There is a shopping center near my home with several ornamental crabapple trees growing in the green spots around the parking lot. Every year, when I see them laden with fruit, I wonder if I could do something with those tiny, tart apples. Now, thanks to Ashley, I have a plan.
Crabapple trees can be a spectacular sight in the spring, as they’re covered in soft pink fragrant flowers. They’re an excellent small tree to plant for the bees and to beautify your yard, but few homeowners take advantage of their flavorful, but often tart, and difficult to process fruit.
Crabapples vary in size. The larger fruiting varieties have apples about the size of a golf ball. They are often selected for both beauty and a worthwhile snack. Around your neighborhood or in local parks, give a few a try. They might surprise you with their intense apple flavor and unexpected sweetness.
Smaller crabapple varieties usually are not quite so tasty. While they still pack a punch with apple flavor, they often contain unpleasant tannins, high acid levels and low levels of sweetness. Luckily, tannins and acids are necessary for producing the best fermented cider, and it’s easy to supplement sweetness with a bit of sugar in the fermentation process.
Even if you lack a juicer or press, crabapples can be easy to process into a tasty fermented crabapple cider using a food process or a blender. Simply place the whole fruit into a blender or food processor and coarsely chop before covering in water and sugar, no need to juice them to extract the flavor. The fermentation process will do the work for you and in the end you’ll filter out the pulp and be left with a tasty fermented cider to drink.
Fresh, raw, home-harvested crabapples also have the added benefit of a natural bloom of wild yeast on their skin, meaning that there’s no need to buy any special ingredients—just pick the apples and add water and sugar.
Fermented Crabapple Cider
Yield: Half Gallon
• Half gallon Mason jar
• Food processor or blender
• Fermentools kit
• 4-5 cups small crabapples
• 6-8 cups chlorine-free water
• 1.5 – 2 cups sugar or honey
- Pick 4-5 cups of crabapples off a tree you know to be un-sprayed. Ideally one from your yard or a neighbors yard.
- Place the crabapples in a food processor or blender and gently pulse. Your goal is to coarsely chop—not puree. If you don’t have a food processor or blender, you can just quarter them by hand. All you’re trying to do is break their skins and open them up a bit without turning them into mush. Once they’re chopped, place them into a half-gallon Mason jar.
- Dissolve 1.5 to 2 cups of sugar or honey in 6 cups of water. It helps to gently warm the water on the stove, stirring the sugar or honey until it’s completely dissolved. Allow the water to cool back to room temperature before pouring over the apples to prevent the heat from killing the natural yeast present on the apple skins.
- If necessary, add another cup or two of water to fill the jar to within an inch of the top. Place your Fermentools fermentation weight on top of the floating apple mass, this will help hold it down and prevent the gasses released in fermentation from pushing apple chunks up into your airlock. Without the fermentation weight, apple chunks may become lodged in the airlock, creating a huge mess!
- Cap your Mason jar with your Fermentools lid and air lock, and place in a warm spot out of direct sunlight until fermentation slows. Depending on the temperature, this could be 4-5 days or as much as two weeks.
- Filter out and discard the apple chunks and enjoy your fresh crabapple cider!
Doesn’t that sound refreshing? Other fermented beverage recipes that might interest you include kombucha, fermented grape soda, and fermented lemonade. Have any other favorites? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.