Preserve Crab Apples for Year-Round Enjoyment: Easy Steps

Crab apple trees are prolific croppers, and if you have one of these trees growing in your garden, you’re going to be looking for ways to preserve your harvest so that you don’t waste any of these small but sweet fruits. 

Common Methods Used To Preserve Crab Apples

There are actually a few different ways that you can preserve crab apples. These include dehydrating them, canning them, freezing them, or fermenting them. Let’s look at these methods in more depth.

Close-up of ripe crab apples on the tree in summer

Dehydrating Crab Apples

Crab apples are easy to dehydrate and make nice snacks. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Wash your crab apples and then dry them
  • Remove the stems
  • Slice the apples into uniform slices
  • Remove the cores in the center of each slice by using a metal straw
  • Place your apple slices onto the trays of your dehydrator
  • Set the temperature to 170 degrees Fahrenheit (75 degrees Celsius) and the timer for 12 hours

For this method, there’s no need to peel the apples, which makes the task much easier.

Canning Crab Apples

Crab apples can be canned whole, or you can opt to make apple sauce or apple butter with them. If you don’t mind spending the extra time in preparation, you can also make crab apple pie filling and can that.

Here’s a simple method for canning whole crab apples:

  • Wash the crab apples and put them into a pot or saucepan
  • Cover the apples with water
  • Cook on high heat until the water is boiling
  • Reduce the heat to simmer and cook the apples for around 3 minutes
  • Remove the pot from the heat and strain the apples
  • Fill your canning pot with water so that it covers the top of the canning jars
  • Heat the water until it is boiling
  • Remove the lids and the rings from the jars and sterilize the jars in the canning pot
  • Mix together 5 cups of water, 3 cups of sugar, and red hots (cinnamon-flavored candies) in the pot or saucepan you used earlier to cook the apples
  • Heat this mixture on the stove and stir until all the candies are melted
  • Add 4 cinnamon sticks and 1 tablespoon of cloves to the mixture and keep heating and stirring
  • Pack the crab apples into the sterilized canning jars
  • Remove the cinnamon sticks and cloves from the syrup and use this to fill the jars with the crab apples
  • Leave around ½ inch of space at the top of the jars
  • Replace the rings and lids onto the jars and seal tightly
  • Place the filled jars back into the canning pot and process for 10 minutes on high heat
  • Remove the jars from the canning pot and allow them to cool
  • Store the jars in a cool, dry spot such as in your pantry or store cupboard

Here’s an easy method for creating apple pulp to make apple sauce or apple butter:

  • Wash the crab apples and place them in a pot or saucepan
  • Add a small amount of water
  • Cook the apples until they are soft and have broken down
  • Place the mixture into a food mill to separate the apple pulp from the skin and seeds
  • You could also strain the mixture through a sieve so that all you end up with is the apple pulp

Freezing Crab Apples

The best way to freeze crab apples is to make a pulp as per the instructions above. You can freeze this pulp in small containers or portion it into recipe-sized Ziploc bags. Then, when you want to use the pulp, just remove a portion from the freezer and defrost it in the microwave.

Alternatively, you can slice or cube your crab apples to freeze them. 

Fermenting Crab Apples

If you don’t want to waste any parts of your crab apples, you can use the cores to make a type of apple cider vinegar using the fermenting process. Note that this is not real apple cider vinegar but one that is made from crab apple scraps like the cores.

This vinegar is not as acidic as real apple cider vinegar and should not be used for canning. However, it still has plenty of uses around the home.

Here’s what to do:

  • Gather one or more glass mason jars and make sure that they are clean
  • Fill each jar with crab apple cores and scraps until it’s around three-quarters full
  • Using filtered water (not chlorinated), mix in 1 tablespoon of sugar per 1 cup of water
  • Pour the mixture into the jars with the apple scraps, leaving a bit of space at the top of the jar
  • Cover the jar or jars with either a coffee filter or a piece of fabric and secure with a rubber band
  • Put the jars in a warm dark spot for about 2 weeks
  • After the two weeks are up, strain the liquid and discard the crab apple scraps
  • Return the liquid to the jars and leave these again for around two to four weeks

After this time, your vinegar should be ready, and you can place the lid on the jar and store it in the fridge.

How To Preserve Whole Crab Apples

You can preserve whole crab apples by using the canning method described above. Alternatively, you can also freeze whole crab apples. Here’s how to do that:

  • Wash the crab apples and remove the blossom end and the stem
  • Place your apples in a single layer onto a cookie sheet or baking tray
  • Put the tray into the freezer until the crab apples are frozen
  • Transfer the frozen crab apples into an airtight container or freezer bag and pop this back into the freezer
  • Your frozen crab apples should be used within 3 months

Another way to preserve whole crab apples is to pickle them and then can them. Here’s how to do that:

  • Wash your crab apples (Use 8 pounds for this recipe)
  • Mix together 6 cups of apple cider vinegar with 8 cups of brown sugar in a pot or saucepan
  • Bring the pot to the boil and let the sugar dissolve
  • Add 2 teaspoons of cloves and 3 cinnamon sticks to the syrup
  • Place the crab apples into the syrup and boil them until they’re soft
  • Using a slotted spoon, take the crab apples out of the pot and put them into clean canning jars
  • Remove the cloves and cinnamon sticks from the syrup and pour this over the crab apples in the jars
  • After sealing your jars with their rings and lids, place them into your canning pot and process for 20 minutes
  • Lift them out of the pot and allow them to cool
  • Store your pickled crab apples in a cool, dry place for up to a year

How To Preserve Crab Apples For Decoration

If you want to preserve your crab apples to use in your fall decorations, you can simply dry them whole using the oven. Before you dry the crab apples, soak them in water with a splash of lemon juice for around 24 hours.

The next day, place your crab apples on an oven tray and dry them in the oven for around 12 hours at a temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit (75 degrees Celsius).

You can also use your dried crab apples for Christmas decorations, or you can add them to a gorgeous wreath.

Sharing is caring!