Appleflats Crabapple Jelly: A Quintessential Taste of Canada
Recipe Development Sponsored by Appleflats.
Appleflats Crabapple Jelly Talk about memories of my childhood! Grandma Maude had a massive crabapple tree on her Clive, Alberta, homestead with a span so far reaching that I am certain it could have held two dozen able climbers in its powerful outstretched arms. Every fall the bounty was celebrated in a harvest like no other: crabapple jelly, crabapple pickles, canned crabapple fruit, crabapple sauce…and in later years, crabapple fruit leather. Whatever could be preserved, was. That’s how we lived. The flavour of the Canadian Prairies cannot be defined without mentioning the tang of the crisp and juicy tart little crabapples in the fall. This taste is familiar throughout all regions than the Canadian Prairies. Appleflats Crabapple Jelly hails from Wellesley, Ontario. And these succulent ribs? From my kitchen with a good dose of Appleflats Crabapple Jelly in the sauce and used as a finishing glaze.
Using the identical ingredients and almost the identical process, the chicken thighs present with the same warm crabapple notes, but as a completely different recipe.
Is it just me, or are you also salivating as you immerse yourself in the images above? Oh, my.
And the thighs? Don’t even pretend you aren’t feeling your mouth water.
When I was a child, everyone made crabapple jelly in the fall. Each home preserver took pride in the clarity, the intensity of colour and bright flavour of their batch. Gossip travelled fast up and down the block and it wouldn’t be long before we would know who made the best crabapple jelly that year! Such an accomplishment. So easy to make, yet such a welcome jewelled parcel to pull out of the pantry in the dead of a cold bleak winter.
The final glaze of the melted jelly straight from the jar, coupled with the complexity of the foundation built with the jelly in the sauce, brightens the bite with an unexpected bold burst of familiar flavour. The flavour of home. Oh, Canada!
Crabapple Jelly on ribs or chicken was unheard of “back in the day”, but I now present to you a great recipe that you can use to create deeply scrumptious sticky, lip-smackin’ sweet and apple-tizing ribs, wings or thighs with Appleflats Crabapple Jelly!
Appleflats Crabapple Jelly: Where oh where have the Crabapple Trees gone?
Just a little side trip before we get into the recipe. As a child living in central Alberta, crabapples were “the only apple” there was. Hybrid apple trees didn’t rear their heads in local greenhouses until the late 70’s and early 80’s and the trees were usually only planted in the newer neighbourhoods. Canadian prairie fruits: crabapples and berries. To provide a similar yardstick, growing up, and even until around later 1990’s and early 2000’s, sour cherry trees were very rare in local urban yards. Most Canadian prairie people had never seen a sour cherry tree. Now, many people have them in their yards and most people know what a sour cherry tree is. So, as the opportunity to purchase a variety of fruit trees began to be offered throughout Canada’s colder gardening zones, no one would even consider planting a crabapple tree.
Not only that, as they had been so prolific throughout the country, no tree nursery even sold them. Ornamental crabapple trees were sold, but not the good old fashioned trees that were great to climb on and provided that tart and scrumptious juicy reprieve in the middle of a hot impassioned afternoon play throughout the old farmstead at my grandma’s house. At the time my parents bought their first home in the 1950’s, no one would planted crabapple trees in their urban yard. They could be found anywhere in the country and were, for some reason, so prolific, they just were not valued.
Yet, the jewelled bobbles in the fall and their jelly throughout the year was most definitely a part of our seasonal eating and our Canadian food culture from coast to coast.
Thus, the revival of this mighty taste memory. The revival of this mighty staple. The revival of our Canadian Crabapple Roots via Appleflats.
Appleflats Crabapple Jelly: Blanching the Pork (if you choose pork)
Blanching the ribs is easy and rids them of impurities you don’t want to cook into your dish. Simply cover with boiling water and let sit for 10 minutes, rinse and pat dry.
Then slice into individual ribs for a delectable Apple-tizer!
Appleflats Crabapple Jelly: Mis en Place for the Sweet and Apple-tizing Sauce
Above, the key ingredient. Below, our mis en place.
Labelled below, in case you couldn’t guess what ingredients I’ve put into your sauce.
Because some of these ingredients are not kitchen staples (but should be as they are so delicious), I have provided the images of the bottles below to help you shop for them.
First and foremost, Appleflats Crabapple Jelly, Chinese Rice Wine, Chinese Dark Rice Vinegar (sold at T&T and Superstores across Canada; absolutely delicious on salads, too), light soy sauce, Chinese Braising Sauce (substitute dark soy sauce) and Olive Oil. Understanding Soy Sauces is a whole other universe. They don’t even come close to tasting the same. Like apples, they are similar in quality but vary significantly in flavour. Kikkoman is a popular Japanese brand that I adore, but do not use it in this recipe. To keep it simple, Any Chinese soy sauce will work for this recipe.
Appleflats Crabapple Jelly: Marinating the Thighs (optional)
If preparing chicken, place all sauce ingredients except the oil, ginger and garlic into a bowl and marinate the chicken for an hour in the fridge.
Absolutely optional, but nice when done with thighs as they are meatier than wings and ribs.
Appleflats Crabapple Jelly: Preparing the Recipe for the Ribs
Aromatics chopped finely and into a heavy pan with the oil to saute for 5 minutes or so. Appleflats Crabapple Jelly added to the mix to melt in and the remaining sauce ingredients join the party.
Ribs into the pot and boil, lid on, on high for 10 minutes.
Turn them over, and boil on high for 5-10 more minutes on medium-high (stir after 5 minutes), then turn them over and another 5 minutes should do it. Glistening sticky apple-icious deliciousness!
Appleflats Crabapple Jelly: Preparing the Recipe for Thighs and Wings
Preparation of the sauce is the same as for the ribs. The only difference is the thighs cook 5 minutes longer.
Turn thighs and wings over every 10 minutes.
So easy it is hard to believe the outcome.
Look at that sticky mass of gorgeous goodness left in the pan.
Over the thighs or wings it goes, and within 5-10 minutes, the sauce adheres to the chicken and presents an irresistible platter of Appleflats Sweet and Crabby Apple-tizing Thighs!
If serving family style in the casserole dish, just before serving glaze with Appleflats Crabapple Jelly for the crowning glory. It is the glaze that punctuates the flavour and raises the crabapple undertone in the sauce to a whole other level. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and thinly sliced green onions for that additional wow factor at the last minute.
I learned that it is best to serve immediately. Keeping this dish warm in the oven will work well if you are plating each dish, but you can see that the sticky sauce worked its way off of the chicken and back into the dish with the re-heat. Spoon it back on when plating and it presents as it did coming out of the pot the first time.
Appleflats Crabapple Jelly: Serving the Sweet and Apple-tizing Ribs, Wings or Thighs
The golden halo surrounding the ribs on the plate is the Appleflats Crabapple Jelly Glaze. MMM-mmm-mmm. Talk about perfect pairing of flavours. Pork and apple have long been known to be perfect pairing partners where the flavour is concerned. The crab apple flavour profile bumps this up a notch and provides that eyebrow-raising surprise with the first bite. Unexpectedly delicious. And, if you are like me, and know the crabapple flavour, the crabapple flavour unlatches vibrant memories of my Canadian childhood that only enhance the eating experience. This is the beauty of the crabapple. The flavour was a basic fundamental Taste of Canada from East through to the West when I was growing up. So, definitely time for a flavour revival for most young Canadian urban dwellers.
There is no way to eat these ribs in front of company that is polite. You will need finger bowls and lots of napkins!
The glaze is addictive. So much so, that dipping the ribs back into the jar (because it was there) started to happen. Thus, a side of glaze should be part of the plan.
Serve warmed Appleflats Crabapple Jelly alongside the ribs as a dipping sauce. Glaze them first, of course.
There were a few discussions about whether we were eating ribs with this glaze, or eating the crabapple jelly with a rib. Ha!
Now, the thighs. Oh, my. A completely different textural experience. These work well as a main. The wings and ribs are great served as appetizers, but the dark rich unctuous thighs with the sticky Sweet and Crabby Apple-tizing Sauce present a great main for a potluck, an Asian feast or a simple family weeknight meal.
A little extra glaze? Yes, please!
Of course, rice soaks up that sauce and is a great side. A crisp green salad completes the meal.
The wings are my favourite. The ribs are Vanja’s favourite. I love the thighs for a Sunday Dinner with rice and a veggie stirfry with shrimp. A Canadian take on a homemade Asian influenced meal.
Not only can you purchase the jelly in both sizes, but there are cocktail mixers and a spicy jelly available, too! Take a look!
Appleflats Crabapple Jelly: The Appleflats Story
Appleflats Inc. came to be purely by accident, says Glen Smyth, the 25-year-old owner of the company. He has 4 employees including himself and his brother Alex, 23, as well as the seasonal workers they bring on each summer for their harvest. In 2016 they had their first commercial harvest and had to supplement with urban trees they located in the area as the demand exceeded their ability to supply with their own orchard. This young Canadian business is rapidly expanding due to its revival of a quintessential Canadian flavour: the crabapple.
The Appleflats Story: Background
Glen Smyth’s mom and dad, along with his mom’s sister and husband, decided to purchase a property outside of Waterloo, Ontario, in 1992. Glen was born that summer as they camped in a field while building their home on the property. It was a big home with two of everything, duplex style, that both families moved into in October 1992.
The Appleflats Story: The Seed
To commemorate the occasion, the couples decided to plant an apple tree in front of the house. They didn’t know what kind of apple tree it was but looked forward to the first harvest. You can imagine their surprise when they discovered it wasn’t an apple tree at all! The lovely white apple-blossomed tree reared small bright little red bobbles that Glen eventually learned was a rare crabapple: The Dolgo.
The Appleflats Story: The TraditionAbove, each cousin pictured with a crabapple plopped into their mouth! The fruit began to produce abundantly so the family began to make crabapple jelly together. Before school started every September, both couples and the children would gather to make the jelly on weekends for 15 years.
Glen, middle, brother Alex, left, and cousin to the right: the “Original Apple Squad Team” selling crabapples at the end of their driveway.
The Appleflats Story: The Revival
Of course, once high school started, and teens being how they are, there was a 6-7 year hiatus from crabapple jelly making, as University followed. Glen put himself through University by working in the oil fields in Northern Alberta during the year and returning to write exams at the end of every semester. Alas, in 2013, Glen was out of work. Back home he went. What now? With some time on his hands, mom suggested he get busy and make some jelly. It had been years, but the passion returned and soon he had far more than the family would ever use. “Maybe I should try to sell some?” Glen called restaurants and found most were very keen. He started to think ahead and planted his first 11 trees in 2014.
The Appleflats Story: The Beginning
Back to University, Glen walked the streets with his jelly, leaving samples with local chefs. Most said they’d either carry it or use it. In 2014 a local specialty company bought all he had and that’s when he started to take a serious look at the commercial aspect of the business. He talked to his brother Alex, and they made a plan. Both worked on the pipelines North of Edmonton for 8 months and saved all of their pennies. In his last year of University, 2015, they tried to go commercial but ran out of juice. Thus, found themselves frantically hunting for other crabapples like theirs and couldn’t find anything with enough volume or flavour. Brokerage houses laughed at their request and thought they were joking as no one sold crabapple trees. Taking a sample of their apple tree to a Canadian Apple Research Centre, they learned their tree is a Dolgo crabapple. Glen started planting in 2014 and increased each year; they now have 300 trees in two locations. The Dolgo is so rare that there are now only about 500 of them across Canada. That little “apple tree” planted in front of the two-family home to celebrate the success of a new beginning so many years ago has grown into a whole other new beginning for the next generation of this hardworking Canadian family. Bravo, Glen and Alex Smyth!
Appleflats Crabapple Jelly: Sweet and Apple-tizing Ribs, Wings or Thighs
This Sweet and Apple-tizing Appleflats Crabapple Jelly Recipe is the perfect sauce for creating sticky, finger-lickin' chicken thighs, wings or pork ribs that are irresistibly delicious. That finishing glaze with the jelly provides the crowning glory for this authentic Taste of Canada.
Ingredients for Blanching Pork (if using pork)
- enough boiling water to cover pork ribs
Ingredients For Sweet and Crabby Sauce
- 30 grams cooking oil
- 30 grams fresh ginger minced
- 30 grams fresh garlic minced
- 150 grams Appleflats Crabapple Jelly
- 150 grams dark Asian rice vinegar
- 90 grams Chinese rice wine Shaoxing OR Hua Tiao wine
- 45 grams light soy sauce
- 45 grams braising sauce or dark soy sauce
- 8 chicken breasts skin on and bone in OR 800 grams to a kilo of chicken wings OR one whole rack of Pork Ribs (baby back are more tender; side ribs work well if cut into “sweet and sour” size portions and then you can use 1 1/2 racks)
- 100 grams Appleflats Crabapple Jelly for glazing
- toasted sesame seeds or green onions slices for garnish
Instructions for Blanching Pork
Blanch pork ribs by pouring boiling water over to cover; rest 10 minutes, discard impurities
Rinse and slice into individual ribs, removing excess fat
Instructions for the Sweet and Crabby Crabapple Ribs, Wings or Chicken Thighs
Place cooking oil, ginger and garlic into heavy pan or Dutch Oven; sauté for 5 minutes on high, stirring often
Place all other ingredients into the heavy pan; add choice of meat and boil chicken on high for 15 minutes OR pork on high for 10 minutes
Turn over meat; boil chicken on high 15 more minutes OR boil pork ribs on medium-high (not high) for 10 more minutes (important as ribs don’t release as much moisture as chicken and can burn if left longer or not watched)
Just before time is up, melt 100 grams of Appleflats Crabapple Jelly; glaze ribs, wings or thighs, once plated
Serve hot; garnish with toasted sesame seeds and thinly sliced green onions and serve with more glaze for dipping!
Please note that serving size is relative:
- 8 thighs: 2-4 people
-1 rack of ribs: 2-3 people
- 800 grams to 1 kilo Chicken Wings: 2 people