The Great Crab Apple Experiment

The apples are ripe and I’ve been making applesauce galore. It is definitely the time of the year for that project. I’ve eaten some of it, given away some of it, and the rest has been put in the freezer.

I have been getting apples from my Becker Farms CSA (community supported agriculture) share, Thompson Farm, and the weekly farmers market. Years ago, when my mother started teaching me how to make applesauce, she impressed upon me the importance of using at least three different types of apples to add color and flavor to the applesauce.

As I was walking to the Thompson farm, I noticed the crab apple tree. It produces tiny apples in bunches. These apples are very tart. I like the sensation of sour but these itty bitty apples are almost too much. 

What would happen if I collected a bunch of crab apples for the applesauce? I decided to challenge myself to find out. It would be my experiment.

I decided that there’s only one way to find out! Go for it! Which I did. I made a beeline for that tree and began collecting bunches of those hard little crab apples.  Then I walked to the farm, where I purchased three types of apples: Crispin, Jonagold, and honey crisp. I already had a whole bunch of Empire apples, which came with my CSA share on Friday. On my walk back home, I collected more of the hard little crab apples.

Yesterday, I made the applesauce and discovered that I had more than two and a half cups worth of those little crab apples. I also discovered that cutting them was quite the challenge. They are very hard and they are full of small seeds.

Eventually, I just chopped them in half and removed the stems and hoped for the best.

What was the result of the experiment? First, the crab apples, being very hard, needed more cooking time than did the other apples. Also, the crab apples added a great deal of tartness to the applesauce. They are much more sour than Granny Smith apples, which are considered to be among the tartest of apples. The applesauce tasted as if I had already added the juice of one or two lemons.

So, instead of adding the juice of three lemons, which is what I normally add, I cut it back to one lemon, mainly for the purpose of adding moisture. I also added honey (I buy raw local honey at the farm), grated lemon peel, and cinnamon. And then did my taste test. I was happy with the result. Cutting back on the lemon juice was definitely a good idea.

Much of the applesauce went into the freezer. It will be a fine addition to my Thanksgiving dinner next month.

In the next few weeks, I will plan on roasting my pumpkins, and that, too, will go into the freezer, to be turned into a Thanksgiving delicacy. Life is good when you have lots of locally grown food to eat and to share.


Would I repeat the crab apple experiment? The applesauce turned out to be delicious but chopping those little apples was a great deal of extra work so I don’t know. But if I really just didn’t have enough apples for a full batch of applesauce, then yes. In small quantities, for sure. (note: Today’s dinner consisted of food mostly obtained from local farmers: a pork chop with a sauce flavored with apricot jam, roasted yam and apple, and the applesauce.)

11 thoughts on “The Great Crab Apple Experiment”

  1. Your applesauce had my mouth puckering! It also brought back memories when my grqndmr would make applesauce loaded with cinnamon!

  2. You need to get a foley mill. We have one and it really reduces the chopping! Just cook the apples put them through the mill and voila – the bad stuff stays behind (cores, seeds, peels)

  3. Corinne Rodrigues

    Applesauce seems so yummy. I enjoyed reading your post, all the time wishing I could try this out. We get our apples mostly from Kashmir and don't get too many varieties in the market!

  4. Cool experiment! Not sure where you are from, but sounds like the Midwest? I'm from Michigan, and when my mom would make "freezer applesauce" (she didn't like to can) she always used the Jonagold and/or Macintosh. She always said that Macintosh was the best for pies too. (I know many from the Midwest would disagree — we all have our favorites!) This post definitely made me hungry for some real Michigan apples!

  5. Neat! I love that you are already preparing for Thanksgiving, and that you are using local resources. For some reason, I don't like applesauce anymore, but I do like it if it is blended with say, pork chops (cue Brady Bunch reference), or in something baked.

  6. I haven't seen crab apples in a really long time! I am trying to work more with local resources so this is really encouraging!

  7. I didn't know that crab apples were edible! I think I'd just throw them in uncut and strain them after they were cooked.

  8. We had an apple tree in our backyard that sadly died mysteriously a couple years ago, but gave us a good harvest of apples the first few years we moved in..and that meant applesauce
    your post reminded me of those times.
    And now my dd makes applesauce from store bought apples if she needs them for baking

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