crab apples?

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reitenger

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I am wanting to play with some cider and will probably start with some of the recipes that have been posted already, but was really curious as to whether anyone had tried making cider with crab apples. I have two trees on my property and access to about a dozen more. Given that the two on my property put out enough apples last year to fill 4 55 gallon trashcans over the season I am thinking I could press enough juice to play with.

Just thought I would ask first to see if anyone had gone this route and found it not worth the trouble before I commit to taking all of the apples on these trees this spring
 

WVMJ

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Crabapples are definetly used in making cider. So what do your crabs taste like? We have an excellent bittersharp crab, it has a high acid level so it puckers your lips like a lemon, it also has a lot of tannins so after your lips get puckered the tannins try to dry your face off, very good qualities in a crab, plus when very ripe they have a high sugar level and have a lot of flavor. So what do your crabs taste like? If they have a balanced flavor then you can make a straight crab cider, if they are like ours, way to high acid, they can be blended into other cider to give them more balance and flavor. Do you know what kind of crab apple? Several kinds like Dolgos, Chestnut and Wicksons and Hewes are popular with making cider. I assume your crabs are like pingpong ball sizer or larger and not the little pea sized ones?

WVMJ
 

Pickled_Pepper

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I've used crab apples in cider and in wine and it adds a nice acidic punch. Like WVMJ said, you have to determine the flavor as to how much would need to be blended in. I have no clue what kind of Crab Apple Tree my neighbor has, but they are like small green apples. Probably 2-2.5" or so in diameter. Bitter as hell off the tree, but blended with apples at about 10% and it works well. I also like to add them to my mulberry wine since my mulberries don't have any acidity to them.

I've tried to make straight up Crab Apple Cider from them once, but it requires way to much back sweetening to get it to balance. (and it never really does from the variety I have access to)
 
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reitenger

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I'm not really sure what type they are. They do have a decent flavor, tart with a green apple pucker but they don't really have the dry aftershock.

The area I live in had huge apple orchards around the 1900's and a lot of it was left behind when they built houses onto the old farm. The trees that exist now are just wild offshoots of the originals. The size is pretty decent, somewhere around 80% the size of a granny smith. Usually I have gathered them up to help keep the yellow jackets away, but the wife is on me to brew her some cider
 

mopar318

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Are you sure they are crabs? Post a picture.

A tree with no pruning or nutrient additions will produce small fruit.

Oh...and green doesn't make it tart:D
 

EpicCider

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Honestly if it is fruit, I think it's worth a try brewing, but in this case it is very worth brewing. Crap apples are usually higher in tannin than typical store bought apples, and should produce a very balanced taste.

They might be a little low in sugar if not fully ripe, but overall they are probably a preferred apple for cider making.
 

gregbathurst

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Leave the crabs to ripen well, picked too early they may be too high in acid. Crabs usually have very high sugar so produce a high abv.
 

Jacob_Marley

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Definitely make cider with the crabs. That’s great you have access to so much.

I make crab cider or wine most years - and have been meaning to write down the recipe but because I make it from memory ... and procrastinate ... I have not gotten around to writing down a concise recipe.

One thing I would suggest is to make sure for yeast you use 71B-1122. Crabs are unusually acidic and high in malic acid, and malic is very sharp in taste, 71B is a yeast that reduces malic acid levels during fermentation.

In general ...

I pick the apples as late as I can before the first hard freeze to allow as much starch as possible convert to sugars ... watching to make sure the apples do not start getting rot on the tree from being over-ripe.

I de-stem at least 80% of them ... but much larger amounts of apples I would suggest just picking out any leaves, twigs and rotten apples. Whether to de-stem has to do with the size of the apples ... mine are “ornamental” size, like a large cherry, so there is a high volume of stems per the volume of apple.

I’d wash the apples in a K-meta solution ... do not leave the apples in the solution for more than about 20-30 minutes (i.e. not overnight) or they’ll absorb the solution.
Drain and, I would suggest, freeze them (if you can) to make them easier to crush. Put the apples into 2-gallon size freezer bags and freeze them for about 3-4 days (this way you know they are frozen through). Take them out and thaw them.
Crush, grind or process them. Though it’s a bit time consuming a food processor will do for smaller batches ... just a few pulses will do ... I’ve also crushed with a sanitized 4x4 post (like you tamp down stone aggregate etc).
For much larger batches like you are considering you may try to find someone with a cider mill/crusher (such as a roller mill).
People have different creative ways to grind the apples ... some use a brand new garbage disposal like you use on a sink (you can google that conversion) ... but while that may work with larger apples, with all the little stems on small crabapples I think it might clog if the apples are not mostly de-stemmed.

There is quite a bit of info and vids on processing the apples if you google around and check youtube.

Although I have the capacity to press a huge amount of apples without problem (my largest fruit press is a ratcheted 59 liter/200lb capacity model) I do *not* press the crabapples.
I ferment the milled apples on the skins & flesh ... and the enzymes and yeast very substantially reduce the pulp to being mostly incorporated into the must. Much easier and I find gives better flavor & color. You have to use the pectinase however when fermenting like this.

I put the apple pulp & juice in the primary fermenters (32 gallon Rubbermaid Brutes) and add just enough “warm but not hot” water, to cover. Add the pectic enzyme ... I use approximately 2 tablespoons of pectinase per 5 gallons of pulp/water. Let sit overnight, stir occasionally. Then, continue as normal, chaptalize etc.
If I am picking them somewhat earlier in the harvest season I'll also use a dose of amylase as well ... an enzyme to convert the starch. Not always necessary, but I usually do it anyway.

A final suggestion when picking all those small apples ... I am not choosy as I grab them by handfulls and put them in the bucket (I use 5 gallon buckets) ... only the ones that are really horrible I avoid grabbing. Then, when I do the “picking-them-over” while seated I sort the undesirable ones and twigs, leaves etc from the one’s I’ll use.

Labor intensive but provides a great product.
 

Pommeau

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I have to freeze my crabs in a chest freezer as they are ready (will rot/drop if left on) a good two months before my main ingredient apples are (Stayman in November)
Freezing, then thawing busts the cell walls effectively making them very mushy. Then they go through the grinder and get pressed just like the apples, which I put aside and blend into the apple must. i agree with Marley, they are a great tannic/acid addition.

Good results for me that way, And I've even found a way to turn crab apple juice into a belgian lambic.
.... I am currently waiting on a lambic a friends finishing off using 1/2 gallon of my crab juice.
 

Urkelbot

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Yooper has a great crabapple wine recipe, in wine section. I'm sitting on a gallon from october and can't wait for it to finish.
 
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