About 4 years ago, in the first autumn we had our land project, Cae Non, we had little produce from the land to show for our investment but were keen to experiment with what we had. One example of this is my exploring of crabapples. Originally, I’d thought of macerating crab-apples in brandy and sugar to make ‘Crabapple Brandy’ – think along the lines of Sloe Gin but different. But I never got round to that. What I did get round to was experimenting with brewing crabapples in a fashion similar to other country wines and meads. The result was a surprise: Crabapples are incredibly bitter or tart if you eat them. But the pleasant surprise is that those bitter principles are actually complex sugars, and are broken down when fermented. The result is a lovely apple-ish (but not particularly sweet) wine with a bit of a kick to it but that is in no way tart. It can be made either with or without honey, though my preference is very much for a honeyed mead as the honey complements the wine quite nicely.
You Will Need
4 lbs. Fresh crabapples
2 lbs. Sugar
~ 1 lb. Honey (I used two ‘340 g’ jars)
A 1 Gallon Demijohn with airlock, sterilised with camden tablets
1 tsp. High-Alcohol Wine Yeast
1 tsp. Citric acid
Start off by cutting your apples in half. This helps with the extraction. Bring half a gallon to a gallon of water to the boil and place the apples in the boiling water. Simmer for 20 minutes. You will end up with some slightly mushy apples that look like under-done stewed apple. This is what you’re aiming for. If you only have a small pan, you can do it in stages as long as you get through all your apples and end up with about 7 pints of wort. Strain the wort through a sieve, adding the citric acid and making sure it is dissolved and place in the demijohn. Add the sugar and honey to the demijohn – it doesn’t have to be stirred or mixed in with the wort, the yeast will do that for you. Allow the contents of the demijohn to cool to blood temperature – in practice, overnight. Add the yeast and fill the airlock with water and insert into the demijohn. The yeast may very well go bananas and flood the airlock with brown, yeasty fluid. This is fine, leave it a few days to calm down, then flush the airlock with clean water. Leave in a cool-ish place such as a pantry, shed, or cellar for a year.
Update after a few more years:
The recipe works, but I’ve improved it as it was a bit prone to wine faults. Now I don’t boil the apples, I chop them and put them in a clean plastic bucket along with the sugar, a campden tablet and a teaspoonful of yeast nutrient. Pour over the boiling water and let stew. When cool, I add the yeast and ferment for 10 days covered with a teatowel. Then strain through a cloth, put in a demijon with the honey, and an airlock and leave for a year to ferment. Rack or siphon off at the end of the year!
I’ve also found that the wine can be rather strong – you can dilute with a quarter to a half water which definitely ‘opens the flower’ and makes the wine more floral and fruity but less intense!
Siphon off and bottle after a year, being careful not to turn up the sediment that will have formed in the demijohn as you do so. Leave for a couple of months in the bottles to condition then open and enjoy as required – in practice this wine will be ready for Yule or the Wassailing season 15 months after it is made!
Enjoy, and if you have followed this recipe, do comment below to let us know how you get on!
Left: Crabapples growing on our old ‘mother apple tree’ down at Cae Non. Right: Wort in the demijohn, starting to ferment.