My simple crab apple jam is super easy to make and has only 4 ingredients, perfect on toast and scones, with a cheeseboard and as a glaze on roasts too.
What’s to love about this recipe?
- My easy crab apple jam has all the fabulous flavour of a classic crab apple jelly but is quicker and easier to make.
- Foraged fruit is free so making crab apple jam is economical.
- Crab apple jam is super tasty and so versatile too, serve it as a sweet preserve on toast and scones but it works just as well with a cheeseboard too.
I make my crab apple jelly recipe every year but this time I thought I’d go for something a wee bit different, and quicker as there is no overnight straining of the fruit as in jelly making.
What are crab apples?
Crab apples (crabapples), or Malus sylvestris to give them their Latin name are a species of apple that grow wild in the countryside. They are far smaller than normal apples and both this and the fact that the trees they come from are gnarled, small and twisted lends itself to their name – crab – meaning stunted.
Just head over to the British Woodland Trust for loads of information on this interesting plant.
There are lots of different kinds of crab apples and they come in different colours too from yellow to bright red and green/red in between.
Can you eat crab apples?
Yes, you can but they are very tart and are far better for making into things like this delicious homemade crab apple jam recipe instead.
Crab apple history and mystery
Crab apples are linked to love and romance. Apparently, you should say the name of the one you love and throw the seeds into the fire. The person in question is your true love if the pips explode!
The Celts burned apple wood during fertility rights and festivals. Shakespeare even mentioned crab apples in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and also in Love’s Labours Lost. So I guess he was a fan of this little fruit too.
When are crab apples available?
Crab apples ripen on the trees any time from September right up till December. They are always best after the first frost.
How do you tell when crab apples are ripe?
Because these tiny apples come in different colours it can be difficult to tell if they are ripe or not.
However, if you cut one in half you can see the pips/seeds. If the seeds are brown then the crab apples are ripe. If they are pale fawn/beige in colour then the fruit isn’t ripe yet.
How to ripen crab apples
If your crab apples aren’t quite ripe you can pop them in the freezer for a couple of days before you use them. Crab apples are always best after the first frost of the season so freezing them fools them into thinking it’s frosty!
Do crab apples contain pectin?
Yes. These tiny apples contain a lot of pectin. That means they are just perfect for making jelly as they achieve that magical setting point very well without you having to add anything else.
Ingredients for crab apple jam
Crab apples – of course, these are the star of the show. Make sure they are ripe – see above, before making your crabapple jam.
Orange – An orange adds some extra flavour to your crab apple jam and the juice is the liquid used to boil up your fruit.
Sugar – I am using plain white granulated sugar here. If you use brown sugar you will get a caramel-type flavour which might overpower those crab apples.
Spice – I like to add cinnamon to my crab apple jam. This is purely optional but if you think of apple pie you tend to think of warming spices and cinnamon works a treat. You could also try American apple pie spice mix or our own traditional mixed spice to add extra punch to this crab apple preserve.
NOTE – Crab apples contain lots of pectin so there is no need to add pectin to make this super easy crab apple jam recipe.
The complete list of ingredients and full instructions for making this recipe can be found on the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.
How to make crabapple jam
You don’t peel crab apples, that would be way too fiddly. You’d need a doll-sized peeler for a start! No, all you have to do is half your crab apples.
Now squeeze all the juice from your orange and add this to a pan along with the halved crab apples and chuck in the cinnamon stick.
Bring this to a boil then lower the temperature and cook till the apples are tender, takes about 15 minutes.
Remove the cinnamon stick and using a potato masher squish those crab apples as much as possible inside the pan.
Scoop the pulp out of your pan and using a wooden spoon press it through a metal sieve either into a jug or straight back into the pan (saves washing up!).
Really squish every bit of crab apple puree and juice through the sieve.
This is where there is a big difference between making crab apple jelly and making crab apple jam. In jelly making you would be letting that juice drip ever so gently and slowly through a muslin bag overnight to get the perfect clear crab apple jelly.
since this is crab apple jam that we are making we don’t have to bother with the perfect clarity you want in a jelly, so just pressing the pulp through a sieve is fine.
Pour the crab apple puree into the pan if you haven’t drained it there directly and add the sugar.
Heat slowly to dissolve the sugar then bring it up to a boil.
Carefully ladle the hot crab apple jam into sterilised jars.
How much jam does this make?
I have only used 600g of crab apples to make my jam so got one 250g jar of crab apple jam from this recipe. Just double up the quantities of the ingredients to make more.
When foraging you should never take loads of nature’s bounty, instead just take what you need and make small-batch jams and jellies.
How to serve crab apple jam
This is a sweet yet tart jam so it has lots of uses. Serve it on your toast in the morning or slathered on a warm scone or crumpet.
Crabapple jam goes really well with a cheeseboard. Rather like the Spanish quince paste, Membrillo, that sweet/sour combination works so well with cheese.
Stir some into your Greek yogurt for a breakfast treat or add a spoonful to your morning porridge.
Use crab apple jam as a glaze for roasting pork or simply serve a spoonful alongside roast pork instead of a classic apple sauce.
You can also add some to your pork gravy. This all works well with chicken too.
How long will crab apple jam keep?
Like all my jams and jellies this easy crab apple jam will keep for up to a year in a cool cupboard/larder. Once opened store your jams in the fridge and use up within a month.
Please Note – We do not usually do water bath or other canning methods here in the UK. Our preserves keep perfectly well without this.
Looking for more ideas for those fabulous Autumnal fruits? Then check these out before you go;
Finally, if you do try this recipe don’t forget to leave a comment/star rating below as I just love to hear from readers. Want more Larder Love? Then follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter and sign up for my newsletter too of course.
Super Easy Crab Apple Jam
- 600 g crab apples
- 1 orange juice only
- 400 g sugar
- 1/2 stick cinnamon or 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- Cut apples in half and simmer with cinnamon and juice of orange till tender, about 10 minutes
- Squish the cooked crab apples through a sieve into a jug or right back into the pan
- Add sugar and bring to boil then boil till you reach setting point 105C and ladle into sterilised jar