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A Taste of Fall: Homemade Pickled Crabapples

by Stark Bro's on 10/04/2012

When most people think of crabapples, they think of small inedible* fruit. The trees they grow on are often beautiful (even ornamental), and they are excellent pollinators, but traditionally, crabapples aren’t eaten fresh. They are more likely to be used to make jellies and jams, or, in the focus on today’s blog post, pickled crabapples. Some of you might remember pickled crabapples as a side at Thanksgiving along with, or as an alternative to, cranberry sauce. Try the recipe below to enjoy your own delicious, homemade pickled crabapples!

Canned (Pickled) Crabapples Recipe

Preparation Time: 2¼ hours
Yield: Approximately 6 pints

You need:

  • 3 pounds crabapples
  • 3 cups extra fine granulated sugar or 2½ cups honey
  • 2½ cups cider vinegar
  • 2½ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon whole cardamom seeds
  • 3 sticks cinnamon, each broken in 2 or 3 pieces


  1. Wash the crabapples (discard those that are blemished), wipe clean the blossom ends, and leave the stem intact but trimmed short.
  2. Prick the crabapples in 2 or 3 places with a fine skewer and place half in a large kettle. Cover with the sugar (or honey), vinegar, and water. Stir all together.
  3. Tie the spices in cheesecloth and add to the crabapples in the kettle.
  4. Cover the kettle and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the apples are tender but not falling apart.
  5. Remove the crabapples from the hot syrup and put aside. Repeat with the remaining half of the crabapples.
  6. When all the crabapples have been cooked, remove the kettle from the heat and return the first batch to the hot syrup.
  7. Allow the apples to cool in the syrup.
  8. Drain the crabapples, discard the spices, return the syrup to the pan, and bring to the boil.
  9. Pack the crabapples into pint or quart jars, cover with the boiling syrup to within ¼ inch of the tops, and screw on the lids.
  10. Process for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath.

The recipe above was excerpted from Granny Stark’s Apple Cookbook © Olwen Woodier used with permission from Storey Publishing.

*Note: There are also edible varieties of crabapple that are slightly larger and much sweeter. If you are using sweet, edible crabapples in this recipe — like Chestnut Crabapple or Whitney Crabapple — consider adjusting the amount of sweetener used (sugar or honey), since such a large quantity will not be necessary.

Chestnut Crabapple Whitney Crabapple

Shop All Crabapple Trees »

Topics → Recipes


  1. Carol Nye permalink

    Does this announcement mean that perhaps, next summer, I will see blossoms and crab apples???
    I am trying to be patient, but I think we will be going into year #4.

    • Carol, it may depend entirely on the variety crabapple you’re growing. The Whitney Crabapple and the Chestnut Crabapple (that we just started offering this fall) take about 2-5 years to begin producing their fruit — great for fresh-eating or traditional culinary uses. Your tree may just need more time to reach a fruiting maturity, so next year looks promising! :)

  2. Rick Mapson permalink

    What about the stem and seeds?

    • Rick, you can discard the stems and seeds, along with the spices, in step 8. :)

      • Jane Volk permalink

        actually you eat around the seeds in the pickled apples just like a regular apple. My mom (now 97) and her mother before her made awesome pickled crabapples. They are finger food like most pickles and the stems help to hold the apples.

        • Thank you Jane! That makes more sense, since it seemed like the apples hold up and retain the stems and seeds. I suppose if they end up outside of the crabapples somehow, they would be something to discard along with the spices. :)

  3. It would be great to have an option to print the recipe. I copied into MS Word and printed from there. Sounds like a good one — I can’t wait to try it!

    • Thank you for the tip, Pamela! We’ll see what we can do about getting a print option for this and future recipes. :)

  4. Carl Dimick permalink

    What is the name of the crabapple variety (or varieties) that produces fairly large (for crabapples) yellow or green fruit? Does Stark offer any of them?

    • I’m not familiar with the fruit you’re referring to, unfortunately, Carl. :( I do know that the crabapple varieties that we carry (Whitney Crabapple and also Chestnut Crabapple) are fairly large and sweet (for crabapples), but they are both red, though.

      • Jane Volk permalink

        Some folks use Lady Apples for pickles, too. But the Whitney makes a great pickle in the smaller size.

  5. My mother always made spiced crabapples. Larger crabapples were cut into rings. Smaller crabapples were done whole. The stem gave you a handle with which to carry them to your mouth. Generally the seeds stayed stuck to the stem so you could just sort of suck the good stuff off and then use the stem to carry the seeds back to your plate. They were especially good with hot buttered toast but worked well with pork and poultry. She also made the proverbial crabapple jelly, which is still my favorite. My mom died 6 years ago. I’ve made the jelly since then but now I am reminded about the spiced crabapples so I’ll do that next year. Looking forward to it. Thanks Stark for good trees and plants and recipes.

    • Thank you for the tips and for sharing your lovely memory with us, Colleen. I actually tried my hand at crabapple jelly recently, but I had to piece together 4 different recipes because there was so much information missing from each one individually. It was a lot of work, but the end product was incredible! :)

  6. Riata Boroschewski permalink

    This is good, but I have a wonderful crabapple tree whose variety I don’t know. They’re the size of walnuts, up to the size of racketballs, and very tart but sweet. I use a recipe like this one (no cardamom) and make an apple butter/applesauce type of spread. It also calls for a pinch of freshly cracked black pepper. A friend worked on it, and she said her grandmother called it “apple sass” because it had spices in it. WONDERFUL!! I LOVE my crabapples, and the old, old tree they come from!

    • “Apple sass” — I love that! :D Thank you for sharing, this Riata. I’ve been interested in trying to make an apple butter/apple sauce. I might do it for the holidays this year!

  7. Riata Boroschewski permalink

    I should have said they’re the size of large marbles, and the neighbors love them in the fall.

  8. Riata Boroschewski permalink

    I’ll get this right eventually–marbles up to racketballs. (Sorry–minor surgery this morning, and no working brain cells.) Is there anyone from the test group who could give me any more info about the chestnut crab? I love different varieties and flavors of apples, but can’t invest the space on an unknown.

    • I’m looking forward to trying this fruit when it comes on the trees next year — missed out on testing it this year — but I did manage to find an interesting blog post written by someone who did try it. You can read about his flavor experience here: Chestnut Crabapple

  9. Terry permalink

    Does Stark Bro’s offer a ‘shrub’ size crabapple. The one I did have was destroyed while doing foundation repair.

    • I know that the two crabapple trees we currently offer (Whitney Crabapple and also Chestnut Crabapple) grow to reach about a 12-15 foot height, but they can also be pruned to a more manageable size. I wouldn’t say they grow much like a bush, though. They are definitely have more of a tree-like nature.

      We used to offer a Stark® Maypole Flowering Colonnade® Crabapple that grew more compact (you can see images and growing information on our Growing Guide here) but it has since been discontinued. We may bring it back sometime in the future, but we don’t have any available to ship at this time.

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