Ever wonder what to do with all of those little crab apples from your favourite backyard tree? I'll admit I've never been much of a fan of the tart, bite-sized fruits, but these have completely changed my mind! I've tried a few different recipes to help tame their sourness and can tell you that this recipe is THE ONE! Something to keep in mind for next year, once we make it to those long days of summer again!
The tree on our farm is ancient. It's roots run deep and has been there since my dad was young. There have been a few meagre harvests from it, but mostly we allow nature to take it's course and a herd of mule deer enjoy munching on the apples once they drop. The surrounding bush has grown and recently thinned out so that our apple tree has flourished in the recent years. Last year I was able to pick multiple times, filling my bin, all while still leaving ample amounts for the deer. I love being able to cook and eat ingredients directly from our farm. Even pickled or processed, there is so much freshness to them! It's hard to beat that kind of flavour!
I stumbled across this recipe for pickled apples in an old canning book, with pages barely holding together, and it reminds me of the days when cold cellars were full of homemade preserves to last through the winter. Eating seasonally in Alberta can be quite challenging, especially when the temperature plummets well below the freezing mark. Having canned fruits and vegetables can make all the difference. I'm amazed at how versatile these pickled crab apples are!
Try stirring them into your yogurt for a tangy bite, or add them to a salad... even better - top vanilla ice cream with pieces of apple and a bit of the juice. You'll be on the hunt for more apples before you know it!
Pickled Crab Apples
a quart of crab apples
1 3/4 cups cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
3 cups warmed sugar (just heat it slightly in the microwave before adding, this prevents the liquid from cooling)
1 Tbsp cardamom pods
1 tsp whole cloves
Gently prick apples all over with a fork. This will help prevent them from bursting as they cook.
Combine vinegar, water and sugar in a pot. Add cardamom pods and cloves to the pot; bring to a boil.
Turn heat down and add the apples to the pot. Add the apples and simmer until they are tender but still hold their shape. Here it is very important to keep a close eye on your apples…it is very easy to over cook them which will cause them to burst and/or turn to mush. Lift them carefully out of the vinegar, using a slotted spoon, and pack them into hot, sterilized jars.
Pour the hot syrup over the apples so that it completely covers them and seal the jars.
Check seals and store in a cool, dark place for 6-12 months.