Crabapples ranks high among the trickiest ingredients we’ve worked with. A species of the Malus family, crabapples are a close relative to the cultivated apples we see every day. Small, woody, and often terribly acidic, crabapples require a little finesse for usefulness in the kitchen.

As one good option, we crush crabapples to release their juices. Infusing these fruits lends a pleasant acidity and a bitter-sweetness to any cider or sauce. Another option is grating them finely into salad dressings to add a unique sourness different from distilled vinegars or citrus.

High in pectin, crabapples make a great base for preserves and jams – a lovely complement to cheeses and nuts. Last, crabapples taste great when sliced thin over rich foods, such as braised meats, which adds a refreshing sharpness that lightens the overall dish.

Every tree bearing crabapples varies. We find it’s best to taste a few crabapples to judge how tannic they are before putting them to work. It’s fun to explore the possibilities with these less-common ingredients we encounter routinely. Consider their attributes, whether it’s their acidity, bitterness, or sweetness, and reflect on how they can change or improve a dish.

Spontaneity and exploring new flavors make cooking at home all the more fun and exciting.