Spiced Crab Apples

One year when we had an abundance of inedible crab apples, our apprentice Jill tried this recipe from The Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier. What a transformation - from bitter to tasty. They were a big improvement over the dyed-red, spiced apple slices my grandmother always served on Christmas Eve.

Prep time: 2 1/2 hours
Yield: approx. 6 pints


  • 3 pounds crab apples

  • 3 cups granulated sugar

  • 2 1/2 cups cider vinegar

  • 2 1/2 cups water

  • 1 tsp whole cloves

  • 1 tsp whole cardamom seeds

  • 3 sticks cinnamon


Wash the apples thoroughly, paying extra attention to the blossom ends, and prick with a needle in 2-3 places.  Do not remove stems. Place half of the apples in a large kettle, and cover with sugar, vinegar and water.  Stir. Tie spices in a piece of cheesecloth, and add to the crab apples in the kettle.

Cover the kettle, and slowly bring the liquid to a boil.  Resist the urge to heat the mixture too quickly so that the skins don’t burst.  Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, and cook 15-20 minutes or until the apples are tender. Remove the apples from the hot syrup, and set aside.  Add the remaining apples to the syrup, and repeat the cooking process.

When all the apples have been cooked, remove the kettle from heat, and return the first batch of apples to the hot syrup.  Now all of the apples will be in the syrup.

When the apples and syrup have cooled, remove and drain the crab apples, discard the spices, and return the syrup to the heat, and bring it to a boil.

Pack the crab apples into sterile pint jars, and cover with the boiling syrup (leaving 1/4 inch head space).  Screw on lids. Process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes.