We're talking about local apples this week, and we couldn't let the week pass without a mention of crab apples. Crab apples are the wild, cherry-sized fruit clustered on trees all over our neighborhood this time of year. The trees are prized for their hardiness and gorgeous flowers, but the fruit usually goes to waste. Have you ever tasted a raw crab apple? So sour it will make your mouth pucker and your eyes squeeze up!
But there is one very, very good use for crab apples that we've found, and it's ridiculously easy.
The one standard culinary use for crab apples is jelly. They are very high in pectin, so they easily gel into a thick, spicy, delicious jelly.
We didn't have enough fruit for jelly, though, and we refused to believe that was the only use for them. While researching baked apples and other ideas, we discovered a recipe for crab apples poached in wine.
Now this sounded more promising! In fact, the idea was very appealing. We were having a guest to dinner, and we were already serving pesto with goat cheese and crackers, and sweet-tart apples seemed a good complement. The size of these apples was so good for appetizers, too; the stems were all still attached, like cherries, and they would make the perfect small bite.
We made quite a few tweaks to the original recipe, though. We added different spices and used a sweeter wine.
The result? Even better than we hoped. With less than ten minutes of work we had a bowl of poached red crab apples, much the sweeter for their simmer in wine and spices. They retained much of their original tartness but there was a new sweetness and a hint of cinnamon. They were much softer, too, like gelled applesauce lollipops. We ate them straight off the stems, eating the sweet flesh and leaving the rough cores with tiny seeds inside.
Here's our revised recipe. We really recommend this for fall parties, appetizers, and even dessert. These would be wonderful served with a sweet creamy cheese. They keep well, too.
Crab Apples Poached in Sweet Wine
makes 1 pound
1 pound cherry-sized crab apples, stems still attached. 1 cup sweet Riesling 1/2 cup white sugar 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half 5 whole cloves Zest of 1 orange Pinch salt
Wash the apples and set aside. Combine the wine, sugar, spices and salt. Bring to a simmer, stirring. When the sugar has completely dissolved, add the apples. Cover and turn to low. Simmer for 5 minutes, checking frequently near the end. Remove as the apples get tender - just before their skins start popping.
Put the apples and their juices in the fridge and let cool completely. They will keep for several days.