Cooking with crab apples comes with variety of options

The fruit from our Trailman crab apple tree is used in many family favourite recipes from cakes, pies and jams to apple juice, apple sauce and canned fruit. | Betty Ann Deobald photo

In our yard, we have a very productive Trailman crab apple tree. Due to the lack of moisture the apples are much smaller this year, but they will work just fine for one of our family’s favourites, apple sauce. This year, I used my Instant Pot to make a quick batch of apple sauce.

Instant Pot apple sauce

This easy recipe is unsweetened. Add cinnamon and lemon juice for flavour. Feel free to make it chunky or smooth by the amount the cooked apples that are mashed. Make a batch to eat fresh, use in baking or to freeze.

  • 4 lb. whole apples, chopped (approximately 10 c./2.5 L) 1.8 kg
  • 1/2 c. water 125 mL
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice 15 mL

Wash apples and remove stems. For thin-skinned apples, slice down the sides of the apple on all four sides of the core. This is a quick way to remove the core and blossom end. For larger apples, which may have a thicker skin, peel, core, and quarter each apple.

Place apple pieces in instant pot, add water and lemon juice.

Cook on manual high pressure for five minutes. Allow to cool naturally. With tongs, turn the pressure release valve to open and allow any remaining steam to vent before opening the lid.

Remove apple pulp from pot and blend or mash to desired consistency.

Flavour with a dash of salt, cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.

The addition of lemon juice will add flavour as well as slow the process of browning or oxidation of the apples.

Store applesauce in an airtight container in refrigerator for one to two weeks or freeze for up to three months. Defrost applesauce in refrigerator overnight.

If using purchased apples, the following or a combination will make good applesauce: Empire, Golden Delicious, Pink Lady, McIntosh, Red Delicious, Gala, Honeycrisp or Granny Smith apples.

Adapted from and Power Pressure Cooker XL manual.

Crab apples in syrup

Canned crab apples in syrup have been a favourite since childhood. I have always liked them with a crunchy oatmeal cookie.

Yield: About eight 500 mL or four 1 L jars.

Select round, smaller, freshly picked crab apples that are uniform in size. Do not use crab apples that have fallen from the tree.

  • 5 lb. whole crab apples, stemmed and unpeeled, cut off blossomend 2.3 kg
  • 1 batch hot light or medium syrup

Light syrup:

Yield: 6 1/2 c. syrup (1.625 L).

  • 2 1/4 c. granulated sugar 560 mL
  • 5 1/4 c. water 1.310 L

Medium syrup:

Yield: 7 c. syrup (1.75 L).

  • 3 1/4 c. sugar 810 mL
  • 5 c. water 1.250 L

Using clean sealers place 8 – 500 mL or 4 – 1 L mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat to a simmer (180F/82C). Set screw bands aside. Heat metal sealing discs in hot, not boiling water. Keep jars and sealing discs hot until ready to use.

Prick crab apples with a fork to prevent them from bursting. In a large, deep stainless steel saucepan, warm crab apples, one layer at a time, in hot syrup over medium-low heat until heated through and tender, 10 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.

Using a slotted spoon, pack hot crab apples into a hot jar to within a generous 3/4 inch (2 cm) of top of jar. Add hot syrup to cover crab apples to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of top of jar to leave headspace.

Using a non-metallic utensil, remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if required, by adding more hot syrup. Wipe jar rim removing any food residue. Centre hot sealing disc on clean jar rim. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight. Return filled jar to rack in canner. Repeat for remaining jars.

When canner is filled, ensure that all jars are covered by at least one inch (2.5 cm) of water. Cover canner and bring water to full rolling boil before starting to count processing time. At altitudes up to 1,000 ft (305 m), boil filled jars 20 minutes for both 500 mL and 1 L jars.

Canning times for higher altitudes
Feet/metres      Increase processing time/minutes
1,001-3,000/306-915                5
3,001-6,000/916-1,830           10
6,001-8,000/1,831-2,440        15
8,001-10,000/2,441-3,050      20

When processing time is complete, turn stove off, remove canner lid, wait five minutes, then remove jars without tilting and place them upright on a protected work surface. Cool upright, undisturbed 24 hours. Do not retighten screw bands.

After cooling, check jar seals. Sealed discs curve downward and do not move when pressed. Remove screw bands, wipe and dry bands and jars. Store screw bands separately or replace loosely on jars, as desired. Label and store jars in a cool, dark place. For best quality, use home canned foods within one year.

Spiced crab apples

Adding spices and vinegar to canned crab apples creates a spicy canned apple that is delicious served as a desert or as a complement to any meat. The preparation and canning process is the same as for the crab apples in syrup recipe.
Yield: about six – one pint (500 mL) jars.

  • 4-1/2 c. granulated sugar 1.125 L
  • 3 c. water 750 mL
  • 2-1/2 c. white vinegar 625 mL
  • 1 – 4 inch cinnamon stick 10 cm
  • 1 tbsp. whole allspice 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. whole cloves 15 mL
  • 8 c. whole crab apples, stemmed and unpeeled, cut off blossom end stemmed 2 L
  • about 3 lb. crab apples (40 1-1/2-inch/3.8 cm) 1.4 kg

Place six clean 500 mL mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner. Heat jars and sealing discs as described in above recipe.

Combine sugar, water and vinegar in a large stainless steel saucepan. Tie cinnamon, allspice and cloves into a large square of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag; place in saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil and boil 10 minutes.

Note: for a spice bag use a disposable tea bag with a draw-string closure, tie shut and place into a second tea bag to prevent breaking when stirring.

To avoid bursting fruit, prick each crab apple with a fork. Add crab apples to boiling mixture and return to a boil. Stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, boil gently, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until crab apples are tender. Do not overcook. Discard spice bag and remove saucepan from heat.

Pack hot crab apples into hot jars and process as described in the crab apples in syrup recipe above.

Using The Garden Harvest

Harvesting the garden and storing the produce for the winter months are common fall activities. Most families have favourite recipes that are particularly enjoyed when made with freshly harvested fruit and vegetables.

We would love to share your family’s favourites. Please send them to Harvest Favourites at or mail them to:

The Western Producer,
1000–3530 Millar Avenue,
Saskatoon, SK S7P 0B6

All entries must be received by November 8, 2021.

Betty Ann Deobald is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact:

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