Recently, my neighbor Rita was telling me about this ancient old heritage crabapple tree in Batavia that she's been picking every other year since her boys were young (that's three decades!). She described it as having more apples than we could ever pick and the apples as being larger than the modern crabapple and less tart. I had to see this!
She told me she wasn't sure she'd have time to pick this year, but when I called and asked, "Have you picked yet?!" she was easy to convince. This is a tradition that should be maintained.
We set out Saturday morning for the tree...
Man, she wasn't lying. Check out these apples!
They were big and beautifully colored. I started by eating one, of course, right off the tree. It was tart but much more easily edible than any other crabapple I've ever tried. We got work, each with our own basket. Rita called out "I've got the low fruit!" She said her husband had teased her that she better bring a ladder (if you've ever met Rita you know why) but she said she was bringing one on two legs - that's me! I got the apples that were higher up. We made a great team.
They were so easy to pick and you could be really particular on quality control because of the abundance.
It didn't take long at all to fill a huge basket.
I decided to try Sweet and Sour Crabapples from Putting Food By but first, wine! If you've been reading my blog or following me on Instagram (@phillipsfarmbatavia) you know that I'm becoming a bit of a fermentation addict. It's so amazing to me to watch things transform through this simple process.
I looked online for a recipe and found one to sort of follow, but then kind of made it up based on my previous wine-making experiences. Here goes...
First I cleaned about five pounds of apples and cut them in half. I put them in a large stock pot then added about a cup of raisins and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Then I filled the pot with filtered water so that it was almost full.
I turned on the heat to high and when it began to boil, I added six cups (3 pounds) of sugar. I turned down the heat and let it simmer about ten minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Then I removed it from the heat, covered it with a clean dish towel and left it sit until morning. In the morning, I added a pinch of bread yeast, stirred it again, re-covered and left it.
For three days, I stirred the pot once each day the re-covered it with my clean towel. You could see the bubbles forming at the top - the tell-tale sign that fermentation has begun.
After this period, I strained out the solids - a nice treat for the ladies.
Then I poured the remaining liquid into a sterilized carboy to ferment. It smelled and tasted a lot like sweet apple juice.
Now the long wait begins. It will probably be two months (around mid-September) when it's ready to bottle.
- 5 pounds of crabapples, washed and halved
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- filtered water to fill a large stockpot
- 6 cups sugar
- pinch of yeast
- Wash apples and cut them in half. Put them in a large stock pot then add raisins and lemon juice. Fill the pot with filtered water so that it was almost full.
- Turned on the heat to high and when it begins to boil, add sugar. Turn down the heat and let it simmer about ten minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Remove from the heat, cover with a clean dish towel and leave overnight. In the morning, I add yeast, stir, and re-cover the pot.
- For three days, stir the pot once each day then re-covered it with the clean towel. You should see bubbles forming at the top to show fermentation has begun.
- After this period, strain out the solids and pour the remaining liquid into a sterilized carboy topped with an airlock to ferment for two months.
- When the liquid turns clear and the bubbling stops, you're ready to bottle it.
Check out Rita's post about crabapple picking too!