The Outdoor Apothecary is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more
Whether you’re someone who follows the Wheel of the Year, or if you’re on another spiritual path, autumn has its delights hidden within this season. The changing of the leaves, cooler temperatures, and festive foods make it worth your time to check out what fall has in store for you, like this crabapple recipe.
The Autumn Equinox is celebrated in September in the Northern Hemisphere which is traditionally when apples are harvested. This is a time to celebrate the fruits of our labor and to honor Mother Earth in this harvest season.
It’s a good time to take stock of what you have accomplished during the year and where you want to take your life next. It’s also the perfect time to honor our ancestors, who likely ate crabapples and used them in rituals during the autumn harvest. We’ve created this crabapple recipe as an offering, and a way to honor their wisdom and traditions with a delicious pastry that captures the essence of crabapple’s beautiful fall fruitiness.
This blog post will focus on how to make crabapple hand pies, a delicious and magical way to prepare this underappreciated fruit.
Interested in the folklore, history, and ancestral use of crabapples? Or other crabapple recipes? Read these articles:
Where Do I Find Crabapples?
Crabapples are easy to spot if you know what to look for. They are actually quite common and grow in many New England environments; people love to put them in cemeteries, parks, abandoned orchards, former homesteads, open woods, thickets, old fields, and near hiking trails. I found the ones I’m using for this crabapple recipe in an old cemetery close to my home.
What To Look For
The crabapple tree is a beautiful, small- to medium-sized tree with a rounded crown and many branches. It can stand anywhere from 5 to 30 feet tall with an equal to greater canopy spread. And even though many hybridized varieties exist, it’s not necessary to distinguish the actual variety; identifying the Malus genus is sufficient.
Crabapple leaves are oval, tapered at both ends, and grow alternately on long stemlets in clusters that alternate along branches. Some varieties have sharper teeth than others, depending on the species of crabapple. Crabapples come in many colors with pale speckles, coarse brown or yellowish blotches—all of which are edible, though some varieties taste better than others. Foragers should sample them before harvesting to determine quality before attempting a crabapple recipe.
Cooking With Crabapples
So to celebrate the turn of the wheel of the year into autumn and the season of Mabon, I will be cooking up some hand pies using the tart and tasty crabapple. They are a wonderful way to remember and honor the old harvest rites and our ancestors who cherished the apple as a magical fruit.
I’ll be honest with you, I don’t have any desire to eat crabapples raw. They are just too tart for my palate. But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate their usefulness in cooking and baking! They make excellent pies, jams, and jellies because of their high pectin content. I even have a recipe for spiced pickled crabapples that is surprisingly good!
So if you have a bumper crop of these little fruits lying around your yard or in your neighborhood, here is a great way to use them up before they go bad on you.
This crabapple recipe is adapted from the very talented Danielle Prohom Olson of Gather Victoria and was inspired by the mystical lore of Autumn Equinox harvest traditions.
The Crabapple Recipe
Crabapple Hand Pies: An Ancestral Offering
- About a 1 1/2 lb – 2 lbs of crabapples depending on size
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp freshly grated cinnamon
- 1 tsp. cardamom
- 3 tsp of minced fresh rosemary
- 1 stick butter
For Pie Dough
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 pound 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 cup ice
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
To Top It Off
- 1 egg lightly beaten, for brushing
- coarse sugar to sprinkle
- Cut the crabapples in half and core them, making sure they are approximately the same size. If using a smaller variety of crabapple (less than 1-inch diameter), just cut them in half. Squeeze lemon juice over the apples as you go (to prevent browning). Add zest, salt, sugars, nutmeg, rosemary, and cinnamon, and stir to combine.
- Put the butter in a saucepan and melt it over medium heat. Mix in the crabapple mixture. Cook until the apples are soft and you have a thick, syrupy sauce of caramelized butter and sugar in your pan. Let cool.
- To make the dough, combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter until you have small pieces or clumps of butter still visible in your dough. Drizzle in your vinegar and ice water slowly, cutting into flour a little at a time. Keep adding until your dough has formed and is easily pliable. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate while you prepare your filling.
- Divide the chilled dough into four portions. Lightly flour the working surface, and roll out one portion about ⅛ inch thick. Cut out circles with a biscuit cutter, a mason jar lid or the mouth of a wide glass. Transfer the dough on parchment to baking sheets and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Using half your dough circles, place an even amount of apple filling in the center of each one. Leave a little bit of room around the perimeter for pinching. Cut out stars or other shape from half of the remaining circles and set them aside. Dip a pastry brush into water and brush the perimeters of your circles, then place the tops over the fruit. Seal in the fruit by pinching the edges together with a fork or your fingers. Place dough cut-outs on top of some of your pastry circles (leave a few without cut-outs). If you have no cut-out tool, you can simply cut slits in the top.
- Brush a beaten egg on the tops of the dough circles and sprinkle coarse sugar over them. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 10 minutes at 400 degrees F. Lower heat to 350 degrees F and continue baking until crust is golden brown all over and juices bubble, about 30 minutes more.
- Cool completely on a wire rack or serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.