Sumac Spiced Apples

This is a record year for sumac (no not poison, please don’t make inevitable comment- Rhus glabra and Rhus typhina, not Toxicodendron virnix) and I’ve have been trying new things.

I made some of the lemonade, then some spice. I still had several pounds left that I dried for layer use. I experimented around with sumac jelly, trying to come up with a better set in a low carb jelly. It’s been a very busy sumac season.

Then I realized the feral apple tree I found a while back (it’s some sort of fuji hybrid) had small apples just starting to ripen. I picked a bunch of those and more fresh sumac, and I thought that I’d make some sumac spiced apples and see how it turned out. It turned out amazing.

Please remember to never eat anything you are unsure of. Do lots of research before eating an unfamiliar item. I’m an experienced forager, and I would never consume anything I was not 100% sure of.

I collected about 3 pounds of the very small apples over the weekend. It’s a wild, self seeded tree, that seems like some sort of fuji hybrid. Possibly with Granny Smith. I can tell you more of what it WASNT’T pollinated by than what it actually WAS beyond Fuji. The fruit had hail damage, apple scab, and insect damage, as feral untreated fruit often does. I chose the best apples I could find (well, actually what I could find and reach; there were more I just couldn’t pick). I also harvested about 2 pounds of R. typhina sumac (staghorn sumac) not far away.

Feral fuji type apples with fresh R. typhina sumac.

I peeled, cored and cut the apples into wedges, giving them a generous citric acid treatment to prevent browning. The apples are really only about the size of a racquetball, so the slices are short and not terribly thick.

Peeled, cored and citric acid treated feral apples that I foraged.

I just made spiced peaches last week and while I liked the clove heavy spice mix for that batch, I did not want to overpower the lemony/tannic flavor of the sumac.

Spice mixture: star anise, whole clove, allspice berries, and ground cinnamon.

Preperation time: 45 minutes. Processing time: 45 minutes. Makes 3 pints (more or less)

RECIPE:

  • 3 pounds of apples (I ended up with an extra pint of syrup, so you can do more)
  • 2 pounds of sumac
  • 6 cups of water
  • 2.5 cups of sugar
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 tsp allspice berries
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

While you are preparing, get your boiling bath canner filled, add some vinegar to prevent mineral scale on your jars, and get it heated. I usually sterilize my jars in the canner, as it comes to temperature saving time. Start simmering your jar lids when you start making the syrup.

Cooked sumac liquid.

METHOD:

  • Put sumac into a large 4 or more quart non-reactive stock pot and cover with 6 cups of water. Put on high heat and bring to boil for at least five minutes.
  • Peel, core, and slice your apples, treating with citric acid to prevent browning.
  • Once sumac has boiled, remove from heat and strain the liquid off. It should be a reddish amber color (see above) and taste tart with a distinct tannic aftertaste.
  • Return 5 cups of sumac liquid to the stock pot.
  • Add spices and sugar, and bring to a low boil for at least 5 minutes.
  • Add the apples and boil for an additional 10 minutes.
  • Remove sterilized jars from canner and using jar funnel, fill pint jars with apples and syrup, evenly divided between the pints.
  • Leave .5″ headspace.
  • Wipe down rim and threads with clean, wet cloth.
  • Add hot, simmered lids, place bands finger tight.
  • Load into boiling bath canner on rack, tray or basket, with at least 2 inches of water covering.
  • Bring to boil, then set time for 10 minutes.
  • At the end of 10 minutes, turn canner off and set another 5 minute timer.
  • After the additional 5 minutes, remove pints from the canner and place on a dry towel to cool over night.
  • Lids should begin to *ping* quickly.
  • The next day, remove the bands, wipe the jars down, label and date the lids.
  • Store in cool, dry place, without bands, and do not stack jars on top of one another.
  • If lids do not retain seal, discard immediately and sterilize the jar before usage again.
Spiced sumac syrup.

This was an experimental recipe, and there was a whole lot of prep work involved that there normally would not be. Ideally, I’d make this when I’m batching a bunch of dried apples and running my peeler/slicer/corer doohickey that would have saved me a TON of time. The sumac liquid takes no more time than boiling water, it’s mostly the apple peeling and canner processing that takes the most time and work.

Cooked apples in spiced sumac syrup, just before hot packing into pint jars.

I chose to hot pack this recipe because while I’m pretty confident that between the sumac and the citric acid the recipe is acidic enough to process in a boiling bath canner, I wanted to be certain I stopped any enzymatic action in the apples. I know it can lead to a softer product, but I think it is the safer approach.

Sumac spiced apples.

The net result was that the flavor was amazing and I actually made a pint of the syrup by itself.

This is a totally new recipe and idea for sumac and spiced apples. Everyone here thought it tasted great and the sumac adds a new depth of flavor. If you are tired of the same old spiced apple recipe, or are looking for new ways to use sumac, give it a try. Let me know how it goes!

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