This page may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
How to make spiced crab apple butter using foraged fruit, brown sugar, and autumn spices. Use this delicious wild preserve as you would other apple butters or fruit preserves or as an accompaniment to savory dishes such as pork.
Poking around in a hedge the other day I happily discovered some bright yellow crab apples. Actually, they were flowering quince which are very similar and used in the same way as crab apples. I collected them from the branches and came home to find a good recipe for them. Crab apples, and flowering quince, can be very tart and aren’t ideal for fresh eating. They are wonderful in cooked dishes and preserves so I settled on making crab apple butter with them.
Crab apple butter is a rich, dark preserve, that you can serve as jam or jelly in many dishes. Spread over cakes, topping scones and crumpets, or in plain ole P&J sandwiches. The tartness of the apples paired with the deep rich sweetness of brown sugar gives it a versatile flavour that you could even use in savoury dishes.
Types of Crab Apples
The idea of making a spiced butter came from another foraged item – The Countryside Cook Book by Gail Duff. While on one of my forays to the local recycling centre, I came across this book piled up with a load of old encyclopedias and paperback novels. It was free for the taking and includes some wonderful information on wild food throughout the seasons as well as various recipes for their culinary and medicinal uses. I especially love the illustrations by Linda Garland.
The Countryside Cook Book
Crab apples are listed towards the back of the book in the ‘autumn’ section along with quite a few ways to prepare them. Recipes for crab apple and date wine, lamb with crab apple stuffing, crab apple crumble and pork chops with crab apple crust sounded all very tempting but in the end I settled on spiced apple butter. I adapted the recipe for the amount of crab apples I’d been able to find and the result of the below instructions is a full 450g jar. You can also just make out the original recipe if you open the below image to its full size. The final product is delicious gelatinous spread and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys sweet-and-sour or winter spices
More Foraged Preserves
Spiced Crab Apple Butter Recipe
Makes one 450g (15oz) jar so feel free to scale up for more. If you have some crab apples and want to try this recipe, do give it a go! I’d also really recommend picking up Gail Duff’s book and having a flip through her other recipes. Be it hop, hawthorne or damson, she provides great ideas on serving it up in inventive and delicious ways.
- 500g (17oz) Crab Apples and/or Flowering Quince
- 410ml (14 fl.oz) Water
- 1 tsp Whole Cloves
- Dash of Nutmeg (about 1/8 tsp)
- 1.5″ stick of Cinnamon
- 245g (8oz) Dark Brown Sugar
1. Halve the crab apples and put them into a suitable sauce pan with the water, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. Bring them to a boil and then reduce heat to keep a steady simmer on for about forty-five minutes or until it can be beaten into a thick pulp. Make sure to stir occasionally.
2. Put the pulp through a vegetable mill or fine sieve and measure the final weight of the resulting apple purée. Return it to the cleaned pan and stir in 350g (12oz) of dark brown sugar for every 450g(1lb) of apple purée. I ended up with 313g (10.5oz) of apple purée with my small batch so used 245g (8oz) of dark brown sugar.
3. Set the pan on a low heat and stir for the sugar to dissolve. Bring to a boil and keep boiling, stirring frequently, until the butter is very thick. If you draw a spoon through the mixture it should leave a path behind it. This can take up to an hour to achieve but mine only took about twenty-five minutes.
4. Put the butter into a warmed and sterilised preserving jar(s) and tighten the lid immediately. Water-bath the jars and store for up to a year in the kitchen cupboard.