Sunday, November 2, 2014

Spiced Crabapples

I remember seeing spiced crabapples when I was a kid. Not at home. My mother hardly believed in garnish since an incident as a newlywed when she tried to dye the mashed potatoes to match the blue tablecloth but that's another story. I vaguely remember a bright red mini apple next to a pile of kale (or some ruffly green) on a serving platter but I'm not sure where. Maybe at one of the family style Pennsylvania Dutch restaurants I loved growing up. The picture is hazy and I certainly don't remember ever tasting them. But somehow when my beautiful little Wickson crabapple tree offered a healthy crop of mini-apples those spiced garnish were the first things that came to mind. I pictured a Thanksgiving turkey platter sparkling with home canned jeweled apples, stem and all,  and maybe even kale.
Wickson crabapples, a 1944 Northern California introduction by noted pomologist Albert Etter, are renown for exceptionally sweet spicy flavor and as choice ingredients for a single varietal champagne cider.  Crabapples are also excellent pollinators for other apples and a couple seasons back we had a Mutsu, Arkansas Black, and Gravenstein in need of a companion. Now our backyard orchard is home to a beautiful little Wickson tree that this fall was covered in garlands of yellow red fruit.
After gathering and washing the fruit (and poking small holes in each one to keep them from bursting), to preserve them for future dinners, I made up a pickling liquid of 3 cups sugar, 1 1/4 cup water, 2 1/2 cups vinegar, 2 cinnamon sticks, and 1 tsp whole cloves. I bought the liquid to a boil and allowed it to bubble for 10 minutes. Then I added half of my heavy 3 lbs of apples, covered the pot and let the fruit simmer until tender. Pulling the apples from the syrup I filled my waiting jars, repeated with the other half of the apples and covered the fruit in the jars with the hot syrup. I sealed the jars and stored them away on the pantry shelf picturing a Rockwell style Thanksgiving with old fashioned tastes and familiar (though only through distant memory) and edible decor.

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