When life gives you crab apples...

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Dec 14, 2018
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Here's a variation on a theme, which I'm sure someone has posted on before. We have a crab apple tree which produces radish-sized crab apples galore. I've heard the term "crab apples" used when talking about small and tart apples, but this tree produces fruit that looks just as much like a berry than a true apple. They get unsightly and messy if you don't pick them, so whether or not you do something with them or not, the picking is a big chore. I bet we took 500+ lbs of apples off the tree last year and this year looks to be a bumper crop.


With three reluctant boys in tow, plus my partner-in-crime, we collected this many apples this morning.


The goal is to pick enough to make 20 L of juice. Sorry, I'm Canadian, but that should be 5 gallons. My wife will make syrup from 8 L of the juice, and the remaining 12 L I'll use to make a slight hack of EdWort's Apfelwein recipe. I'll take the 12 L of crab apple juice and top it up with 8 L of store bought juice to do a brew a full 5 gallon carboy.

This will be my 3rd year making my Crab-Apfelwein, with every year being a learning process and leading to the next year's batch being tweaked slightly.

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Does anyone else do something similar? Apart from the syrup and apfelwein, my wife has made jelly and apple crisp (a lot of work for the product) from our pickings. Does anyone else have creative ways to use crab apples?
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My wife turns the apples from our 5 into jelly. She used a new pectin two years ago and it ended up between a jelly and very thick syrup. I used the case she was going to dump to make a gallon batch of cider/wine. Even using 71B yeast it still finished sweet. Good mixed with some soda water though.
I'll land up freezing the juice for awhile (buried in the freezer beside the choke cherries that will be made into wine), until I have a free Saturday to get a batch going. In the meantime, there's half a tree full of crab apples that need to be taken down before they get messy and before it gets too cold.

Yesterday, I placed the 12 L (3 gallons) of crab apple juice into a 5 gallon cleaned and sanitized carboy. I added 2 Tsp of pectic acid (I don't want to make jelly and I don't want a hazy wine) and 4 crushed campden tablets (to kill off any wild yeast) and then let the juice sit for about 30 hours.

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This afternoon, I added 1.5 tsp of acid blend and 1.5 tsp of yeast nutrient and gave it a good stir before topping up the 12 L of crab apple juice with 8 L of store bought pure apple juice (cheap Western Family boxed juice, not from concentrate, and with no additives). Along the way, I added 1.4 kg of dextrose, which is 3ish lbs. That brought the SG to 1.65. As with most of the people on the Apfelwein thread, I used Red Star Montrachet yeast.

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Now comes a lot of waiting. As others have mentioned, patience pays with Apfelwein. I won't be drinking any of this batch until next Summer, but it will be worth the wait. Before bottling, I will prime with some apple juice. For my first couple of batches, I used a can of pure apple juice concentrate, which was more-than-sufficient to carbonate in the bottles. However, I haven't been successful in finding apple juice concentrate lately, so I might land up using 1 L of soft apple cider to provide the needed sugars before bottling. These crab apples are very sharp and tart tasting. My boys will eat them, but I can't do it. I back sweeten, before bottling, with liquid stevia. My notes show that I used 70 drops of liquid stevia last year, which I'll probably stick to.

I have many bags of choke cherries frozen in my basement freezer. Starting the long drawn out process of turning them into delicious choke cherry wine will be my next Fall task!