Super tasty and tangy this easy crab apple jelly is a fall classic. Lightly spiced and with a dash of Scotch whisky it’s a treat on toast, with a cheeseboard and as a glaze on meats too. Add to that, there is no pectin involved and just a few ingredients.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Crab apple jelly is a forager’s feast and rather special, not something you see in the supermarket
- Those crab apples are free when you go foraging so crab apple jelly is cheap to make
- This is an easy recipe for crab apple jelly
My friend Sue gave me a bag full of crab apples from her tree the other day. They are such tiny cute little apples, you almost want elves or fairies to come and sit by them for a photo.
Then I returned to reality and decided to make crab apple jelly. But spicy jelly with whisky!
What are crab apples?
Crab apples, 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 intreguing 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 vry tart and are far better for making into things like this delicious homemade crab apple jelly instead.
Crab apples 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 crap 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 its 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 jelly
I have made my jelly spicy so have used a mixture of cinnamon, allspice berries, star anise and cardamom.
The other ingredients are crab apples, sugar and whisky.
Classic crab apple jelly contains no spices or whisky and has just 2 ingredients – crab apples and sugar.
Type of sugar to use for crab apple jelly
Just normal granulated sugar is what you want to use for this jelly. As I have said, crab apples contain a lot of pectin so you don’t have to bother with jam sugar or preserving sugar.
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 crab apple jelly
This is such an easy jelly to make. You don’t even need to cut the apples in half or remove the stems. Feel free to do so if you wish.
Simply put them in a pan with the spices and add just enough water to cover them. Now simmer those crab apples for about 15 minutes till they are soft.
By this point the kitchen will smell delightfully spicy and fruity, just like apple pie.
Use a potato masher to squish the fruit into a pulp (and yes it does look rather like lentil soup!) and pour it into a jelly bag/sieve lined with muslin or even a pair of nylon tights (new of course!) to let it drip overnight.
Next day measure the liquid. Now the most important thing here is NOT to squeeze the jelly bag to get more out of it. That is a total no,no!
If you do that you will end up with cloudy jelly and nobody wants cloudy crab apple jelly. You want it to be pretty and clear.
For every 600ml of liquid, you want to use 450g of sugar.
I got 400ml of juice so I used 300g of sugar for my recipe.
Pour the juice and sugar into a pan and allow the sugar to dissolve completely at a low heat. Now raise that temperature and get it boiling. It has to boil till it reaches that magical 105C setting point.
Carefully spoon the jelly into sterilised jars and add a teaspoon of whisky to each jar and stir it through. Now pop on the lids.
New to preserving? Then don’t panic, I can take you from zero to hero in no time at all.
Just check out these handy articles to get you heading in the right direction fast;
What does crab apple jelly taste like?
This isn’t a sweet jammy-tasting jelly. Crab apple jelly is really rather tart. It is a light-tasting delicate jelly. My jelly is of course spicy and has the kick of good olf fashioned Scotch whisky too.
How to serve crab apple jelly
Of course, you can have your spiced crab apple jelly with Scotch whisky on your toast in the morning. What better way to get a hit of Scotch when it might otherwise be somewhat frowned upon!
I love this jelly served with roast chicken, turkey and with roast pork too.
Crab apple jelly is a great addition to a cheeseboard and of course to a toasted cheese sandwich too.
Use this jelly as a glaze for roasting chicken, turkey or pork.
Spoon some of this amazing jelly on to a burger for a zingy apply twist of flavour.
Add a spoonful of crab apple jelly to chicken gravy or a chicken casserole for a flavour spike.
Add some to your favourite vanilla ice-cream for an instant dessert.
How long will crab apple jelly keep?
This jelly will keep for up to a year. Once opened store the jar in the fridge and use 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 fun jelly and foraging recipe ideas? Then check these out before you go;
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Spiced crab apple jelly with Scotch whisky
- 1 kg crab apples
- 1 cinnamon cinnamon stick
- 3 allspice berries
- 5 cardamom cardamom pods lightly crushed
- 1 star anise
- 300 g sugar (note this is how much I used as it matched the amount of liquid I got. Remember you want 450g sugar for every 600ml juice)
- 4 tsp whisky
- Place apples plus spices in a pan with just enough water to cover the fruit. Simmer for aboutb 15 minutes till fruit tender and press with potato masher
- Let the fruit pulp drain through a jelly bag/muslin lined sieve overnight (do NOT squeeze the bag)
- measure the resulting juice (I got 400ml so used 300g sugar)
- heat the juice and sugar till sugar dissolves and then booil rapidly till reaches 105C setting point
- spoon into sterilised jars and add 1 tsp whisky to each jar and stir through. Pop on the lids