Foraging – Crab Apples

The days are getting shorter, it’s cool in the midday shade, it’s getting chilly at night and apples are ripening on the trees.  It makes me a little sad because it means summer is coming to a close. And I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but it was a short season.

The upside is that it’s harvest time! Time to stuff your gob with the bounty of the land in preparation for hibernation. Ripe apples and plums can be found all over town, so get out on your bikes (or your feets) and head down the lanes and side streets in search of over-hanging fruit.

I picked a big load of beautiful crab apples a couple of days ago. They are unusually sweet and wine-like in flavour for a crab apple. Not sure what variety they are, but they are lovely.

Yes! Those are foraged Asian Pears.

As usual, the picking was spontaneous and without any plan of what to do with the fruit so the research began as soon as I got home.

I tend to shy away from making jams and jellies because of the sugar content, but I might go pick some more and give that a go. You can make jelly and then use the leftover fruit solids to make fruit butter. I love that kind of waste-nothing technique. My Bernardin canning recipe book has recipes for both. I trust the Bernardin recipes and the recipe book came with a canning starter kit I bought ages ago. It’s an excellent resource and all of the same information and recipes are on their website

I decided to try the spiced whole crab apple recipe in the Bernardin book and also make some crab apple schnapps.

Crab Apple Schnapps Recipe

The schnapps couldn’t be easier and I can already tell it’s a winner. All you need to do is fill a jar with fruit and then cover with vodka. I quartered 34 crab apples, put them into a big glass jar (1000ml) with a tight-fitting lid and then filled it with vodka. Use cheap vodka when infusing it with fruits and/or herbs. The quality of the vodka doesn’t matter one smidge. Trust the Urban Huntress. It’s a waste of money.

Scnapps day 1Schnapps day 3

These are photos of day 1 and day 3. It doesn’t take long for the apple colour and flavour to be pulled out by the alcohol. As you can see, the level has gone down because Simon couldn’t resist having a taste. He thinks it’s good to go, but I’m going to let it sit for another month before straining out the fruit. At that point you can add some simple syrup (made with sugar or honey) to sweeten to taste and bottle it for friends. Check out this site for tips on adjusting the flavour and other infused booze ideas

Urban Huntress Tip: buy your vodka across the border in the US. The sales tax is quite high in Washington, but it’s still hellsa cheap compared to up here. You just have to stay 48 hours and you can bring back 1.14 L per person of hard liquor (so go with a friend). You can now buy hard liquor at Safeway which means “club card discount”! Just include your area code when giving your phone number. I bought 1.75 L of cheap ass vodka called 3 Star at Safeway for $13.99 (plus tax). You can also buy 75% Everclear which is a herbalist’s and liqueur maker’s best friend because of the higher alcohol content. You just dilute it after making liqueurs.

Spiced Crab Apples Recipe

I used the Bernardin recipe for spiced crab apples as a guideline, with the following adjustments:

  • 2 cups of apple cider vinegar instead of 2 ½ of white vinegar
  • 4 cups of sugar
  • one cinnamon stick and half a vanilla pod (split down the middle)
  • leave most of the stems on so you can pop them in your mouth like a cherry

Spiced crab apples

Holy yum, Batman!

My batch was not exactly a success as the apples started to fall apart, however they are seriously delicious. The recipe on Bernardin’s website has been updated since my recipe book was printed and has clearer instructions to help prevent overcooking (although, they’re yummy even if they look a bit squishy). You should also pierce the apples evenly with a fork four times. I only did it twice.

The Bernardin recipe includes vinegar as part of the syrup and the result is delicious with a sweet and tangy kick. I wanted to keep the spices very simple to avoid hiding the delightful flavour of the apples themselves, so I only added one medium cinnamon stick and half a split vanilla bean. I also used apple cider vinegar (strained through cheese cloth to remove the vinegar ‘mother’) instead of white vinegar which seemed like a no-brainer. The syrup itself makes an awesome drink when diluted with bubbly water or soda water.

Note: you can adjust the vinegar and sugar quantities as you like, since there’s nothing wrong with canning the crab apples in whatever type syrup you prefer.

To prove my point, here’s Bernardin’s simple recipe for crab apples just in syrup.

Aforaging we go……!


  1. Thanks Urban Huntress!
    Came looking for Spiced Crabs, but Crabapple Schnapps a definite bonus!
    Just an observation – don’t know where you’re foraging but your “Asian Pears” look to me more like Russet Apples a.k.a. Golden Russets. Found often on old farmsteads. As far as I know Asian Pears don’t over-winter in North America, though p’raps in the south….


    1. Hmmm. I wasn’t familiar with Golden Russets, so I had to dig in and look more closely at my identification! They are indeed Asian Pears, though. The ones in the pic are very under ripe as I picked them a month too early that year (doh). I picked them at the right time this year and they were amazing. There’s nothing appley about a ripe Asian pear, so I’m confident about the ID of that tree. There are quite a few Asian pear trees planted in gardens in Vancouver and it seems that most (if not all) of them are a very hardy variety called “20th Century Pear”. I would totally plant one if I had a garden!
      Crabapple schnapps is insanely delicious. I hope you give it a go!

      Thanks for reading Robin!


  2. Thanks for the post! We have Asian pairs that grow and overwinter in MA just fine, not sure what variety but I often see them at farmers markets.


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