Urban Foraging: Experiment #3–Crabapples!


I can’t believe this is only my third urban foraging experiment. Well, so far this one was more successful than the last two (though I’m not quite done, but almost!).

The beginning of it was particularly lovely. It was a HOT day, but the tree I picked from was in the shade, and as it was right next door, I could zip out while my girl was napping (my husband was there to watch her–don’t worry!) and pick in peace.

The picking was very easy and pleasant. The smell of the crabapples filled the air, and several people, including a small group of visitors from Spain, stopped to ask me what I was doing. It is amazing how impressed people become when they find out there is stuff to eat around them. It’s also amazing how much people want to talk when they come across someone doing something a little out of the ordinary. I think 4 different people stopped to chat or comment while I was out there.

And that was only a span of 15 or 20 minutes. And in that time I easily got the 13 cups of crabapples my recipe called for, and more! It’s so satisfying to hear the heavy plunk-plunk of fruit that is around 1 inch in diameter dropping into the jug (rather than tiny berries that seem to take forever!). On further review of the recipe I saw that it is adaptable for any quantity of fruit (juice), so the 16 cups (or 4 Litres) I gleaned worked out fine.

That was the fun part. The not-so-fun part was when I got them on the table and read the next instruction: “Stem and Quarter” 16 cups of crabapples. Gah! While it was lovely, warm and breezy outside, inside my dining room it was fairly sticky. Moreover, my back and legs hurt, and it turns out crabapples are surprisingly tough little fruit. I spent the next hour and a half chopping the little buggers. Every 5 minutes or so I would think about giving up, but the thought of reporting back to my loyal readers kept me going.

IMG_1422Well, I got through it (but BARELY!) and now had a big pot full of quartered crabapples, fragrant and read for the boil. And boil they did, for about 30 minutes, in the 80% humidity with a humidex of 38! But that’s just how hardcore I am. On reflection, I think chopping them in half only would be sufficient as they break down a lot in the water, and I could always mash them a bit if they seemed to be keeping their shape too much.

After boiling, I strained out the juice using cheesecloth instead of a jelly bag which I don’t have. I suspended the ball of crabapple pulp over a bowl overnight and dripped every last drop out of that ball of goo. I folded the cheesecloth so it was quadrupled, but it was still probably less fine than a jelly bag would have been. i didn’t squeeze the bag, but I suspect I won’t end up with crystal-clear gorgeous jelly, but a semi-opaque pinky stuff that will still be quite lovely.

After all this, I ended up with about 8 cups of juice, which I put in my freezer. THIS is where the satisfaction starts to come in. 8 cups of juice will get me lots of jars of jelly, especially after adding the sugar, and esPECially if I use tiny jars. PLUS if I get my act together today to put the pulp through the food mill to strain out the skins & seeds and then freeze it, I can make crabapple butter with that part. More yummy gifts for xmas!

I will wait until a cooler day in September before boiling the juice with sugar until the gel stage (have never done this–any advice??), pouring it into sterilized jars, and setting it into the hot water bath to finish. The nice thing about the butter is that it doesn’t have to gel, so that one will be even easier.

So my third urban foraging experiment has been a great success so far. I would even recommend it to other northern urban dwellers as a way to take advantage of this abundant fruit. I will report back with photos once I actually get the canning done.

8 thoughts on “Urban Foraging: Experiment #3–Crabapples!

  1. Awesome! I am just wondering why you didn’t pick and store the apples until a cooler day in the fall? I would have put them in a cool dry place (my basement) and waited till the weather cooled down. Can’t wait to hear how the jelly and butter turn out. What is fruit butter and what is it used for? I keep seeing references to it, but don’t really knwo what it is.

    1. I had thought about that, but apparently crabapples don’t do well in cold storage, so you have to juice them right away.

      To be honest, I’m not 100% sure about fruit butter! I have never eaten it, but I have seen it called for as a butter substitute in some baking recipes, and I think you can use it on toast/waffles/pancakes as well. I’ll let you know!

  2. I made crabapple jelly last fall, and for the first batch dutifully heated the fruit juice up to 210F (I used a martha stewart recipe) and then took it off the stove immediately. If I recall correctly, the resulting jelly ended up a bit watery, and subsequent batches were more jelly-like if I let it cook longer. One batch ended up a bit hard and difficult to spread easily, so it’s a fine line. A candy thermometre is very useful for this.

  3. Thanks for stopping by my blog! I’m really enjoying reading through yours — sounds like we’re on the same wavelength.

  4. I have a small apple tree in my front courtyard and it is surprisingly productive. After two weeks away for work I came home to a tree groaning under the weight of all the apples. I collected over 2 gallons of little apples on Friday and then spent much of this weekend dealing with them. In the last couple of months I’ve made liquer, apple pie, apple syrup, jam, applesauce, and blanched and frozen quite a lot. Dealing with about 1 gallon per day is my limit when they need to be peeled and cored. It can be exhausting.

  5. here are a few tips for your crabapple jelly. you don’t need to quarter or even remove the stem. just cut of the bloom end and throw it in the pot. for best results try following the old bernardin recipe found in the certo packets. perfection every time. fruit butters are amazing. every year i make apple butter and nothing tops of a pork dinner like it. or spread it on fresh tea biscuits for a compforting treat.

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