I had a major craving for apple cider last week. I was getting up my nerve to part with so many apples (just to make a 1/2 gallon drink) when I remembered the stash of crab apples that I had tucked away in the fridge from our recent urban foraging expedition. I was planning on using them to make jelly but suddenly I just had to use them to make apple cider. After all they were hand picked and free.
Crab apples are the one fruit that you can pretty much always get your hands on for free. The trees are fairly abundant here in Alberta and there’s usually someone willing to give some away if you can’t find them in your local park like we did. The thing about crab apples is that they can be fussy if you want to actually bake with them. Peeling and coring so many tiny apples is just a pain if you ask me. That’s why I save them for things like applesauce and jelly. Anything where you can cook them in their full form and just strain out the pulp afterwards.
I still have some crab apples leftover after making this cider and I think I’ll make one more trip to the park to round it out so I can make a decent amount of jelly. Max loves taking these tiny sour apples along in his school snack so I will definitely make sure to set some aside for him too.
This crab apple cider is tart, sweet and comforting, with just a hint of spice. It was exactly what I needed to satisfy my craving. I do consider drinks like this to be dessert because they have a much higher sugar content then I usually put in my beverages (thanks to the tart crab apples). But, they are worth a splurge once in a while. And, with Canadian Thanksgiving right around the corner I think this is a great make ahead treat for a family gathering.
- 12 cups crab apples (stems removed, blossom ends cut off)
- 1 cup brown sugar (or raw cane sugar)
- 6 cinnamon sticks
- 2 teaspoons whole allspice (cloves would be fine too)
- 12 cups water
- Place all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Boil, uncovered for 1 hour, occasionally mashing the apples as they soften. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 1.5-2 hours, until reduced by approximately ⅓ (you can just give it a taste to see if you want the flavours to be more concentrated or not, if so, keep boiling). Strain through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth or coffee filters. Press on the pulp to extract all the juices. Serve while hot or let cool, cover, and refrigerate. Heat to serve.