A Boke of Gode Cookery Presents

To make Char de Crabb

PERIOD: England, 15th century | SOURCE: MS Harley 5401 | CLASS: Authentic

DESCRIPTION: A tart apple pie flavoured with anise


To make Char de Crabb. Recipe crabbs & seth þam in watur tyll þai be softe, & take hony & strene þe crabbs þerwith throgh a cloth. Put to a iijd part of claryfyed hony & a quantyte of sawndyrs, & colour it with saforun; þen put þerto a quantyte of powdyr of peper & ij d worth of þe flour of anneys & a quantyte of powdyre of licorys. Þen take grated brede & mold it vp þerwith, & put it in cophyns & serof it forth, & bene facis. Quod Don Thomas Awkbarow.

- Hieatt, Constance B. "The Middle English Culinary Recipes in MS Harley 5401: An Edition and Commentary." Medium Ævum vol. 65, no. 1 (1996): 54-71.


To make Crabapple Pie. Recipe: crabapples & boil them in water til they be soft, & take hony & strain the crabbs therewith through a cloth. Put to a 3rd part of clarified honey & a quantity of sandalwood, & colour it with saffron; then put thereto a quantity of powder of pepper & 2d worth of the flour of anise & a quantity of powder of licorice. Then take grated bread & mould it up therewith, & put it in pie shells & serve it forth, & you will go well. So says Don Thomas Awkbarow.


  • 4-6 large green or tart apples, peeled, cored, & sliced
  • 1-1½  cups honey
  • Few drops red food coloring
  • Several pinches saffron or few drops yellow food coloring
  • 1 tsp. white pepper
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. anise extract
  • t½-1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 pre-baked 9" pie shell
Boil the apples until soft; drain well. Pass through a food processor or masher (or equivalent device) along with 1 cup of the honey to make a smooth purée. Place the purée in a large bowl; taste for sweetness and blend in the additional honey if needed. With a large spoon blend in the food coloring, saffron, salt & pepper, & the anise extract, then blend in enough of the breadcrumbs to thicken the mixture to the consistency of a heavy cake batter or cookie dough. Place in the pre-baked pie shell and bake at 325° F for approx. 20-30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly to set, then serve.

Those who can pick their own crabapples are encouraged to do so! The rest of us may be satisfied by using green or tart apples of any variety.

Anise flour & powdered licorice will be almost impossible for most people to find easily, but anise extract will add the necessary flavour for this dish, which Constance B. Hieatt calls a "confection."

Although it is not clearly indicated that this pie is to be placed in an oven, most medieval fruit pie recipes were baked, and the absence of this procedure from the original receipt does not necessarily mean that this "char" was an exception. The name "char" itself implies that this is a baked or roasted item. Technically, the pie could be considered finished without baking and served as such; however, the baked version is a much more pleasurable & satisfying dish and would very certainly have been prepared this way in period.

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To make Char de Crabb © 2000 James L. Matterer

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