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What exactly are crab apples?

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Kees

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As the title says: what do you mean by crab apples? Which are suitable for cider and which aren't?
 

Verac

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I’m no expert and I’m sure someone will come along with more info, but crab apples are wild apples. Table/cider apples are are cultivated to be larger and specific flavors, but crabapples are wild, generally small, and generally don’t taste very good eaten raw by themselves.

Im trying to find some to pick and juice now to add to my other juice. I’m looking for the tart and other flavors to enhance the blander table apples flavor.
 

ncguire

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Crab apples is kind of a generic term to me. But usually people refer to any apple varieties very small in size as crabs. Yes, and many crab apples are wild species native to different parts of the world, but some are also cultivated and are fine for eating or cider, like Dolgo, Wickson or Chestnut crabs. Some great cider apples are considered crabs, maybe just because of their small size, but some apples are intentional hybrids with normal apples and wild species, like the popular cider variety Redfield, which usually isn't even referred to as a crab because of its large size. Crabs may be desirable in cider for different reasons, but usually as a source of acid or tannins or because they may be naturally high in sugar. Which are considered suitable just depends on what flavor you are going for and the characteristics of the fruit you can find. Some may make a great cider all by themselves and others may be so bitter and astringent that they can only be a small part of a blend. Think of it like table salt and just add it to taste.
 

gregbathurst

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There are many species in the apple genus Malus, all in the N hemisphere. As far as I know none have poisonous fruit and all can be eaten or used in cider, but most of the Asian species have very small fruit which are unsuitable because of the effort involved. One difference between cultivated apples and crabs is that the stems hold much stronger with crabs, so they are often harder to pick. If you live in a warm climate early fruit drop can be a problem so strong stems can be a good thing, the fruit don't drop very easy. You can raise crab apples easily from seed, they need about 6 weeks cold treatment but the seedlings usually flower and fruit quite young.
 

Yooper

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Crabapples are from the genus malus, same as "eating apples". The ornamental varieties grown from pretty flowers have tiny hard fruit not suitable for eating, but some crabapples are great.

I grow rescue and centennial crabs, for cider as well as fresh eating. They are much larger than those little ornamental crab varieties. They are the size of a small apple, and one variety turns red when ripe while the other stays green and reddish.
 

Ronnb

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"Crabapples" as simply a smaller, more acidity variety of apple which can be useful in making cider if one needs more acidity in their batch.
If you've got some, by all means use them so long as they are ripe.
 

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Acidity or bitterness/tannin?
Maybe both, or neither, depending on the variety. I have centennial crabs, rescue and also dolgo. They are all three different, and they are great in mixing with others in my apple wine blends.

There are different catagories of apples, like bittersharps, bittersweets, etc. A bittersharp is tannic but also acidic. A bittersweet is low in acid, but high in tannin. Sweet apples are low in both. Sharps are high in acid, low in tannin.

Apples and crabapples both are categorized that way.
 

Bocochoco

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Ok so from what I know, crabapples are actually endemic to the Americas. They make for good ciders due to the high acid/tannin levels present.
There are hundreds of types. Eat one. If its tart and juicy, use it.
If its crazy astringent then the tannins might be too high for general alcohol use.
 

Bocochoco

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Thomas Jefferson's favorite cider apple was a crab apple.
This is why I love this board. You've given me a new tree
Hewes Crab
The Hewes Crab was Jefferson's premier cider apple (though the lost Taliaferro variety produced his favorite stuff). It was a Virginia apple, partial to Virginia soil and climate, that had emerged near Williamsburg around 1700
 

EdwardTrunk

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As the title says: what do you mean by crab apples? Which are suitable for cider and which aren't?
I'm trying crab apples for the first time this year. I'm adding them to my regular garden apple tree mix to make it less sweet. I read recommendations to use crab apples for 20% of the juice. I got 2 lots of crab apples and put a little of each through an electric blender, then pressed the mash to taste what the juice was like. One lot was tiny red crab apples from an ornamental crab apple tree. The red juice tasted very sour, a bit like unsweetened cranberry juice, so I discarded these crab apples. The second lot were windfalls from wild crab apples in a nearby woodland - much larger and gave a yellow juice which tasted quite like ordinary apple juice, though sharper and rougher. I mashed & pressed enough of these (easy) to fill a fermentation barrel up to 20% volume, then topped up the rest with apple juice from my garden apple trees. Let's see what the result will be!

On this occasion I washed the apples & crab apples and used a commercial cider yeast. But I noticed that crab apple juice seemed to ferment naturally very easily so I'm wondering about in future using it as a trigger for a natural yeast fermentation.
 

Ronnb

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I'm trying crab apples for the first time this year. I'm adding them to my regular garden apple tree mix to make it less sweet. . . The red juice tasted very sour, a bit like unsweetened cranberry juice, so I discarded these crab apples.
Mind you in some parts people refer to cider apples as "spitters" because they are so acidic, so don't be afraid of using some of these fruit or try making a test batch using those "spitters" just to see what you can get from them.
 

MtnGoatJoe

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Mind you in some parts people refer to cider apples as "spitters" because they are so acidic, so don't be afraid of using some of these fruit or try making a test batch using those "spitters" just to see what you can get from them.
I don't have any experience using these kinds of apples, but I've hear that the spitters are what you want for cider. You'd want to experiment with the percentage, but don't be so hasty to throw these out. Good luck!
 
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