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Can you eat crab apples? Three favourite crab apple recipes

Yes, you can eat crab apples. Generally, they're too tart to eat raw, but their appliness is intense when cooked.

Crab apples have a really high pectin content, great for jams and jellies. (Photo: Phil Formby/WTML)
Crab apples have a really high pectin content, great for jams and jellies. (Photo: Phil Formby/WTML)

These ancestors of cultivated apple have small, round fruit that rarely grow larger than a golf ball. They ripen in late September to October and are usually green with a pink blush or a golden yellow colour. Garden varieties can vary too, and are also edible. 

They may be small and sour, but you can make some amazing recipes with crab apples. They have an exceptionally high pectin and acid content which makes them ideal for setting fruit jams and jellies. They also have an excellent, tart and tangy apple flavour.

Get sweetly scented blossom and fabulous autumn fruits

Plant your own crab apple tree

East and traditional crab apple jelly. (Photo: Alamy)
East and traditional crab apple jelly. (Photo: Alamy)

Crab apple jelly

This is a taste bud-tingling amber-pink jelly. It’s perfect for serving with meats. You can pep up the recipe by adding a few chillies, a cinnamon stick, coriander seeds or star anise to the pan.

Ingredients

  • As many crab apples as you want to use
  • Enough water to just cover them
  • White sugar - 450g for every 600ml of strained juice

 Method

Tip crab apples into preserving pan (no need to cut them up). Add enough water to just cover them. Bring to the boil, simmer and stir now and then until the fruit has turned mushy.

Allow to cool a little and then pour into a jelly bag and leave to strain overnight into a large bowl. Don’t squeeze the bag or the jelly will be cloudy.

Measure the strained juice and pour back into the preserving pan and heat slowly. Add 450g sugar for every 600ml of juice and add to the juice. Stir on a low heat until the sugar dissolves and then bring to the boil.

Boil rapidly until setting point is achieved (test by dropping a spoonful of mixture onto a fridge cold saucer, as it cools it should wrinkle on the surface). Pour hot jelly into hot sterile jars and seal immediately.

Crab apple vodka is perfect for a cold winter night. (Photo: iStock)
Crab apple vodka is perfect for a cold winter night. (Photo: iStock)

Crab apple liqueur

If you’re a fan of sloe gin and fruit liqueurs, make this. Its intense with the appliness of crab apples, you’ll end up with a deliciously golden liqueur with a rich taste. Perfect for a cold winter’s eve by the fire.

Ingredients 

  • 30 to 40 crab apples (washed and halved)
  • 1 litre gin or vodka
  • 200g caster sugar 

Method 

Fill a large preserving jar three quarters full with crab apples. Pour sugar over and add gin or vodka. Add any remaining crab apples to the top and seal. Steep for one to two months. Turn the jar daily for the first week and now and then afterwards.

Strain liqueur through two or three layers of muslin and decant into a bottle. Leave for another month or so.

Not a well-known use for crab apples - but give them a go? (Photo: Alamy)
Not a well-known use for crab apples - but give them a go? (Photo: Alamy)

Toffee crab apples

Toffee apples often only get half eaten because they’re too big. But crab apples are the perfect size. This recipe makes 12 toffee crab apples.

Ingredients 

  • 12 good condition crab apples, washed, and remove black flower remnants on bottom of apples
  • 12 small kebab sticks
  • 200g sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cider or white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • Red food colouring (optional)

Method

Press kebab stick into the centre (core) of each apple.

To make toffee, place all ingredients except apples in a pan and bring to the boil. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Then boil rapidly for 2-3 minutes, until a small blob dropped into a cup of cold water forms a soft ball. Don’t take your eye off as it burns easily.

Remove from heat, tilt it to one side and then dip the apples in. Give them a slow spin to evenly coat in toffee, then place on a piece of greased baking paper on a tray. The toffee takes a minute or two to set.