Sunday, October 2, 2011

Spiced Pickled Crab Apples

     Most of my inspiration/interest/drive for canning comes from trying to recreate things I had as a kid that I can't get here in the city. The following recipe is my take on one of my grandmother's.

    In the late summer crab apple season starts, usually around the second week of August. For the next few weeks there is a flurry of activity gathering up as many of these tart little beauties as I can find. Back on the farm, wild crab apples are everywhere. Here in the city, it is a bit more of a challenge. In the past, I have managed to grab as many as 70 pounds of crab apples during the season. I go through a lot.

     Most end up like this, as stock for making jelly. Either straight crab apple or as the base for onion, garlic, herb, sun dried tomato, hot pepper or any combination of the above. I prefer crab apple to apple because I like the taste and it doesn't require any further reduction before you use it for jelly making.

     Canning the actual stock allows me to make use of the apples before they spoil and I don't have to be in the kitchen making jelly until I have time later in the fall. Win, win for me.

     I also try and make a batch (or two or three) of spiced pickled crab apples. These graced the table at my grandmother's house all the time but are especially good with roast pork, chicken or turkey. My recipe is different from hers. I suspect hers were done in a sugar syrup but I like this one so haven't tried any other.

Spiced Pickled Crab Apples
3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
18 all spice berries
18 whole cloves
4 1/2 cups white sugar
3 cups water
2 1/2 cups of vinegar - I use white or cider, usually cider
8 cups/ 4lbs of stemmed crab apples

Prepare 6 500ml/pint jars according to manufacturers instructions
Stem crab apples and prick all around with a fork. The stems will make the brine very bitter and the apples will "pop" like a baked potato if they aren't pricked.
Milder spicing
Tie all spices in a square of cheesecloth to make a spice bag.
Combine all ingredients except crab apples in a large non reactive stock pot.
Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to disolve the sugar.
Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes to infuse the brine with the spices

Or (and this is what I do)
Bolder Spicing
Place threes cloves, allspice berries and a half stick of cinnamon into each of your 6 prepared jars.
Combine sugar, water and vinegar in a large non reactive stock pot.
Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to disolve the sugar.
No need for simmering, you aren't flavouring the brine.

Remove spice bag from brine (if using) and add prepared crab apples.
Return to a boil.
Simmer 1-5 minutes until apples soften slightly ,the brine will pick up the bright red of the crab apples.
Pack hot crab apples into jars using a slotted spoon and funnel, leaving 3/4 inch headspace.
Fill with brine to leave 1/2 inch headspace.
Remove any large air bubbles.
Top with sterile lids then screw bands until finger tip tightness.
Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.
Remove from heat, remove canner lid and allow to stand for 5-10 minutes.
This allows the pressure to equalize in the jars and helps prevent siphoning and leaking.
Remove from canner and allow to cool.
Check seals and refrigerate any unsealed jars.

     This recipe is adapted from the Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving. I tried to follow their directions exactly the first time I made a batch of these and ended up with mush in my stockpot. The original calls of simmering the apples 10 -20 minutes, way too long in my experience.

     You may end up with little bubbles around your crab apples. These are formed as the apples continue to cook as you are processing them. You won't win a ribbon at the county fair but it doesn't affect the pickles.

    These will keep at least a year, but if you have the spices in the jar, the taste will continue to develop, becoming stronger and stronger.

      I took these for granted as a kid, there were always a bevy of pickles, relishes and preserves on my mother's and grandmother's table with every meal. After I moved away, these were hard to find and crazy expensive to buy. A bit of work to make but definitely worth the effort. Enjoy.

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