It’s not a fruit you hear about a lot. In fact before I stumbled across Appleflats' Crabapple Jelly, I had no idea what crabapples were, tasted like, or even looked like!
But these are unique little fruits. Perhaps your grandmother may recognize them or you may vaguely remember your grandmother making crabapple jelly.
Or you may be like me, born in another country, and really have zero knowledge of crabapples. But since it is never too late to learn, I decided that I wanted to dig a little deeper and get to know the story behind crabapples and how Appleflats came to be.
And so began my first crabapple experience and what better way to start than to visit Appletflats’ farm and production facility, right?
Earlier this summer, I stumbled across the Appleflats vendor booth at Taste Real’s Local Food Fest. I met Alex Smyth, one of the founders there and got to sample some of their Crabapple jelly and their Crabapple cocktail mixes.
Then a couple of weeks later I end up in Wellesley, Ontario meeting with the faces behind Appleflats at their farm and production facility.
I met Glen and Alex Smyth, founders of Appleflats at their farm in Wellesley, Ontario, where it has also been their home since the summer of 1993. Crabapples became a part of their founding story as Glen’s and Alex’s parents planted the crabapple tree in front of their newly finished house to represent their accomplishment.
You may be wondering, Why a crabapple tree? Well, that part is open for debate. Glen and Aex have asked all the builders of the house and the story differs based on who you talk to.
It could have been a mistake or intentionally planted because of its lovely Spring blossoms.
Whatever the reason, the tree became a part and a symbol of the Smyth family. Every August just before school started, ever since Alex and Glen were five years old, the whole family would come together to make crabapple jelly. It was a special time, one that became cherished by all members of the Smyth family.
It wasn’t until 2014 when Glen saw an opportunity to make their jelly into a venture. Monforte Dairy, actually bought their whole batch. They would feature the crabapple jelly in their grilled cheese back at their store in Stratford. I am getting hungry just thinking about the combination!
As you drive down their narrow driveway, you come across their fields, some buckets, and eventually see their grand house at the end of the path with the crabapple tree in front of it.
The trees surround the property and they are planted in a way to allow a traditional way of harvesting the apples. This process is very similar to harvesting olives. A net is placed and the trees are shaken to harvest the fruit.
Another interesting encounter on their farm was the beehive they had. Nith Valley Apiaries comes up to the farm and takes cares of the bees. It’s a great collaboration between the two businesses as the bees helps the trees grow healthier and since the trees are not sprayed, they actually help the bees be stronger and survive through the winter! Who knew right?!
The harvest time for crabapples is in August. They are harvested in big bins and then sorted out for twigs and damaged ones and then washed. Once the apples are washed they are pressed to juice and that juice forms the base of all the Appleflats products.
There is a market for crabapples for those that remember their grandmother making it and for the younger generations who are curious to taste it and enjoy something unique and local.
Since jelly may not be for everyone, the brothers also expanded their product line with mixers, a sour apple mix and a sweet maple mix. This is a great alternative for people for their cocktails as their mixes are made free of preservatives and from the crabapple juice.
“A lot of people know about apples, but not about crab apples,” says Glen, co-founder of Appleflats Foods.
Alex and Glen really want to change the way people think about crabapples and in a way bring them back to society and revive them to the younger population.
The brothers want to bring crabapples to be part of the Canadian experience. They believe this to be a fun opportunity to explore and highlight Canadian produce and at the same time bring a sense of tradition and family to the dinner table.
The vision of the brothers is to replace a lot of commercial products with crabapple products.
Instead of purchasing drink mixers with preservatives and unfamiliar ingredients, replacing them with Appleflat’s naturally flavoured mixers. Their jelly can also become a staple for entertaining with crackers on a cheese board or a simple afternoon snack or light lunch like a grilled cheese & crabapple jelly sandwich.
The brothers would like to see the return to the dinner table and form a sense of “togetherness.”
So what’s next?
The brothers have hinted at spicing (pickling) whole crabapples. It’s not final yet, still in the production and testing stages.
Other possibilities in the future may include an alcoholic crabapple cider or vodka soda.The Appleflats brothers sure have a lot on their plate!
So make sure you follow along their adventure via their social networks! You can follow them on Instagram and like their Facebook Page.
I got the pleasure to take home some crabapple jelly and mixers. I put the jelly immediately to good use for a wine & cheese I hosted.
For your next Wine & Cheese Night, impress with Appleflat's crabapple jelly:
-Barrie’s Asparagus Chia Crackers
-Appleflats Crabapple Jelly
-Niagara Botanical Co. Edible Flowers
So simple, local, and delicious! A perfect addition to your cheese board.