Crabapples Recipe Ideas To Add To Your Thanksgiving Menu

A bowl of fresh crabapples, a dish of preserved crabapples, and an open jar of crabapples in syrup
(Image credit: MaxCab)

Spring blooms bring the fruits that we all enjoy. Crabapples are one of the prettier blooming trees and produce small pomes. Can you eat crabapples? Cooking with crabapples is the best way to enjoy these sour fruits, but they make some of the best preserves and desserts. Raw crabapples will pucker the mouth, but some people reportedly enjoy the acerbic fruits right from the tree.

Crabapple trees produce beautiful spring blossoms and small, apple-like fruit. The resemblance to apples ends with the flavor, which is quite tart. Crabapples are best used in recipes with some sugar. They make excellent preserves or may be added to any recipe in which you would use apples. And in the right zone, crabapples are easy to grow, producing prodigiously.

Are Crabapples Edible?

The crabapple is a small tree up to large shrub. The name is given to any species of Malus that occurs in the wild, or to any plant that produces apples less than 2 inches (5 cm.) in diameter. Wild crabapples tend to produce larger fruit than cultivated varieties, whose small fruits are difficult to process and are generally grown for ornamental purposes.

The key to using crabapples in recipes is sweetener. Even when they are made into a chutney to use with meat, sugar or some form of sweetener is added. The sweet/tang combo that results is a delightful play of flavors on the tongue, and pairs well with items like game meat. Essentially you can use crabapples in any recipe that might include apples, but apples tend to be sweeter naturally. Crabapples are naturally high in pectin, which means they thicken when cooked.

Best Crabapples for Eating

Some gardeners prefer the wild varieties due to their larger size and less tart flavor. Dwarf plants such as Dolgo, are desirable because they don't take up much space and the smaller stature makes harvesting easy.

Many gardeners plant the trees just for their flower and fruit color. Red fruiting cultivars like Mary Potter or Red Jewel, produce crimson fruit, while Snowdrift bears fruit tinged orange. There are even yellow fruiting plants such as Golden Raindrops. For the best flavor, try to source fruit from Pink Spires, Hopa, Red Vein, or Garland. These are all considered "sweet" crabapples, but the fruit is still very tart and more suitable for cooking.

Crabapple Recipe

There are many classic crabapple recipes. They have long been part of cider production. Pressing these small fruits is a perfect way to use them up without having to pare away skin and remove cores. Often a sweet apple variety is added to help remove some of the tang from the crabapples.

Crabapples are excellent made into jelly, fruit butter, or sauce. They can also be added to a compote or chutney. A very simple jelly combines equal parts of crabapple juice to sugar. No added pectin is necessary. A delicious way to preserve the fruit is by making spiced crabapples.

The recipe is:

  • 5 lbs (4.19 l.) crabapples
  • 4 1/2 c. (576 g.) apple cider vinegar
  • 4 c. (512 g.) water
  • 7 1/2 c. (960 g.) sugar
  • whole cloves and cinnamon sticks
  • fresh grated ginger root

This recipe is simple. After washing the fruit and removing stems, puncture the crabapples several times. Immerse them in a boiling mixture of combined water, sugar, and vinegar for 2 minutes. Put the spices into the mix and let the whole thing steep overnight. Enjoy the spiced crabapples immediately, or preserve by canning them to enjoy later.

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.