Crabapple fruit rolls (or leather) has been my favorite experiment so far this year. I was presented with an opportunity to pick as many as I wanted from my parent’s house. Their tree produced a bumper crop of golf ball sized bright red crabapples this year and I certainly didn’t want them to go to waste.
The first step was to enlist the help of my kids to pick as many as they could. When they soon discovered attempting to do cart wheels on the lawn was significantly more enjoyable, I turned to my wonderful niece Juliana to pick up the slack. Her enthusiasm quickly got her promoted to the top of my apple picking team!
As we picked bag after bag and box after box of crabapples I envisioned a years worth of fruit rolls, crabapple jelly, crabapple sauce, crabapple butter, crabapple chips and treat after treat of crabapple something I couldn’t even imagine yet. I would spend my nights searching online for hundreds of different recipes. “This is it” I said, I could create a ton of food from simple healthy crabapples and feast on them all year!
It all sounded so good in theory. Then after a few hectic days I realized I have never cooked or eaten a crabapple before and I had a counter full of them. My best guess is we had around 80 pounds. Now reality started to sink in. I work full time, Emily works for herself as a photographer but she is busy with our 1 month old newborn daughter, and our two other little maniacs. I could see as one day turned into two that Emily was losing patience with my collection of crabapples taking up a majority of the kitchen. Time to get to work.
I got lucky right off the bat experimenting with cooking them. Peeling and coring all these tiny crabapples seemed like far too much of a hassle. So I just threw them into a pot on the stove with water and cooked them until they were tender and started to burst open. Having recently been working on making tomato sauce I knew I could puree the pulp through my trusty food mill and get rid of the seeds, stems, and peelings. I drained the apples once they were tender and ran them through the food mill.
This worked extremely well and I knew the pulp would be perfect for making fruit rolls. My kids were already used to eating fruit rolls as snacks. I have made them in the past with strawberries after our yearly pick your own strawberry adventure, Next step was to add some honey to counter the tartness of the crabapples. I mixed about a 1/3 cup honey into pulp then divided it onto two half sheet pans lined with silicone mats. I spread the mixture into a rectangle on the pan evening it out as best as possible so it will cook into a dry but pliable rectangle you can roll up and slice.
Into the oven on my warm setting about 170 degrees until they reach the consistency needed. For me it took 7 hours and I rotated the pans to get them to cook as evenly as possible. One note – I use a wall oven that was installed about 30 years ago so it might take you less time to reach desired consistency. I rolled them up, sliced them, and started passing them out.
Success! They turned out great, the kids liked them especially Spencer. Everything was going my way, until I looked over at 78 more pounds of crabapples and realized I had just spent 8 hours processing 2.5% of my harvest.
Plan Two: Process the crabapples and freeze the pulp before mixing it with honey. That way I could defrost the pulp when needed and mix with honey and make the fruit rolls all year. Working with all the burners going on my stove and my arm nearly falling off from turning the handle on the food mill for so long, I spent my nights for the better part of a week making crabapple pulp to freeze. Truth be told I never made it though all them before they started to turn but I was quite happy with what we were able to put away in the freezer.
The crabapple harvest was free for the taking and it will provide us with healthy kid friendly snacks for a long time to come!
- 2.25 lbs (about 7 cups) whole crabapples
- 1/3 cup honey
- Preheat oven to warm setting 170 degrees
- Simmer whole crabapples in a saucepan with water until tender and drain.
- Process crabapples through food mill to separate the pulp from the seeds, stems, and peelings.
- Mix pulp with honey.
- Divide mixture between two baking sheets lined with silicone mats or parchment paper.
- Spread mixture into thin rectangle shape on baking sheet.
- Baked in oven until dry but pliable 5-7 hours.
- Once ready roll up the fruit roll sheet and slice.