They’re coming. It’s about that time.
If you have an apple tree in your back yard, they’re about to start abandoning their post, if they haven’t already. You may have already experienced the little tarts dive-bombing your head, or they may be starting to compost themselves right there on your lawn. Don’t you love sliding through an apple that has already turned itself into applesauce on the inside? Slippery little so-and-sos.
We talked about crab apples on the Eyeopener yesterday morning. It’s a fascinating topic if you have a crab apple infestation problem. Also very cool: the Calgary Urban Harvest Project (formally Calgary Fallen Fruit Rescue Program) – a team of volunteers who will come harvest your tree, then divvy up the fruits of their labour: some for you, some for them, some for the food bank, and some for sale at the Hillhurst-Sunnyside Farmers’ Market on Wednesday afternoons. They even do fresh-pressed-on-the-spot crabapple cider! How very cool is that?
The thing that makes people so crabby about these apples is their size. No one wants to bother peeling and coring as many as you’d need to get a pie out of it. People make jelly because you can just cook and mash them, and the cores have tons of pectin, so it sets up well. But there isn’t a jelly maker in all of us. Nor wine – a project I’ve yet to let take over my dining room. But crabapples have some selling points – they’re tart and flavourful, with potential to be more than just compost.
So what to do with them? During a spontaneous conversation on the subject in the RedPoint offices last week, someone told me about her mother slow-roasting them with cinnamon, then snacking on them by picking them up by the stem, and pulling the soft fruit off with her teeth and pulling the wee core out by the stem. What makes this even more brilliant is that you don’t even have to bother stemming them. And how easy is dumping a bunch of apples out on a rimmed baking sheet? You don’t even need to haul out your largest pot.
I tried it, and it worked, but the cinnamon didn’t stick much. For the second batch I drizzled the apples with just a tad of canola oil and rolled them around – this made the dusting of cinnamon stick, and it also gave the apples a nicely roasted exterior.
All you do to slow roast apples is spread them out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle them with a bit of oil if you want, dust them with cinnamon if you want, and roast them at 300?F for an hour and a half. You may want less or more time if your apples are smaller or bigger than mine, which are about 1 1/2″ in diameter. Really, you just want to roast them until they’re soft and wrinkled. There’s no need for sugar, even though mine are tart when they’re raw – although I imagine a drizzle of maple syrup would be most fab.
Then I made chutney. I’m a fan. Chutney is easier to make than jam, if you’re intimidated – it doesn’t need to set, and is a thick, sweet-tart fusion of fruit, onions, sugar and vinegar, spiced with whatever you like – curry powder or fresh thyme from the garden. Or whatever. The beauty of a chutney is its chunkiness, which comes in very handy when you’re trying to disguise an apple core. I experimented by putting a whole whack of whole (stemmed) crabapples in the slow cooker with cranberries, onions, sugar, vinegar et al, and it cooked down into this wonderful stuff in which no one could detect apple core, which were of course pretty small to begin with. Victory.
And yes, I pickled some. Because every time the topic of WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THOSE %$%#!! APPLES came up, someone’s mother or grandmother used to pickle them. And if you can pickle an onion or a beet with delicious results, why not a crabapple? I used a similar formula to the one I use for beets, and added some whole spices and rosemary sprigs, because they were there. I haven’t stored them for longer than a day so far – I’ll keep you posted. But aren’t they purdy? They need big old glass mason jars for storage – you can sometimes find them at Value Village, or at garage sales, or in my basement.