If you haven't yet seen the gorgeous bowls of crabapples at Windrose Farm's market stall, you might want to take note now. And maybe get a few pounds of the diminutive apples, for use in holiday dishes or even just to look at -- a bowl of them makes a pretty stunning centerpiece. The crabapples are festive, and Barbara Spencer says they'll only be in the market for the next week or two.
Although Windrose Farm grows three or four varieties of crabapples up in Paso Robles, they only have Red Vein apples now -- pretty crimson fruit with a pink interior. They're tart, unlike Wicksons, another of Windrose's varieties, and thus are best made into sauces or other dishes instead of eaten out of hand. Spencer also suggests pickling them or using them in jams, as they're a great source of pectin.
Tart crabapples are also supremely good for roasts, holiday or otherwise, as they go particularly well with pork or duck. One of my favorite things to do with a few handfuls of crabapples is to throw them under a pork loin which has been stuffed with fresh sage, wrapped in bacon, and tied off with kitchen twine. Pour a little white wine or cider into the bottom of the pan and let the bacon fat and juices from the roast caramelize the apples (halve about half of them). You get a kind of lovely rustic applesauce when you're done, and the presentation is pretty marvelous. Your kitchen will smell pretty good too.
As for what else to do with crabapples, Spencer suggested drying them. And although she and her husband Bill don't have one on their farm, she suggested a terrific method for fruit drying: a taxidermy machine. (I'm not kidding, nor was she.) Apparently the machines make lovely ornamental fruit -- as well as excellent hunting trophies. The things you learn at farmers markets.
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