In just two days in September, 412 Food Rescue volunteers harvested more than 1,500 pounds of fruit.
They didn’t have to go far. Dozens of people picked fruit from trees around the city, both on public and private land, including in Mellon Park.
The event was part of Hidden Harvest, an effort to find and collect fruit and nuts that would otherwise go to waste. Carolyn Barber and Rose Tileston founded Hidden Harvest as a nonprofit in 2014, and 412 Food Rescue —a Pittsburgh nonprofit devoted to reducing food waste and saving ugly food — took it over this year.
With help from A Few Bad Apples and Wigle Whiskey, most of the crabapples rescued in September became hard cider, said Hana Uman, 412 Food Rescue’s program manager. No, you can’t buy any yet, but that’s the ultimate goal, she said.
412 Food Rescue is gearing up for another large-scale harvest this Friday. Using fruit pickers, volunteers can potentially collect 200 to 300 pounds from just one tree. But really, anyone — with permission from the property owner, of course — can pluck a couple crabapples off one of the many trees around town or pick ones that aren’t rotten off of the ground.
And while you probably don’t have the capacity to make hard cider, there are some simple recipes you can make with foraged fruit. On a desk in the Repair the World space in East Liberty, Uman taught The Incline how to make crabapple sauce using a recipe similar to this one.
The recipe calls for just three ingredients — crabapples, sugar and cinnamon — and requires a saucepan, cooktop, bowl and blender or masher.
It’s really this simple:
- Clean and cut the crabapples.
- Place the cut pieces in boiling water and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, until the apples are soft.
- Drain. Put the apple pieces in a bowl.
- Blend to your preferred texture using a blender or hand masher.
- Taste! Add a pinch or two of sugar (taste again) and a dash of cinnamon (taste some more) depending on your personal preference.
- Eat it or store the sauce in a jar or other container for up to week in the refrigerator.
That’s it. Here are some additional tips from Uman:
- Don’t skip the washing step. While the city doesn’t spray public trees with pesticides, there are still pollutants in the air.
- Instead of cutting the crabapples in half then taking out the seeds, cut them into fourths around the core. Don’t forget to remove the stem.
- If you’re cutting one day and cooking the next, put the apple pieces in a bowl of water then refrigerate to keep them fresh.
- You don’t need a Vitamix or fancy blender to make a smooth sauce. Uman recommended using a handheld immersion blender, which costs around $12 at Target.
- Like cinnamon? Boil a stick with the crabapples, which are more tart than the sweet apples most people are familiar with.