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Crabapple Jelly / Butter

We are lucky to have crabapple trees here on the Sky Manor property, and once the Autumn Snap is in the air, we enjoy crabapple picking and making delicious Sky Manor Crabapple Jelly and Crabapple Butter.

This tasty treat also illustrates the joy of home preserving and "putting up" food for future use, or even gift giving!  Not a simple or easy endeavor, by any means, but very satisfying!

- Crabapple Jelly & Crabapple Butter -


Over the years, we have learned to do these batches on a fairly large scale, but most recipies advise much smaller batches.  The recipe scales quite easily downward, and if you are attempting this for the first time, we would recommend you do a half or even a third of the below, which is what we consider the maximum size for in-home production.

- For Cooking the Crabapples

  • About 20-21 lbs (56 cups / 14 Qts) of freshly picked, plump, red, fragrant crabapples.
  • 14 cups white vinegar
  • 14 cups water
  • Several (6-8) cinnamon sticks
  • 1-2 tablespoons of whole cloves

- For Cooking the Crabapple Jelly

  • The juice strained as a result of cooking and hanging the crabapples
  • 3/4 cup of sugar for every cup of liquid yielded from cooking the crabapples

- For Cooking the Crabapple Butter

  • The pulp leftover from cooking the crabapples after straining off the liquid.
  • 1 cup of Dark Karo or Molasses for each Gallon or so of pulp.
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cloves for each Gallon or so of pulp.

- Equipment, etc.

  • Very large pot for cooking the crabapples.
  • A spice bag or cheesecloth mesh for holding cinnamon sticks and cloves while cooking.
  • A Jelly Bag (I use a pillowcase now) for holding the pulp to drip off the liquid.
  • An equally large pot for receiving the liquid as it drips from the jelly bag.
  • Hooks, light rope, twine and a plan of how best to hang the jelly bag for dripping.
  • Hot sterilized canning jars of the desired sizes (with lids and bands) enough for expected yield.
  • Other canning aids (funnels, tongs, jar lifters, cooling racks) as desired for the canning process.
  • A pressure canner (for the crabapple butter process only).
  • A real appreciation of the pride and accomplishment that comes from home preserving!


As mentioned above, this is a scaleable recipe, and sometime "expected" yields don't always happen, so be flexible as you work your way through the process.  This large size batch requires large cooking vessels, creates a "Jelly Bag" that is extremely heavy, and the expected yield of Crabbaple Butter is such that a quite large canner is beneficial.  The pressure canning process (which really only applies to the Crabapple Butter) is a unique endeavor on it's own, and if you have never done it, you will want to familiarize yourself with the entire process, tools and equipment involved to make sure you want to take it on or even find it interesting.

All that said, we pretty much do this every year as an Autumn ritual and find it deeply rewarding.  You should plan your timing to start this process as soon as you can after harvesting your crabapples.  They don't really hold that well, even in the fridge, so the sooner the better from harvest to cooking!

Cooking The Crabapples

  • Wash and rinse the crabapples, de-stemming them if you can.  De-stemming helps emensely when you are running the leftover pulp through a mill or sauce/juicer to remove unwanted fiber for crabapple butter.
  • Some recipes call for "coring and chopping" the crabapples to remove the seeds, but that just ain't gonna happen with hundreds of crabapples involved.
  • Put the crabapples in a pot large enough to comfortably hold them all with some headroom.
  • Add enough water and vinegar (equal volumes each) to just cover the crabapples.  This usually works out to about the same amout of cups each as total quarts in volume of your crabapples.  In this case, 14 Qts = 14 cups each of water and vinegar.  If your calcuating by weight, it would be roughly the following: Qts each = (lbs/3) * 2, or again in this case, (21/3) *2 = 14 Qts.
    In any event, you can add the bulk of the volume you think you need, and then add a cup or two of water followed by a cup or two of vinegar until the desired level is reached.  The crabapples may float, so push them down to see when the volume has reached a level to just cover them if they were not floating.
  • Create a spice bag out of cheesecloth mesh to hold the cinnamon sticks and cloves, tying it off at the top with string.  I usually tie the other end of the string to a wooden spoon to help in finding and pulling out the spice bag when done cooking.
  • Submerge the spice back in the crabapples and bring the mixture to a boil (could take up to an hour).
  • Reduce heat to low and gently cook for another 2 hours or so... enjoying the delicious aroma!

Separating the Liquid from Pulp for the Jelly

Jelly is made from the liquid that is created/remaining after the cooking process.  A "Jelly Bag" is used to hold the pulp and it is suspended above a pot to allow the liquid to drain off.  You need to pre-think how and where you are going to hang the bag (which can be quite heavy) for this process.  Again, I tend to make huge batches, which can make this process very unwieldy!  As mentioned above, I would suggest smaller batches, and work your way to larger batches only if you find it managable. 

  • Jelly bags can be made from cheescloth, but I have been using a pillowcase for years now.  I knot one corner of the pillowcase to make it more triangular with one corner as the low drip point.
  • Place a large pot, large enough to hold all the contents of your cooking pot (about the same size, that is) in the sink and line it with the open jelly bag.
  • Carefully transfer all the pulp and liquid from the cooking pot to the jelly bag lined pot.
  • Move the pot to where it will sit underheath the jelly bag, gather and tie off the top of the bag.
  • Using heavy twine or light rope, tightly secure the rope to the tope of the bag and hang it so it  is suspended over the center of the pot and a few inches liquid in the pot already.
    I use big aluminum hooks and light rope and hang the extremely heavy bag from the pot rack over my center island.  I've also hung the bag from kitchen cabinet handles.  You just have to make sure however you hang it is secure and there is no danger of the bag slipping or falling.
  • The bag should be left to drip for several hours or overnight.  It is important that the bag is left untouched to drip naturally.  If the bag is squeezed, then your jelly runs the risk of being cloudy rather than clear.  Just let it do it's thing!

Consumption and other Notes

A thick slice of this bread, toasted in a toaster oven (if it won't fit in your toaster) and coated with a little butter and crabapple jelly (or whatever is YOUR favorite) is simply heavenly!  The "Additions" are optional or switchable to meet your preferences as well.

This time, I happened to see Sun Maid "baking raisins" which are moister that snacking raisins, and they came in a 6 oz pouch, so I used the whole thing.  Less may work just as well.  We just like Pecans in this house, so that's why we made that choice.

I haven't even tried this recipe with the "Less Light" ingredients, but I believe they would work just as well.