Spicebush Poached Crabapples

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This super simple recipe takes puckery sour crabapples and makes them sweet and delicious! I found these crabapples on a tree at Lake Snowden. My husband, Kenneth, and I were there to enjoy the Ohio Pawpaw Festival and I couldn’t resist grabbing a handful of these teeny apples to try. I love the concept of wild edibles, even if I don’t particularly care for a wild food, I still have an urge to collect it (I think in a past life I was a squirrel).

When I saw the crabapple tree, loaded with fruit, I remembered the Appetizer Recipe: Crab Apples Poached in Sweet Wine I had saved from The Kitchn. I knew that this recipe would be a perfect introduction to eating wild crabapples!

This also gave me another opportunity to try cooking with spicebush berries, also known as Appalachian allspice. I bought a packet of dried spicebush berries from Integration Acres at the Ohio Pawpaw Festival. Integration Acres also sells pawpaws, mushrooms, ramps and other forest crops. You can read more about the Ohio Pawpaw Festival and Integration Acres in my blog post reviewing the 16th annual pawpaw fest here.

Spicebush berries come from the Common Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), also known as wild allspice, Benjamin bush or just plain spicebush. Spicebush is native in the eastern portion of North America, found as far north as Ontario and New York, west to Kansas and Texas and as far south as northern Florida. It’s a medium sized understory shrub and is often found growing near pawpaw trees (try my recipes for Pawpaw-Spicebush Lassi and Pawpaw Milkshakes!).

The leaves of the spicebush are fragrant when crushed, which is a great way to help you identify the shrub in the field. I think the leaves have a spicy, citrus-y scent – it’s wonderful! The stems also have a spicy scent, if scratched. The leaves, buds and fresh twigs can all be used to make a tea.

I loved how these poached crabapples turned out! The poaching rendered them soft and sweet, with a hint of their original tartness. Kenneth was less impressed and I ended up eating the entire batch as an appetizer before dinner. To avoid eating the seeds, treat the crabapples like cherries that still have their pits.

I will definitely be making these little apples again – they’re delicious and look like little bejeweled sweets!

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ohio-120x120Spicebush Poached Crab Apples

Makes 1 cup

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cherry-sized crab apples, stems still attached
  • 1/4 cup sweet Riesling
  • 1/8 cup white sugar
  • 2 dried spicebush berries
  • Pinch salt

Directions: Wash crabapples and set aside. In a small pot, combine the sweet Riesling, sugar, spicebush berries and salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently. Once the sugar has dissolved completely, add the crabapples. Simmer for approximately five minutes, remove from heat once the skin on the apples bursts. Store the crabapples in the poaching liquid in the refrigerator. Enjoy cold!

Adapted from Appetizer Recipe: Crab Apples Poached in Sweet Wine from The Kitchn.

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Pawpaw-Spicebush Lassi

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It’s pawpaw season! Pawpaws (not to be confused with papayas which are sometimes called pawpaws) are a large fruit found in forests throughout the eastern US. The range of the pawpaw extends as far north as southern Michigan and the southern portion of Ontario in Canada and as far south as eastern Texas. The range also extends as far west as southeastern Nebraska and east to the coasts of Virgina and North Carolina. The entire state of Ohio is within the pawpaw’s native range. In 2009, it was named Ohio’s state native fruit!

This is a small pawpaw patch, the trees are pretty young and small.

Pawpaws come from the pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba), which is a small understory tree with large, tropical looking leaves. Pawpaw trees grow in clonal patches so often if you spot one tree, many more will be nearby (which makes foraging for pawpaws much easier!). The pawpaw is a very soft fruit, much softer than a banana, with a tropical flavor. Wild pawpaws differ in flavor, texture and size, but most people think they taste a combination of  banana, mango, pineapple, orange or vanilla. The flavor is definitely unique and worth seeking out!

If you get your hands on some pawpaws, there are several things you can do with them. You can eat them fresh (in the woods where you found them is the most fun), you can add them to a recipe or you can process and freeze the pulp for later. Pawpaws have an extremely short shelf life, so you want to act quickly. On the counter a pawpaw should last one to three days, put your pawpaws in the refrigerator and they should keep for about a week.

I decided to make a lassi out of my pawpaws. A lassi is a yogurt-based drink, popular in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Lassis are usually either sweet or savory. Sweet lassis are flavored with fruit, sugar or rosewater and savory lassis are made with spices like roasted cumin, turmeric or saffron.

I used pawpaws and some dried spice bush berries that I bought at the Ohio Pawpaw Festival from Integration Acres. Integration Acres sells pawpaws, spicebush berries, mushrooms, ramps and other forest crops. You can read more about the Ohio Pawpaw Festival and Integration Acres in my blog post reviewing the 16th annual pawpaw fest here.

This lassi recipe is full of local Ohio ingredients. In addition to the Ohio grown pawpaws and spicebush berries, I also used locally produced yogurt from Snowville Creamery. Snowville is located in Pomery, Ohio, in Meigs County. They get their milk from eleven different dairy farms in southeastern Ohio. The cows are pasture grazed and the milk is pasteurized at a low temperature and not homogenized (the cream in their milk naturally rises to the top, so shake well before enjoying!).

Snowville makes whole milk, 2% reduced fat milk, fat free milk and chocolate milk. The chocolate milk is heaven in a cup, I love it! Snowville also makes whipping cream, half & half, crème fraîche and several different yogurts (including dessert yogurts: lemon-ginger and coffee-cardamom). For this lassi I used Snowville’s vanilla yogurt, though I suspect the lemon-ginger yogurt would also make a delicious lassi.

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Processing pawpaws is a messy job. Imagine you have a really ripe, soft, banana, so ripe the skin is completely brown. That’s about how soft a ripe pawpaw will be. Mushy soft. The only different between a really really ripe banana and a ripe pawpaw is that a pawpaw is full of large brown seeds. Large pawpaws will usually have two rows of seeds.  Alan Bergo, the chef and blogger behind Forager Chef, has made a great video showing you how to process, or clean a pawpaw:

You can see from the video that each pawpaw is full of seeds. It takes a lot of pawpaws to get a decent amount of pawpaw pulp! Chef Bergo also has some delicious looking recipes for pawpaw desserts: pawpaw pudding and pawpaw cheesecake. I can’t wait to try them!

After I processed my six pawpaws, I pureed and measured the pulp. I ended up with a half cup of pawpaw puree. Those seeds take up a lot of space! I cleaned off a few seeds so you can see what they look like. They’re about a half inch to an inch long and somewhat bean shaped. They’re NOT edible, so don’t try them! If you want to grow your own pawpaws, all you need to do is plant the leftover seeds!

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Before pureeing all of my ingredients together, I ground the spicebush berries with a mortar and pestle. They smelled amazing! Similar to allspice, but a little lemony too. Another name for the dried spicebush berries is Appalachian Allspice.

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Once your pawpaws and spicebush berries are prepared, this recipe is quick and easy to make. Put all ingredients in a blender and blend! Then enjoy your tangy, not too sweet, pawpaw-spicebush lassi and reminisce on all the things that make fall a wonderful and tasty season.

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ohio-120x120Pawpaw-Spicebush Lassi

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups vanilla Snowville Yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup pawpaw pulp, pureed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground dried spicebush berries
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions: Put all ingredients into a blender and blend! Enjoy cold.

Adapted from Casa Nueva’s Pawpaw Lassie recipe, found on the Integration Acres website.

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