Old Spiced Crab Apple (Pickled Crab Apple) Recipe

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, September 12, 1911:   Had to run around town this morning and accomplished some errands. Have to sleep with Rufus tonight as the threshers are here.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Rufus refers to Grandma’s sister Ruth. The wheat and oats would have been harvested in last July. It would have been tied into shocks and left to dry in the field. Now a threshing machine would separate the grain from the straw.

The threshing machine would have been a huge steam operated contraption –and lots of labor was required.  The owner of the machine would take it from farm to farm —and all of the farmers in the neighborhood would help.

Lots of food would have been needed to feed the men. People in central Pennsylvania used to say that a meal should have seven sweets and seven sours.  I wonder if the Muffly women made Spiced Crab Apples for one of the sours to feed the threshers.

Here’s the old recipe that I use to make spiced crab apples. In the old days a large amount of spiced crab apples would have been prepared—and some would have been canned. I’ve adapted the recipe to make a smaller amount—and just store them in the refrigerator rather than canning them.

Spiced Crab Apples (Pickled Crab Apples)

2 pounds crab apples

1 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 cup water

3 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves

2 sticks cinnamon

1 piece fresh or dried ginger (approximately 1/2 inch cube)

Wash crab apples, and remove blossom ends; do not remove stems. Prick each crab apple with a fork several to prevent apple from breaking apart while cooking.

Stir vinegar, water, sugar, and spices together in a large saucepan. Bring to a slow boil. Add prepared crab apples and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and put the mixture into a large glass bowl. Refrigerate overnight.  Remove spices from syrup.

The crab apples will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.

My husband really likes this recipe. He says that it tastes just like Spiced Crab Apples that his Aunt Gertrude made when he was a child–and that they bring back wonderful memories of sitting in her kitchen eating them.

Lynne and Jim–Thank you for the crab apples!

35 thoughts on “Old Spiced Crab Apple (Pickled Crab Apple) Recipe

  1. Remembering when I use to make Crab Apple butter with my Grandma….and then I made it on my own when Mara was little…it is still one of her favorites to this day…..this is a nice site …

  2. hi Sheryl, As i am reading the recipe today. i find this going to be a 2 day project. as I was reading ,it says to put the mixture in a bowl and put in refrigerator overnight. Then the next day you remove the spices. Oh,I think I am answering my own question . I will then put them back in pan to reheat before putting in jars and putting in water bath canner.So I am going to start this recipe on monday.

    1. Yes, I think that you are right–that it would take two days since the spices are supposed to be left in the syrup overnight. I recently made some watermelon rind pickles (you’ll see this in a future post), and it also was a several day process.

  3. I was looking for pickled crab apples and found your delightful blog! My Grandmother lived to 108, so these recipes remind me so much of things she made. Eager to try this recipe and can it too!

  4. Thank you for sharing. My aunt and I just picked up crab apples this past weekend from up home. I am looking for a “pickling” recipe but not a sweet one. I think though that I am going to try this recipe with some of my “booty”. The good ole days, yes indeed!

  5. Thanks so much for the great recipe…brings back wonderful memories of my own grandmother, also named Helena, born in 1886. Also really enjoying your site in general. I think the world would be a better place if we could all go back to that way of life!

    1. I think that people today tend to eat a narrower range of fruits and vegetables than they once did. Around here crab apples are primarily planted for their lovely spring flowers, but a few of us still eat foods made from them.

    1. I also plan to make some this week-end. A neighbor who has a crab apple tree gives me some each year–and they gave me a bag of them a couple days ago that is currently sitting in my refrigerator. :)

  6. Hi Sheryl! I had a recipe blog in WordPress but I recently deleted it. I have one on Blogspot, my original one, and it was hard keeping up two of them. I also have two Book Reader Blogs, one on each website (To get more readers) but I’m not so sure I like copying and pasting from one to the other. I may just delete the Book Reader blog on Blogspot today.
    I must say that I enjoy old recipes. I have my Great Grandma Jone’s AMERICAN FAMILY COOKBOOK and I post recipes from it as it was published. Meaning, it’s in sentence form. The box that holds the book also comes with many old handwritten recipes. I enjoy another recipe blog in here that posts mideval recipes. Have you seen it? I’ll have to peruse your blog when I get home tomorrow. I hate this old laptop I use at my daughters, preferring a large PC screen and a mouse!

    1. Posting the old recipes from the cookbook sounds like fun. I always enjoy trying to decipher the old sentence-style recipes. I hadn’t known about the blog that posted medieval recipes until I read your comment, but after I read it I googled it, and think I found the blog you were referring to. I really like how that blog had the original recipe, the translated recipe, and the updated version for modern cooks.

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