Monday, July 27, 2015

Chokecherries and Crabapples.....Remember?

I remember as a child here in Maine that two of my favorite wild foods to eat were those little garnet-colored chokecherries and crabapples.

It seems as though they grew everywhere and whenever we were outdoors playing, no matter where we were, we didn't have to look far to eat either of them. Heck, the natives as well as our forefathers and mothers used chokecherries from everything from pemmican(a dried concoction often eaten on long trips) to stews. Tea was even made from the bark and leaves of chokecherries, even though modern historians and scientists have proclaimed the leaves to be toxic.

Chokecherries are said to be inedible by many people who write recipes or "informative" stories about them, so it is obvious they have never TRIED them before writing their words of wisdom. Certainly they are quite tart, sour, astringent and mouth-puckering, but wasn't that the whole fun of eating them as a child?  I never know of any friend of mine growing up that ever got sick from them.

Crabapples are another one of those childhood favorites, much like the man-made Sour Patch gummy candies or the sour tasting Warheads of todays generation.
The genesis of our cultivated apple, the flower of crabapple trees are an everlasting tribute to my childhood memories and a graceful addition to many landscapes, both in the wild and at home with their twisted branches and wild look, along with their tolerance to severe New England conditions.
You will find many recipes using both chokecherries and crabapples but one thing to bear in mind. When using either, especially crabapples, always make sure you use apple cider or juice with them, or you will have one dish that will dry your mouth out worse than alum. And make sure you peel and cut the apples directly into the recipe. Crabapples oxidize(brown) faster than........(you fell in the rest).

Crabapple Barbecued Pulled Pork

I know. I know, crabapples are hard to find now-a-days, but I urge those of you who are able to find them, to use them here. They add a special touch that no other apple can employ. But if all else fails, find the tartest apples you can find, such as Granny Smiths, Suncrisps, Staymans, Gravensteins and Winesaps.


1 quart hard or regular apple cider or apple juice
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon each onion and garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon each salt, black pepper and cinnamon
1 (2-pound) pork tenderloin
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups diced crabapples *
1(6-ounce)can tomato paste
6 rolls or your choice, toasted

Whisk together first 6 ingredients and add to a crockpot along with the pork and onion. Cover and let simmer on low for 4-6 hours, or until falling apart tender. When there is an hour left, add apples. Remove pork and onions with a slotted spoon into a large bowl and shred with a fork. The apples will have reduced to little bits so leave them in liquid. Transfer this liquid from crockpot to a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in tomato paste and continue boiling for a minute or two, or until everything is well combined and sauce has thickened slightly. Add shredded pork and onions back into sauce, mix thoroughly and scoop out to mound on prepared rolls. Serve with additional sauce if there is any.

* Or use 2 large, tart apples that have been peeled, cored, and diced.

Note: Make this recipe by braising as well, which lends a crispier texture. Simply whisk the first 6 ingredients together and pour over the pork that has been set in a high-sided pan, with a rack underneath to prevent scorching on bottom. Spread the apples and onions over the pork, cover with foil and braise 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until very tender. Remove pork and onions, shredding pork as directed and mixing them with the pan juices. Omit the tomato paste or transfer pan juices to saucepan, whisk in the paste and bring to a boil before mixing with pork and onions.

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