The pacific crabapple (malus fusca) is a beautiful, widespread tree – growing abundantly along the pacific northwest coast from northern California to Alaska and into the Yukon. The indigenous people here traditionally gather the fruits in clusters from the trees in late summer, before they have fully ripened and become soft. They are then stored for winter by being submerged under water in bentwood boxes. Because of the inherent acidity of the fruit nothing further is required. No salt brine. No cooking. Ridiculously incredible… Fermentation eventually transforms the hard, extremely sour crabapples into clusters of soft, sweet, tangy effervescent amazingnesses.
I have done this successfully by picking crabapples in September, once they are looking less green and more yellow/red, then putting them in 1 gallon glass jars under (unchlorinated) water. These can then be stashed away in a cool place with a lid on loosely, or some cloth tied around the jar’s mouth to allow more ventilation. After about 2 weeks, depending on the temperature, they start getting soft and good, but it takes several months for them to get into their prime. Stored this way they have stayed good (that is, gotten better) for me until the following spring. A scum sometimes forms on the surface of the water the crabapples are in – this is no problem. Just skim it off. Fermented crabapples are a welcome source of wild, vibrant, living food in the dead of winter - when the land has gone into deep slumber. They require pretty much no preparation for a food that will keep quite a long time!