I love Fall, and not just for all things pumpkin spice. I’m pretty big into gardening and it’s always so satisfying when you can collect a large harvest at the end of the growing season.
I’ll admit, although I love to garden, I’ve definitely had some years where my harvest hasn’t been great (can you relate??) This is why I LOVE the fact that I can always count on my crab apple tree for some fresh abundance.
Crab apples are so prolific! I tried my hardest this year to collect them all and let me tell you….after all the preserving and recipes I made…I STILL have probably 400 left on the tree! My neighborhood squirrel is happy:)
When to harvest crab apples
Just like regular apple trees, crab apples will mature at different times depending on the variety. If you are like me and have no idea what type of crab apple tree you have, then try these ways to figure out if it’s time to harvest:
- The apple easily pulls away from the branch
- The tree has begun to drop some of it’s fruit
- The flesh of the apple is slightly soft
- The apple tastes sweet (with crab apples they usually have a tartness to them, but if you sample your apples throughout the growing season then you will have a benchmark to work from)
Can you eat crab apples fresh?
Yes! Most crab apples are actually quite sweet when they are ripe. Small in size, they pack a ton of flavor that’s perfect for fresh eating! Most crab apples will keep in cold storage for at least a month (or more), so be sure to save some of your harvest for fresh eating.
Ways to preserve crab apples
There are many ways to preserve crab apples if you are not able to store them fresh, or if you know you won’t be able to eat them all this way. Here are a few ideas:
The BEST way to dehydrate crab apples
I find dehydrating crab apples to be an easier process than dehydrating larger traditional apples.
The small size of a crab apple makes slicing and coring a breeze!
In this video, I show you how we dehydrate our crab apples in an easy step by step process.
- Wash and dry the apples
- remove the stems
- slice the apples
- use a long metal smoothie straw like this one, or a piping tip like we used to core the apples
- lay the slices on the dehydrating trays
- dehydrate at 170 degrees for 12 hours
You can set the dehydrator overnight and wake up to a beautifully smelling home!
How to Seperate crab apple pulp from seeds and peels
If you are opting to make apple sauce or an apple butter from your crab apples, then you’ll need to seperate the pulp from the seeds and stems.
For my apple butter, I cook the apples down whole with a little bit of water added to a large pot.
Once the apples break down, I transfer the mixture to a food mill. This is the one I used.
You can use a fine strainer here as well, but I like the ease of using the mill.
Once you run your apple puree through the mill you’re left with all the good pulp needed for making sauces and butter and the rest can be composted!
What to do with crab apple pulp
As I mentioned, you can use the pulp of crab apples to create healthy, homemade apple sauce for snacking and baking.
You can choose to can this sauce or refridgerate it for a few weeks!
Apple sauce actually freezes really well also. This frozen sauce is great when you portion it out into the amounts you need for your favoirite recipes ahead of time.
When it comes time to bake, just take out your pre-m,easured portion and defrost it, either in the microwave, or in a bowl full of hot water (keeping it in its original container, of course).
If you’re a pre-planner, then take it out of the freezer and place it into the fridge the night before.
You can freeze apples cubed as well.
This works well for recipes where you will be using the apples to bake with, such as bread and apple pies.
Canning crab apples
Another way to preserve crab apples is by canning them!
I wouldn’t recommend canning them whole, as most crab apples wouldn’t keep their shape when subjested to the high heat of a canner.
Instead create a delicious recipe like my slow cooker crab apple butter.
This cans beautifully and you can give the jars as gifts as well!
You can of course can applesauce as well.
Apple juice is yet another delicous way to preserve the harvest and by canning it you can enjoy it throughout the year.
You can create apple pie filling and can this yourself as well! Check out this delicious recipe for homemade crab apple pie filling.
What to do with crab apple cores
You can actually use the cores as a ferment to make your owen apple cider vinegar!
I love being able to reuse scraps this way.
Not only is this a frugal way to create something useful, but it allows you to make two products whithout any extra effort on your part.
To make homemade apple cider vinegar, check out this detailed post from the Prairie Homestead that I followed.
Best tools for processing crab apples
Here are some of my favorite tools for processing crab apples.
The reviews for these tools are great. Be sure to watch for sales!
- This is a super basic rotary food mill. It’s inexpensive, easy to clean, and makes separating the pulp from the seeds and skins really easy.
- This water bath canner comes with a canning rack. Again, it’s really inexpensive and a great tool for preserving apples and so much more. I just got into canning this year and I have to say, it’s a lot of fun!
- These canning jars are a half-pint size. This is the perfect amount to give as gifts and to use throughout the year without the sauce or apple butter going bad before you can get through it all.
- I use this Hamilton Beach food dehydrator. I like that the trays are rectangular rather than round. I also like that it isn’t super expensive. It’s always done a perfect job for us.
I hope you guys find a way that works well for you to preserve your harvest.
Let me know how you’ve used crab apples in the past, and if you have a favorite recipe to share!
Here’s a pin for your board so you can come back to this post when you’re ready to get creative!
More Fall Recipes
Have a look at these recipes that are just perfect for Fall:
- Vegan Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts
- Vegan Pumpkin Bread
- Dairy-Free Creamy Butternut Squash Soup
- Easy Vegan Minestrone Soup-Vegan Comfort Food
- Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies-With Cinnamon and Clove
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