Crabapple Jelly

apple plum jelly 2

There is a common misconception that crabapples aren’t good for much, merely because their size prohibits easy peeling and coring. And their name characterizes them unfairly.

(W used to call them “crap apples”.)

apples & plums

But in reality, having all the flavour and tartness of a full apple packed into such a condensed space is a good thing; and the fact that they are ripe and ready right at harvest time can’t be a coincidence. Loaded with flavour and pectin (especially the cores, so you don’t want to core them anyway), crabapples are delicious insurance that your jams and jellies will set, without buying and upending a packet of powdered stuff into your pot. Apple is delicious with berries, plums, or any other fruits you want to toss in – but there’s nothing wrong with straight-up crabapple, either.

apple plum jelly 5

I happened to be gifted with a bucket of equally tart and tiny plums – crabplums – which were equally impossible to pit. And so they joined the party – a potful, covered with water, simmered until sludgy, then strained through a colander (or cheesecloth if you want a clearer jelly) and brought to a boil with sugar. You don’t need a particular quantity of crabapples – just whatever you manage to shake from your tree. And have a bag of sugar on hand.

apple plum jelly 3

People use jelly bags (or make them) to create a slow drip of pure, clear juice for their jellies – the rule is to not push or otherwise disrupt the solids, which will produce a cloudy (gasp!) jelly. I don’t particularly mind this, and tend to swish the apple mash around in the strainer to extract as much as possible. It’s lovely and pink. If you have a second pot, you can straight it directly into it.

What makes people most nervous about jam and jelly making is the setting. There are a few ways to go about this – you could boil it to 220F on a candy thermometer, or test it for the gelling stage by dripping some onto a plate in the freezer and pushing it with your finger to see if it wrinkles. My candy thermometer is packed away somewhere, and so I took the wait-and-see approach, and cooked it until it went from looking like bubbling juice to bubbling jam. The bubbles are thicker and slower, and the foam that rises to the surface turns dense and almost clumpy – don’t skim it off right away; it’s a good indicator that your jelly is done. When you pour it into jars, the surface will start to cool – pushing it with a spoon produces the same wrinkled effect you get by using your finger and a cold plate. You can see it starting to gel.

apple plum jelly 1

I don’t bother with the pressure canning process – jellies like this keep well in the fridge for months, and rather than push them to the back to be forgotten until next spring, when I decide it might be a good idea to clean out the fridge, I give away the surplus.

apple plum jelly 4

And if your jelly doesn’t set, just call it crabapple syrup – to drizzle over ice cream or cakes or into cocktails or tea – and it will still be delicious.

Crabapple Jelly


October 8, 2014

If you like, put a cinnamon stick or sprig of rosemary into your jars before pouring in the hot jelly.

  • Makes: Makes as many jars as you like.



currants, cranberries or plums, if you like



1Wash, stem and halve or quarter the apples into a large pot. (Don’t bother to peel or core them.) Add a few handfuls of black currants or cranberries or a few pitted and quartered plums, if you like. Add enough water to just cover them and bring to a boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the apples are very soft.

2Pour into a strainer or colander lined with cheesecloth (or use a jelly bag if you have one) set over a large bowl or pot, and let the juice drain out. Stir the pulp around a bit if you want to hurry it up - but any poking or prodding will result in a cloudy jelly. I don't mind this, but you might. That's cool.

3Measure the resulting juice into a pot (this is easy if you drain it into a pot with measurements marked on the side) and add 3/4 cup sugar for every cup of juice. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil rapidly, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 220°F on a candy thermometer, or until a small amount placed on a cold plate and put into the freezer wrinkles when you poke at it with your finger. This should take about 20 minutes.

4While it’s still hot, pour the jelly into clean, hot jars, skim off any foam that rises to the top with a spoon, and seal with lids. Set aside to cool. (I find that if I use hot jelly and hot jars, straight from the dishwasher, they seal properly and I can store them for a long time, but this is not proper advice - so feel free to follow proper canning instructions.)


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30 comments on “Crabapple Jelly

  1. Frances
    October 8, 2014 at 11:08 am

    I don’t even bother to stem or halve crabapples anymore, let alone cut off the blossom ends…it makes absolutely no difference in the end! But a trick I learned from a master jam-maker a few years ago is to run the cooked fruit left in your jelly bag through a food mill or a sieve (easier if you add a bit of water back to it) and use the resulting pomace in making other jams. It’s guaranteed to set, doesn’t require longer than about ten minutes cooking, and you can adjust the sugar to taste.

    4 cups crabapple pomace, 4 cups blackberries, and six cups of sugar is tart and yummy and way better than straight blackberry jam, let alone anything you could buy in the store.

    My jelly bag(s) are big square hunks of old bedsheets 🙂

    • Leila
      September 10, 2017 at 10:42 pm

      I took your advice and just milled 10 cups of pomace. Now I’ll find 4 cups of something in season and will be thanking you again. Thank you! It was my first time and I didn’t stem or quarter my crabapples 🙂

  2. sue/the view from great island
    October 8, 2014 at 11:16 am

    Love this — I just made spiced crab apples on the blog the other day! I am so jealous of your crab plums…never even knew they existed 🙂

  3. Sandra
    October 8, 2014 at 11:43 am

    My MIL just gave us two jars of crabapple jelly last week. They’re already gone! It’s so delicious!

  4. Lisa
    October 8, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Bistro Sakana in Yaletown. Best sushi I’ve ever had. So so good! Have a great trip…hopefully the sun will say hello while you are here. 🙂

  5. Stephanie
    October 8, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Crabapple is the type of tree I enjoy when it’s in someone else’s yard. I love making the jelly, but not quite as much jelly as the tree in our old yard wanted me to

  6. kickpleat
    October 9, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Yum!! I’d love to try this jelly with both the crabapples and the plums as they’re both abundant at the markets this fall.

  7. TS
    October 9, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    I have a crabapple tree and made jelly with the apples for the first time last week. The results were great, and I have a new thing to do every fall.

  8. jake
    October 10, 2014 at 10:27 am


    Those jars of jelly have an amazing colour!

    Crabapple harvest – is there a nicer sign of Autumn? Red crabapples, golden leaves, clear blue sky.

    Stewed, sweetened crabapples with hot buttered toast is an old timey breakfast I need to put into rotation this time of year. Super tasty, plus it’s fun to slurp them by their stems off their little cores. Yummy hot or chilled. Reminds me of my parents and grandparents.

    I made a batch of jalapeno crabapple jelly last Fall, excellent with aged cheddar, cream cheese, etc.

    I think I need a little batch of crabapple syrup – a crabapple Sidecar might be a good idea for a weekend cocktail.

    I shake all down all the ones i can’t use for the does and fawns – hooved crabapple Hoovers.


  9. Bebe
    October 14, 2014 at 7:00 am

    Thank you for this. My aunt always made crabapple jelly and I loved it. I never had her recipe, I’m not sure she ever used one. I will make some!

  10. Holly
    October 14, 2014 at 8:57 am

    I made crabapple jelly for the first time this year; it turned out great! Not bad for my first ever jelly! I wasn’t able to make all my one tree produced, but it’s on the schedule for next year. I will have to add this recipe as an alternative.

  11. Anneke Scholten
    November 2, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Hi Julie,

    I read your blog about this machine with great interest.

    I am looking for a foodprocessor or mixer that can mix speculaas dough (and other dough of the same consistency). I’ve always done it by hand but my hands are getting weaker due to MS and I can’t do the heavy kneading anymore. I already tried a whole variety: Cuisinart, Kitchenaid and now the latest a Kenwood foodprocessor. I do already have a Cuisinart stand mixer which does a great job in almost every thing except the heavier doughs where you need to cut in the butter and than knead it into a ball.

    Not any of the ones I had did a decent job, they all end up with a layer of dough in the bottom and the knifes just keep running over the dough lined bottom. I constantly need to use a spatula to get the dough mixed.

    The latest, the Kenwood, is by far the worst (and the most expensive one) I have ever had. I bought it last year just before Sinterklaas (Dec. 5th) and it already gave a lot of problems and now even the attachment broke off. The flour and dough is getting into the hollow parts of the knife attachment.

    Do you think this one would do a satisfiable job in kneading heavier dough (the ones with cold butter)?

    I know this blog is already a year old so I will also email you, might you not have the time to go through all of the comments ons your awesome blog 🙂


    • Julie
      November 12, 2014 at 11:41 pm

      Anneke, have you tried a stand mixer instead of a food processor? That’s the route I’d go – a Kitchen Aid stand mixer with a spatula paddle attachment to ensure you scrape the bottom of the bowl as you go.

  12. ana
    September 15, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    Hi, when do you put in the lemon?

  13. Jeanie
    September 24, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    Your jelly looks delicious! I can’t wait to make it as my neighbour was kind enough to let me pick the crabapples in his garden and they are beautiful ripe ones! I love your preserving jars. If you don’t mind me asking where you purchased those. Thank you.

  14. Karen Klementis
    October 18, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    I have found the best way to extract juice from Crabapples is with a Steam Juicer. They can be purchased at Kitchen shops or Home Hardware for example.
    You litteraly wash the crabapples and that is it. Into the pot they go and within 20 to 30 minutes, voila’ you have beautiful clear juice. That’s my tip for those who love crabapple jelly and want to simplify the process.

  15. Rita Duggan
    October 3, 2016 at 11:30 am

    Love crab apple jelly, I’ve been making it for, years. 30 jars, this year, my family, and friends love it, too. It’s amazing on brie cheese, or, cambazola cheese, too. If you really want to try a completely different, jelly, which is so amazing. Try making, ‘peony jelly,’ it’s out of this world…really, it is! Wish I could post a picture of it, made 30 jars of it, too! No matter what you make, it’s always nice to give as gifts!

    • Julie
      October 3, 2016 at 11:22 pm

      Wow, that sounds amazing! 30 jars – how many peonies did you have?!

      • Rita Duggan
        October 4, 2016 at 11:26 am

        Hi Julie, I have about 10 plants, and a few neighbours gave me some peony flowers, too. Of course, the more flowers I cut, the more came. 😉

      • Julie
        October 5, 2016 at 10:47 am

        Is that how it works?!

      • Rita Duggan
        October 5, 2016 at 12:46 pm

        Yes, it works like that with most flowering plants. If the flowers are dying off then, cut them, off. This, allows the nutrients to go to the new growth. We call it, ‘dead heading.’

  16. Wendy
    August 22, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    My jelly turned out great. I cut back a bit on the sugar and boiled it more. The apple were chubbier We get a kick out of the lids popping Yum!

  17. Nicole
    August 28, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    220 here in yyc or at sea level?

    • Julie
      August 30, 2017 at 8:56 pm

      I made it in yyc!

  18. Roxann Weibel
    September 11, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    I need someone to answer a question for me..please i was in the process of making jelly and had to stop because of stuff lol anyways i made it to th stage where you hang the apples to drain an had to stp so i put the juice in the fridge and its been there for 3 days. Is it still good to go to continue the last part of cooking the juice with sugar or is it way to late for that

    • Leila Rigaux
      September 11, 2018 at 2:42 pm

      Nope, not too late. I end up having to do batch #2 a few days later, too. You have to boil it for 20 minutes or so anyway. Do it tonight or tomorrow and all will be well.

      • Julie
        September 19, 2018 at 6:49 pm

        Thanks Leila!

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