boil, then pour in jars and process 15 minutes for pints.
For apple butter: Combine 4 cups pulp, 2 cups sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. allspice, 1/2 tsp. cloves in large pot. Boil, about 12 minutes, stirring constantly. To test, drop a bit of the mixture on a cold plate. If it is moulded, the apple butter is ready. Pour into jars and process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes for pints.
Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
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