Spiced Crab Apples

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spiced crab applesBeing from New England originally, I used to love all the pickled types of condiments we would have in that region. Pickled watermelon rind comes to mind, but my culinary adventures took a different turn about two weeks ago: spiced crab apples. These delectable little morsels of fruit are a bright ruby red colour with a hit of sweet and sour, and a blast of spice. Sort of sounds like a fine wine, doesn’t it? I have a huge crabapple tree on my property, and every year, with it full of fruit, I think about spiced crab apples. 

But alas, with something going on, usually school, I never quite got there. Well this year is different. With #1 son (actually, only son) safely established in St. John’s, Newfoundland studying Nautical Science, and school not yet started for me, I seized the opportunity. The tree was really loaded, so I felt there was no better time. Besides, they’re free. I picked about four pounds worth, found a good recipe, and the great experiment started. 

The recipe in question came from a cookbook series popular here in Canada called Company’s Coming, by Jean Pare. She and her team are a practical lot, putting out easy to understand, and easy to make, recipes. I don’t have her whole collection, but close to it. The one I used is called, of course, “Preserves.” 

Take a look at the technical data below, you probably can get it online. As usual, I did modify the recipe, in this case, cutting it in half. But it didn’t stop there, I went one step further. She advocates canning the finished product, but I don’t can (a shortcoming I know), so I tried freezing some. Worked beautifully, and that is what I would recommend if you aren’t planning on eating all 3 ½ pounds worth anytime soon. Yield: Three quarts.

Spiced Crab Apples

3 cups granulated sugar

1 ¼ cups water

2 ½ cups white vinegar

2 3” cinnamon sticks

1 teaspoon whole cloves

3 ½ pounds crab apples with stems and blossom ends removed 

First, you make the syrup. Here’s Jean: “Measure sugar, water and vinegar into large saucepan. Stir and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes.”

Now she suggests you tie your cinnamon sticks and cloves into a double layer of cheesecloth, but me being me, I just threw the sticks in (they’re pretty big, and easy to pick out later), and put the cloves in a tea ball. Yes, a tea ball. Put that in, and it’s also easy to retrieve. Jean again, “Add crab apples in single layers, 1 layer at a time. Cover and simmer until just tender, about 8 to 12 minutes. Discard spices. Spoon crab apples into hot sterilized quart jars to within 1” of top. Pour syrup over apples to within ½” of top. Place sterilized metal lids on jars and screw metal bands on securely. For added assurance against spoilage, you many choose to process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.”

My crab apples were small, about the size of cherries. Mine took only about 10 minutes or so, and I simmered gently so as not to mash them, and she also recommends pricking the skin to keep them from bursting, which I did. A few did, but no big deal. It took two simmerings to cook all 3 ½ lbs. worth. I packed one quart into a plastic (BPA free) container that went into the freezer. The others I packed into glass jars, and have been offering them with chicken, ribs!!!, but would also go equally well with ham or turkey. Turkey. Hmmm. You know what’s coming. 

Pare, Jean. Preserves. Company’s Coming Publishing Limited, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.1994.

The books are published simultaneously in Canada and the US, and here’s the ISBN number: 1-895456-30-8. You can also order by snail mail at:

Company’s Coming Publishing Limited

Box 8037, Station “F”

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6H 4N9

You can read more of Sue Van Slooten's food adventures at www.suevanslooten.com.