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!

53 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.

      1. Hi Sheryl,
        I have been searching info about crabapples and came across your site.
        I inherited my Grandmothers old recipes , she was born in 1900, and actually came across one of my childhood favorites, pickled spiced crab apples! I am wanting to buy a crabapple tree but have no clue as to the name or variety I should be looking for. Can you help?

        Watermelon rind pickles was another one of our favorites too, lol, everytime I mention those to anyone they think I’m crazy!
        Thank you!

        1. hmm. . . I don’t know what variety of crab apples is the best to use in recipes. A neighbor has a crab applc tree, and he always gives us some that I pickle. Those crab apples are relatively large and it makes them easier to work with.

          Even if people laugh, watermelon rind pickles are the best! They don’t know what they are missing. I make a batch or two every year.

  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!

    1. I did the r ecipe here but I double the ingredients and got 2 pints and 4 half pints,I waterbathed them for 15 minutes. i found one in my Ball Blue Book but it was sweeter then the 100 year old.

  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.

  7. Hi! I have never tried Pickled Crabapples. Do you eat the whole apple after they’re pickled?? Or do you remove the core?? I have a boat load of Crabapples from my tree and need to use them up. Thanks!!

  8. I found some fresh crabapples at my local grocery store – first time I’ve ever seen them. I made this recipe yesterday, and they were incredible! So yummy! My mom used to buy jarred crabapples when I was a child, but I don’t see them in stores anymore. These were so simple and easy to make, I will make them again and again. Thanks for a great recipe!

    1. It’s wonderful to hear that you enjoyed this recipe. It’s awesome that you found some crab apples at a store. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen them in a store.

  9. ad!! prepped just like u said, but the minute they hit the water half of them exploded. They must’ve been too ripe??? Next time i’ll make applesauce!

    1. Hmm. . . I’m not sure. Did you prick them with a fork before putting in the syrup? When making Pickled Crab Apples, they will start to fall apart if overcooked. It’s a balancing act to cook enough, without overcooking. When I make Pickled Crab Apples, I usually cook them until the skins start peeling off a couple of the apples (which indicates that they are becoming overcooked), and then quickly remove from the heat.

  10. So glad to find this recipe and this site. My great grandmother, a woman we called Banny, made crab apple pickles every year and I loved them. I’m going to give your recipe a try today.

    1. I think that you’ll like this recipe. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that these Pickled Crab Apples taste like the ones your great grandmother made.

  11. My apples immediately burst when I pored the hot syrup on them. I think I should have cooled the syrup, pour over apples and then bring to a simmer.

    1. I’m not sure why they burst. Rather than pouring the hot syrup over the crab apples, I brought the syrup to a boil in a fairly large pan, and then added the crab apples. Maybe that was the difference. I also pricked the crab apples with a fork before cooking. I have had some issues with some of the crab apples bursting (really the skin just cracks and they kind of fall apart), if I overcook them. There is a delicate balance between cooking enough and overcooking.

  12. Used this recipe with regular sour apples as well as crab apples. It worked well and we are enjoying them. Going to try it with prune plums next.

  13. Felt I should add this. I gave a jar of pickled apples to my boss and she and her family used the apples and brine over pancakes. She’ll take more if I have extra. lol.
    I like the brine with sparkling water when it’s hot.

  14. I wonder if I could make this using yellow plums? They are tart as not quite ripe yet. I bet the flavour would be lovely if it might work….

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