Anyone can make Crab Apple Jelly

Anyone can make Crab Apple Jelly. You might just need a bit of mentoring. It’s well worth learning because it’s so pretty and makes a perfect hostess gift or stocking stuffer. 

People are always so touched by the care it takes to make something from scratch and with love, especially if it also happens to taste really good. I’m always surprised by the reaction the gift of one of these little jars of clear red Crab Apple Jelly elicits.  Friends ooh and aah and act like they’ve just been given a rare ruby gem.  They groan and say they wish they knew how to make it but they’re just to scared to try.  Scared to try?  That would not have ocurred to me but I’ve come to realize several things about the situation.

Heritage cooking skills

I grew up in a home where jam and pickle making were the norm. Smells of vinegar and bags of dripping juices do not intimidate me.  I’m at home in a steamy kitchen with counters stacked with jars and bundles of fruits or vegetables.  And, I’m reasonably confident my efforts will turn out and I’ll be rewarded with glorious little jars of goods to savour and share.  Having taught canning bees for my local chapter of Slow Food International I know this heritage of cooking skills, passed from one generation to the next, is not the case for all. In fact, It’s not the case for many of us.

These canning and preserving skills, that I take for granted, have become known as “heritage skills”.  They are now relatively rare.  Without even realizing it, I was mentored by my mother, father, grandmother and great-grandmother (she lived until I was 14).  Most people today, are on the third generation where cooking consists of re-heating a prepared meal, microwaving something frozen, or taking something out of a package, plastic bag or can. 

The 1950s mad marketing men told homemakers that cooking was a chore and food needed to be convenient and cheap.  In a perfect storm, the women’s rights movement reinforced this by propagating the belief that the practical art and science of homemaking was a ball and chain. I believe they should have stuck with philosophical and political ideals that were suffocating women’s abilities and rights and not taken aim at essential life skills.  And now, here we are in a new millennium with a few generations of people that like to watch people cook on TV but don’t know how to do so themselves.  I think, between all the marketing and movements, we were sold a bill of goods and in the process society lost a vital life skill.

Reclaim your heritage

It’s never too late to learn a new (old) skill. We can have it all; rights for all and life skills for all.  Being able to cook from scratch with whole foods is a vital part of being healthy.  People who cook their own food eat better and weigh less.  They save money.  Cooking is also a great creative outlet. It promotes optimal brain function because of all the executive skills it requires – planning, timing, manual dexterity, taste, tactile, olfactory, visual stimulation, and use of memory.  It’s also a major social connector and social connection not only increases our longevity, it also increases the success and happiness of families.

So, yes, I’m presenting you with a simple recipe for Crab Apple Jelly. But, I’m also encouraging you to reclaim your heritage.  Learn how to cook again.  Find a mentor.  We are out here and happy to share.  Our recipes and techniques are gems and we’ll gladly share our riches. 


Crab Apple Jelly

  • Author: Karen Anderson
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes plus overnight draining of juices
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes plus canning time
  • Total Time: 31 minute
  • Yield: 810 jars 1x
  • Category: preserving
  • Method: canning
  • Cuisine: Canadian



4 lbs crab apples

4 cups sugar

1 Tablespoon store-bought bottled lemon juice


  • 1. Gather 4 lbs of crabapples from your tree or ask a neighbour for some of theirs in return for jelly. Let’s face it, it would be hard to use all the crab apples on any tree and I’m sure they’d love to give you some of theirs for jelly in return.
  • 2. Wash the apples and remove the stem and blossom ends.
  • 3. Cut the apples in half (do not core) and place them in a large stockpot and cover with cold water.
  • 4. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently and then reduce the heat and boil gently stirring and crushing the apples until soft – about 30 minutes or so.
  • 5. Pour the apple mixture through a cheese-clothed lined large sieve set over a large bowl. Let the juice drip (without aiding or abetting it) at least 2 hours or overnight. Note: You’ll need to reap at least 4 cups of juice from this (if you don’t have enough you can top it up some regular apple juice).
  • 6. Prepare your canner, lids and jars. I put my jars in the dishwasher and run them through. When they are done, I put them on a cookie sheet in a 150F oven to keep them warm.  I put my lids and rings in a pot of freshly boiled water and lift them out with a magnet lifter (available anywhere canning supplies are).  I inherited a large canning bath from a friend who was downsizing – they aren’t expensive if you need to buy one.  I fill it about two-thirds as the jars will displace volume as you set them in.
  • 7. Combine the 4 cups of crabapple juice with 4 cups of sugar (this is needed for the fruit to gel properly) and the 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice in a deep stockpot. Tip: Use store-bought bottled, and preferably organic, lemon juice because it has a set pH. Avoid using fresh lemons because you won’t know what the pH is and your batch may not turn out if the pH is too low or too high.
  • 8. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve all the sugar. Boil hard, stirring frequently until the jelly starts to “sheet” (Use a cold metal spoon to pick up some jelly and then turn it sideways. If the jelly falls off in drops, it’s not done. If it falls off in a single sheet it is done) This should take about 25 minutes.
  • 9. Remove the mixture from the heat at this point and skim off any pink foam that has accumulated.
  • 10. Pour the hot jelly into the waiting jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. I use a glass 1 cup measuring cup with handle to do this.
  • 11. Wipe the rims. Apply the lids and screw bands on until they are fingertip tight.
  • 12. Place the jars in the canning water bath all at once, ensuring they are completely covered. Bring the water to a boil and process for 10 minutes once it reaches the boiling point.
  • 13. Remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove jars to a counter lined with tea towels.  Wrap the jars in the tea towels and they’ll cool more slowly and have more chance of sealing properly.  Cool completely, then admire your work appropriately..
  • 14. Store in a cool, place. Properly sealed jars will keep for years but why? Use them up!

Keywords: Crab Apple Jelly

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