Crab Apples – Flowers, Foliage and Fruit

crab apples to decorate a table - pascale store
They look like winter cherries

Crab apples to decorate 

I absolutely love crab apple trees, so pretty and so productive, from their lovely blossom in spring right through to bright little fruit in the autumn which stay happily on the tree right into winter. Just when the garden is looking particularly stark, they provide vibrant splashes of colour and as well as being ornamental, crab apples are a food supply for birds and with a minimal amount of effort food for us too. 

If you have a few trees and can afford to, cut some branches and you’ll have a table arrangement that lasts weeks and weeks.

crab apple branches in a vase as table decoration - pascale store seasonal design ideas
Crab apple branches with their leaves about 3 weeks ago

Once all the leaves have come off you’ll be left with just the brightly coloured fruit and twiggy branches – very architectural, very elegant and very easy to do. I almost prefer them leafless and the crab apples don’t drop, in fact the opposite is true, when you’re picking them for jelly you have to fight them off the tree.

crab apple branches having lost their leaves after 3 weeks on table - pascale store seasonal design ideas
Three weeks later, no leaves but still looking lovely, remove the leaves as they die.

Crab apples to eat

I had never made crab apple jelly before or any kind of jelly come to that but with the right equipment it was really, really easy. I think the only crucial piece of equipment, that you may not already own, is a jam straining kit. My jam straining kit (by Tala) cost less than £5 and consisted of a chrome wire stand and a washable, reusable nylon straining bag. The bag looked small but once the fruit was cooked and a bit collapsed it held a surprising amount. Everything else like measuring jugs, wooden spoons, large saucepan etc…you probably already have. I did buy a maslin pan partly too, because I’m a sucker for kitchen equipment but also because I’m planning to bombard everyone with membrillo, medlar and crabapple jelly for Christmas and forever more, but if you don’t overfill a regular large saucepan I don’t think it’s that necessary.

crab apple jelly recipe - pascale smets recipe
In the maslin pan stalks and all. About 1/3 were bigger so I cut them up.

Crab apple jelly recipe

2 kg crab apples
500g caster sugar ( approximately but use the 7/10 ratio rule)
1/2  lemon, juiced

Wash the apples, removing any obviously rotten bits; it’s fine to leave stalks but not twigs! Put in a saucepan, fill with water to just cover the apples. I used some small sour apples too, so cut them up to the size of the crab apples. Bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit is soft (about 30 minutes). Pour the pulp into a jelly bag or several layers of muslin and let drip into a pan. Do NOT squeeze the bag or it will make the juice cloudy. Lots of recipes specify overnight but my bag seemed to stop dripping after a few hours. Measure the juice, and add sugar in the ratio of 10 parts juice to 7 of sugar. Add some lemon juice, then bring to the boil, if necessary stir to dissolve the sugar.Keep at a rolling boil for 40 minutes, skimming off the froth. To test the set, chill a dessertspoon in the refrigerator. When the jelly is at setting point, it will solidify on the back of the spoon. 
Pour into warm, sterilised preserving jars ( smaller ones are better) and tightly seal while still slightly warm. Store in a cool dark place.
I read that smaller jars are better because if you repeatedly put spoons etc into the jar it can cause it to liquefy.

crab apple jelly in jars from pascale store
The Finished jelly.

Crab apples in the garden

I now have five crab apple trees in my garden. Two were there when we bought the house (no idea what varieties) and I planted three more (two John Downie and a Red Sentinel) this year. I’ve been so delighted with them I’ll plant more when I can think of a suitable place. 

red crab apples close up pascale store
Equally ornamental without their leaves