Tag Archives: crabapples

Doing The Crabapple Tango

Don’t worry, it’s safe to read this post – the Crabapple Tango is nothing like the Green Apple Two-Step. I won’t even mention diarrhea. (Okay, technically I just did, but that’s all for this post.)

Most people have probably never heard of the Crabapple Tango, but anyone with a fruit tree knows what I’m talking about.

First you need a fruit-laden tree and a stepladder. Ideally, the tree will have been pruned by an irresponsible orangutan with the express intention of creating an impenetrable mat of tough branches garnished with millions of spiky twigs.

Like all fine dance performances, proper preparation begins months in advance. Throughout the summer the tree should be repeatedly drenched with road dust, pollen, tiny black bugs with an affinity for human mucous membranes, and that particular brand of sticky dirt that’s peculiar to apple trees.

The crabapples must be at that precise pinnacle of ripeness whereby half of them rain down upon the performer’s head at the slightest disturbance of the branches, but the rest are so firmly attached that it’s necessary to twist and yank them loose. This sets up the proper blend of tension/release in the dance.

As always, stage layout is critical. The ground beneath the tree should never be flat or level. And the tree should be jammed in the inside corner of a five-foot tall fence, making it impossible to safely access it from any angle.

Ideally, the Crabapple Tango should be performed on a windy day in bright sun. This adds to the entertainment value while the audience waits to see whether the performer will be thrown bodily from the tree by wind-tossed limbs or merely blinded by looking directly into the sun while reaching for the topmost branches.

Once all is prepared, it’s time to introduce the star of the performance.

Me.

Yes, the crabapples were ripe this weekend, so that was my cue to drag out our stepladder and attempt to inflict grievous injury upon myself. Fortunately I failed, but anyone watching would have given me points for trying.

I had the requisite sun and wind, and after picking everything I could reach from the ground I took to the ladder to reach the apples twelve feet up.

Having suffered abrasions to both epidermis and equanimity while contorting myself through the web of branches, I poised precariously on the second-from-the-top step. With one thick branch pressing into my stomach and another crushing my kidneys, I made a 90-degree pivot, locking myself between the branches… just as the wind gusted.

Trees move in the wind. A lot. And their branches don’t move as a unit. More like scissors, actually.

Balanced on one foot on the ladder, I performed my most emotive tango yet, arching and dipping and twisting. I managed to escape, but it was a near thing.

And the whole time I was thinking, “I don’t need all these crabapples. I don’t even want all these crabapples.” But I was powerless to stop the dance, possibly because I was brought up to never waste food, or maybe just because I’m an idiot.

But I’ve got almost four bushels of crabapples to show for it.

Anybody got some new crabapple recipes? I’ve got jelly, jam, applesauce, apple butter, cider, spiced crabapples, cake, muffins, and pie…

* * *

P.S. I was the irresponsible orangutan who pruned the tree. Next year I’m going to wait until the apples are ready and then just go up the tree with my saw to do my pruning and picking all in one efficient act. Juggling a sharp object on an unstable ladder… what could possibly go wrong?

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Thinking About Drinking

It’s autumn, and I need a drink.

It’s partly because autumn is my least favourite season, but mainly because the crabapples are ripe.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may remember I mentioned I love food and I’m helplessly addicted to gardening.

The result of those traits is a back yard containing an apple tree, a crabapple tree, grapevines, raspberries, gooseberries, rhubarb, haskaps (a very cool variety of honeysuckle with fruit like blueberries on steroids), strawberries, asparagus, a hazelnut tree, and a greenhouse full of tomatoes and peppers.  My “real” garden is about 3,000 square feet of vegetables outside the city.

The back yard in mid-summer when it still looked nice

The star of the backyard show is the crabapple tree.  Every year, it droops under the weight of its crop –  deliciously sweet-tart, juicy blush-pink apples.  (The variety is Rescue, in case there are any other hungry gardeners out there.)  Every year, I cart away a couple of wheelbarrow-loads of crabapples.  I make jelly, fruit leather, applesauce, and spiced crabapples.  Then if there are leftovers, I ferment them into hard cider.

This process begins with an explosion of pulverized crabapples and ends with a product that ranges from rotgut to rocket fuel to rot (if I don’t get a high enough alcohol content).

Juicing was a laborious process until a few years ago when Hubby bought me one of those newfangled kick-ass juicers – yet another reason why he’s on the best-husband-ever list.  The new juicer works like a dream… except for one thing.  No matter how fast I slam the pusher into the chute after adding a handful of apples, the shredding action is so aggressive that bits spray everywhere.  The first time I used it, I was picking apple flecks out of my eyebrows and off the ceiling.

This year I wised up and did the juicing on the back deck where I could hose everything off afterward.  (The neighbours didn’t even bat an eye.  After the radish/toilet incident, they’re probably afraid to ask.)

Once all the juicing is done, it’s a glorious exercise in hope.  What yeast should I use this year?  What part of the process will I tweak to get the absolutely perfect batch of cider?  Then there’s fermentation, racking, fining, bottling with just the right amount of added sugar to get a delicious sparkle in the finished product.

Then there are months of anticipation.  It takes about a year before the final product is ready.

Then comes the first taste… and the final classification:  rotgut, rocket fuel, or rot.  But I keep hoping somehow, some year, I’ll magically produce something drinkable.  Well, something other people might consider drinkable.  I drink it anyway…

But in the mean time, all that work and hope has made me thirsty.  Think I’ll crack open a bought beer.  At least I know it’ll be good.

What’s your favourite autumn beverage?

Oh, and loosely related to gardening:  I can’t believe I actually managed to snap a bee in mid-flight in my garden a few days ago:

Bee in flight just below the smaller sunflower

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Filed under Life