Travelling around the countryside and the city, in these late summer months, you will notice apple trees full of ripe apples of many different varieties. In my mother-in-laws village in Cambridgeshire, at the end of her road there are numerous crab apple trees. Each year the fruits fall to the ground and nobody eats them or uses them. I guess their small size makes them less attractive to consume than larger apples. Such an opportunity missed! Not for me though. With them I make chutneys and tarts. However, the crop from these trees is so bountiful I need to be creative to use them up. Conscious of my consumption of sugar, I thought about a jam with less sugar. However, what I've ended up with is this glorious apple butter.
Apple Butter Using Foraged Wild Crab Apples
So what's my secret? I use beautiful rosy crab apples and the juice from other apples to make a luxurious, low sugar apple butter. It is the rosy crab apples that give this butter the beautiful colour and flavour. Crab apples are edible, contrary to what many people think. They are a bit tart though and not to everyone's taste, which makes them perfect for jellies and in my case apple butter. In this recipe, the crab apples are cooked with the skin on and then pureed.
For the extra flavour kick I add the juice of other larger apples gathered on my foraging trips.The cores from these I keep to make apple cider vinegar.
Since I use hardly any sugar, I can enjoy this guilt-free everyday on top of my porridge, on a piece of sourdough and even use it to make a quick dessert. My favourite is layering the apple butter onto filo pastry sheets, sprinkling with seeds and then baking it. Yum yum!
Since beginning wild food foraging, I am astonished at what I have missed in nature that is good to eat and free. It makes me reflect on all the wonderful layers of detail we miss in this wonderful world just through not noticing! Foraging has taught me to slow down and really observe.
Wild apples are literally in abundance at the moment (early September), both in the towns and the countryside. So much just falls to the floor and rots. By gratefully accepting natures offerings I feel I am doing my little bit to tackle food waste and climate change.
Grab a basket and go look for some wild apples and while you are out, why not gather some wild blackberries and wild plums! If you are quick you can still harvest some elderberries and make my elderberry syrup!
Here is a video guide to making your crab apple butter.
Luxurious Crab Apple Butter
- Muslin cloth
- 2 kg Crab Apples After coring you will have 1kg, if you are using foraged apples like me. If using store bought apples, you will need less
- 750 ml Water For cooking the apples
- 750 gms Apples After coring you will have 375gms
- 375 ml Water For making the apple juice
- 100 gms Demerra Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
Making the Apple Juice
- Wash and core the apples for juicing.
- Transfer to blender together with 375 ml of water and blend.
- Bring all the corners of the muslin cloth together and press to release the juice. Once all the juice is out, compost the pulp.
- Transfer this blended mix onto a muslin cloth, placed on a sieve with a bowl underneath to catch the juice.
Cooking The Crab Apples
- Wash and core crab apples.
- Transfer cut crab apples to a large pot.
- Add 750ml of water and bring it to a boil. Once you reach boiling point turn the heat down to simmer and cook crab apples for about 20-30 minutes.
- Check if the crab apples are cooked by pressing the apple on the side of the pot, if it is soft and breaking its ready.
- Set aside to cool.
- Puree the cooked crab apples in a blender and bring it back to a large pot.
- Add the apple juice and sugar. Bring to a boil, while stirring the apple butter.
- Once it has reached boiling point, turn down the hob to simmer on medium heat.
- Continue simmering and constantly stirring for 30 minutes or till you have a smooth thick paste. You will know its done when the apple butter is shining and has coating consistency (when a spoon is dipped into the apple butter, it will cling the the spoon as it drips off)
- Once ready turn off the heat and let it cool for 10 mins or so.
- Transfer butter into sterilised jars and shut the lid tightly. Leave on the kitchen counter to cool down.
Crab Apple Butter Recipe Notes
This recipe is a labour of love. You will need to pay attention and keep stirring so that the butter does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Be careful of splatter as the it bubbles away and thickens!
Don't use cooking apples for this recipe as it will make the butter too tart.
If using store bought apples, you may need fewer apples. Since this recipe is based on foraged apples, the wastage can be higher as some of the wild apples end up having bugs, or may be rotten inside.
To best manage your time, first get the crab apples cooking. While they are cooking, you can get the apple juice ready.
You can keep the unopened crab apple butter at room temperature. ( If you live in an area where the temperature is above 18ºC, I would refrigerate the butter ) Once open, refrigerate it and consume within a week or so( For my family, one 250 ml jar, usually doesn't last a week )
The crab apple butter will keep for three months if the jar has been sterilised properly. Be sure to use a clean spoon for serving so as to avoid contaminating the apple butter and encouraging mould growth.