Thursday, November 13, 2014

More Fun With Crab Apples 2: The Sauce

A couple weeks ago we wrote about our plans for processing as many of our crab apples as we could before the deep freeze hit, and we've been busy experimenting ever since.  We had twelve ideas for what to do with the crab apples, which we wanted to break up into blog posts for 'fresh,' 'liquid,' and 'sauce.'  (Two other ideas--put the raffinate in the compost and feed it to the chickens--are pretty self-explanatory and don't really need their own post.)  We didn't manage to get them all picked before freeze damage hit, so the 'fresh' category will have to wait until next year.

But in the 'liquid' and 'solid' categories we've had some success (by our standards, at least), and so we wanted to post our results here as a baseline for other researchers to reproduce in their own labs and develop further.  First up: the solid portion! This is the sauce obtained after boiling the apples to soften, straining out the water, and passing them through a crank-style food strainer (we call it a berry grinder).

Idea #1: Applesauce.  Easy as that--eat it straight up.  It's pretty good, but tart.  We kind of settled on a ratio of 1 cup sugar to 6 cups sauce as the optimal balance of sweet and tart.  If we're feeling really sassy, we'll add some cinnamon.

Idea #2: Crab apple butter.  We took four quarts of the sauce, added 2.5 cups sugar, and cooked it down to two quarts in the crock pot.  We also added some cinnamon and allspice (about two teaspoons each), and nutmeg (about 0.5 teaspoon).  It's thick, but easily spreads out onto lots of things. this toast that just became 1000 times tastier!

Idea #3: Crab apple jam.  Kind of like our rhubarb-crab apple jam from a few weeks ago, but using only crab apples this time.  We used the liquid pectin that came from the same crab apples (of course!).  Eight cups crab apple sauce plus two cups liquid pectin equals ten cups total, which needs ten cups sugar (we used eight cups white plus two cups brown).

Looks pretty good, and it set right up! We've got a lot of peanut butter sandwiches to eat before next summer.

Idea #4: Fruit leather (our favorite).  Cookie sheet, silicone baking mat, and a 1/8" thick layer of crab apple sauce (still mixed with sugar in a 6:1 volume ratio).  We set the oven to its lowest temperature (150 °F for us), and it took 9-10 hours to get to the right consistency.

And when it did, it was awesome.  Best fruit leather we've ever made (although that's admittedly a small sample size).  We tore off the left side like two hungry velociraptors fighting over a roast pheasant. (Don't laugh, we've seen it happen.)  We picked a whole 'nother bucket of crab apples just to make more fruit leather.

Hey, look! It's a crab apple fruit roll up!  We're not professionals, but that silicone baking mat is.  We also made a batch in the dehydrator, but it took longer to dry and stuck to the tray.  It was so beat up by the time we got it free that we had to eat it immediately, just to put it out of its misery.

Idea #5 (bonus!): We also happened to find out that a pretty mean crisp can be made with the sauce (plus 6/1 sugar).  It doesn't have large apple pieces, but it does have all the other essentials of an apple crisp: tangy apple flavor in a fruity fruit layer, crispy crisp topping on top, and an irresistible attraction to vanilla ice cream.  For the topping, use a ratio of one cup each whole rolled oats and brown sugar, 0.75 cups flour, and 0.5 cup butter, almost melted.  (That amount will be good for a thin layer on a 9" x 13" pan.)  Sauce goes in the pan first, topping patted down on top, and whole shebang baked at 350 °F until crispy and delicious.  Can't go wrong!

Stay tuned for some experiments with the liquid!  In the meantime, what do you do with your crab apples?  Let us know in the comments section below!


  1. I have high hopes for a good crab apple harvest next year! And I'll know where to come for ideas. :) I think the silicon baking sheet is especially interesting. That fruit roll looks truly professional. I'll have to see about getting some of these.

    1. I hope you do get a good harvest! Our tree was loaded this year, but last year...nothing. It's really hit or miss with late snows/frosts in the spring here.

      The silicone baking sheets are pretty amazing things. We actually do most of our baking on stoneware cookie sheets now, but even though they're pretty well seasoned, I don't think they would be as nonstick as the silicone for this application.