Crab apple trees are generally grown for their ornamental benefits. Big beautiful blossoms in spring and tiny apples from late summer onward.
Most people take a bite from a crab apple once in their life and promptly consign the fruit to a category marked ‘inedible’. This is a shame, because although fresh raw crab apples are frightful, they can be easily turned into all manner of delicious things.
The crab apple tree in our front garden has produced a big crop of bright red fruit this year. Each apple is small and dense but full to bursting with juice so it would be a crying shame not to pluck some of those little fellahs and make something from them. Crab apples are one of the ancestors of our modern cultivated apples, so pretty much anything you can make with an ordinary apple, you can make with crab apples instead.
This year I decided to make a few gallons of wonderful crab apple wine.
I started by filling a bowl with four pounds of apples. The rest I left on the tree for the blackbirds. The windfalls will be enjoyed by lots of insects as well as any mice, foxes and badgers that might be in the area.
I worked through the apples removing any that were rotten on mouldy. A little insect damage isn’t a problem (woodlice seem especially happy to munch on a crab apple) so long as the rest of the fruit is sound.
I gave the apples a good wash, removed the stalks and cut the apples in half. Next (and this is optional) I froze the halved apples overnight. This helps to break up the cells so they release more juice and flavour at the next step.
The next day I defrosted the apples and crushed them (wooden mallet works fine) and placed them into a muslin cloth bag. This will act like a giant teabag. I put the bag of crushed crab apples into my fermentation bucket with 6 litres of cold water. I crushed a campden tablet and chucked that in to kill any bugs. Then left it loosely covered for 24 hours.
The following evening I boiled a kettle and dissolved 5lbs sugar in about a litre of freshly boiled water. I added the sugar water along with 500g chopped raisins, some nutrient and wine yeast to the fermentation bin and left it to ferment for seven days. (In previous years I have also added White Grape Concentrate and this did produce an excellent wine, although at some level it does feel a bit like cheating).
At the end of the week I removed the bag and racked off the wine into a demijohn. I topped up the demijohn with water and attached an airlock . I let it ferment out for a further 3 weeks before bottling. This wine will benefit from at least 6 month ageing.
Then the hard part. Leaving it alone for six months maturation before we get to finally taste it.