Old-fashioned Crab Apple Jelly Recipe

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

Thursday, September 11, 1913:  Nothing much.

Crab Apple JellyHer middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma, you must have done something. Were you too tired to write much because you spent the day in the kitchen helping your mother with the canning?

I made Crab Apple Jelly last week-end. It’s the season for crab apples—maybe you also made some a hundred years ago.

Crab Apple Jelly

5 pounds (approximately 10 cups) crab apples

8 cups water


Remove stem and blossom ends from washed crab apples, cut in halves and place in large pan. Add water and cook until fruit is very soft, about 10 minutes.

Strain the mixture through a jelly bag. Do not squeeze or force just through bag.

Measure juice. There should be approximately 7 cups. Pour into a large pan. Stir in 3/4 cups of sugar for each cup of juice. Bring to a boil quickly and cook rapidly until the jellying point* is reached.

Skim off foam and pour into hot one-half pint jars to within 1/4 inch of the top. Wipe jar rim and adjust lids. Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

Makes about 5 – 6 half pints.

*The Portland Preserve website has a nice description of how to tell when the jellying point has been reached.

33 thoughts on “Old-fashioned Crab Apple Jelly Recipe

    1. Thanks for noticing and for appreciating what I write on days like today. When Grandma didn’t say much, it’s always a challenge to know what to write about–but at the same time those days provide me with an opportunity to write about miscellaneous things that I find interesting. So it all works out.:)

    1. Since crab apples are small, it takes a bit of effort to prepare them for use in a recipe–but they make very nice jellies, chutney, pickled crab apples, etc.

  1. crab apple jelly has the most lovely and delicate color of all the jellies, I think! Makes great Christmas presents. I will plant some crab apple trees again in my new garden. And I agree, on a farm and doing ‘not much’ ? Maybe her ‘not much’ is a day of hard labor to us;0)

    1. I like the way you describe crab apple jelly. It does have a really nice flavor and color.

      An aside–I’ve been looking for quinces so that I can make quince jelly–but haven’t been able to find any. I have memories of eating quince jelly when I was young and thinking that it tasted really awesome.

    1. Interesting. . . Crab apples are kind of a pain to cut up to put in a recipe since they are so small, but they are edible.

      I have a friend who has a crab apple tree–and she’s really in to making recipes that use them. She started sharing her crab apples with me a few years ago–and I guess that I’m now almost as much into making crab apple recipes as she is. :)

  2. I have Crabapple Jelly EVERY morning on my toast, there is NO substitute. I’ve never made my own. Do you have to peel all those little apples first? Yoy. Hey, wow I also never knew there was SO much sugar involved, geez..3/4 cup to 1 cup of juice? yipes!

    1. No you don’t need to peel them since you put the pulp through a jelly bag. Just remove the stem and blossom ends, and then cut into half.

      Yes, there is A LOT of sugar. That’s probably one of the reason’s it’s so tasty. :)

  3. Your Grandmother was a woman of few words. I agree she had to have done something. Life was always busy on the farm when I grew up. I love your recipe. I really need to get my crabapples picked.

  4. Wonderful! The crab apples are in season here, too. I remember biting into the extremely tart fruit as a little girl, wondering, “Maybe THIS one will be sweeter.” Never happened. I can hardly wait until the crab apple leaves turn those beautiful colors that only nature seems to know how to produce.

  5. when I made this I ended up with only 4 1/2 cups of liquid. And it’s very thick. Should I add water or just go with what I have?

    1. Based on what you wrote, I’m assuming you measured the juice after you strained it through the jelly bag. I’m a little befuddled about why the juice is very thick at this point.

      That said, I don’t think that you need to add water. Since this is an old-fashioned traditional recipe for jelly–and doesn’t call for the addition of a packet of commercially-prepared pectin–there is no need to have a particular amount of juice. Instead adjust the amount of sugar based on the amount of juice that you have. Use 3/4 cup of sugar for each cup of juice. Since you have about 4 1/2 cups of juice, you should use about 3 1/3 cups of sugar.

      Since the juice is very thick it will take less time to reach the jellying point than if it was thinner. Since you have less than the expected amount of juice, you may end up with fewer pints of jelly than what is listed in the recipe.

      1. Thanks. I went ahead with what I had and it turned out great! I added a vanilla bean while boiling and it tastes great!
        I’m wondering if I simmered the fruit and water too long. I was canning tomatoes also and it went for more than 10 minutes:/

    1. It is a tart jelly (and in many ways I think that it is similar to another tart jelly – current jelly), but I won’t call it bitter. Over the years, I’ve made crab apple jelly both with and without the use of pectin. When it is made the traditional way without pectin (like this recipe), the jelly color is darker and the flavor is more intense than the modern pectin variety. This is because it is cooked longer and more of the water evaporates out of it. The variety and maturity of the crab apples that you used probably would also effect the flavor.

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