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How to Make Crabapple Butter

How to Make Crabapple Butter

Did you know you can eat crabapples? Are you wondering what to do with crabapples? Cooking with crabapples can sound sort of outdated, but these extremely tart little fruits make DELICIOUS jelly, butter, and wine, just to name a few possibilities! This post will explain how to make crabapple butter from this fruit that is barely edible when raw. PLUS, the juice drained off for this recipe is EXACTLY what you need to make crabapple jelly, so in a way, you get two products for the effort of one! We’re here to explain how it works.

Home canned crab apple butter and jelly in jars which are arranged in a wooden carrier that is sitting on a green tablecloth.

There are a couple of things that turn people off when it comes to crabapples:

1. They are extremely tart, making them almost inedible straight off the tree.

2. Because crab apples are so tiny (the ratio of flesh to core/skin is very small), they can seem like too much work to be worth messing with.

The truth is that the very tart flavor is actually a very concentrated flavor, so when sweetened and seasoned, crabapples yield a very rich and full flavored product. Also, this recipe doesn’t require cutting, peeling, or coring the crabapples; a food mill does all the work, so it’s relatively easy to make!

Ripe crabapples on the tree, representing step 1 of how to make crabapple butter: pick 6lb of crabapples.

Step 1: Pick 6lb crabapples

Begin by picking 6lb of crabapples. Pick carefully. They don’t have to look perfect, but since you won’t be cutting into them to inspect the insides, make sure to discard any apples that have signs of insects or other damage. Wash the crabapples thoroughly. Remove the stems and blossoms.

**Note: for the sake of time, we have tried this recipe without removing the stems and blossoms. The stems are removed in the food mill step, and the blossoms just kind of disintegrate. The only discernable difference in the final product was some tiny specks of blossom that look very much like the specks of cinnamon. So, if you want to save even MORE time, skip removing the stems and blossoms.

Crabapples boiling in a pot, representing step 2 of how to make crabapple butter: boil the crabapples.

Step 2: Boil crabapples

Place the crabapples in a large stock pot and cover with 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the apples are tender.

Crabapple juice draining from a chinois into a bowl, representing step 3 of how to make crabapple butter: drain off the juice.

Step 3: Drain crabapples

Drain the water/juice BUT SAVE IT to make crabapple jelly!

Overhead photo of crabapples in a chinois with a wooden pestle in the mixture, representing step 4 of how to make crabapple butter: put the crabapples through a food mill.

Step 4: Put crabapples through food mill

Push the drained crabapples through a chinois (as pictured) or a food mill, which is even less work! You’ll be left with a beautiful crabapple sauce, which you can sweeten, season, and enjoy just like you would applesauce. But since this post is about how to make crabapple butter, we’ll be turning this unsweetened crabapple sauce into crabapple butter.

Seasoned crabapple sauce in a crock pot. It's a peachy-pink color, representing step 5 of how to make crabapple butter: put the crabapple sauce in a crockpot and season it.

Step 5: Season crabapple sauce

Put the crabapple sauce into a crock pot. Stir in 3 cups sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp cloves, and ¼ tsp nutmeg. For safety reasons, do not use any less sugar, although you can add more, if you prefer. You can safely adjust the seasonings according to your particular taste. Cook the mixture in the crockpot on high for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally.

Cooked crabapple butter in a crockpot. It's a rich, deep, brownish red color.

Step 6: Cook crabapple sauce

You should be left with this dark, aromatic, flavorful crabapple butter. You can freeze it for later use, or you can hot water bath can it.

The following instructions for canning your crabapple butter are meant for home cooks with previous canning experience. If you’ve never canned before, start by educating yourself on all the safety precautions for and general methods of home canning.

Crabapple butter in various sizes of jars sitting on a wooden cutting board.

Step 7: Freeze or can crabapple butter

Ladle the warm crabapple butter into hot, sterilized canning jars, leaving ½” headspace. Wipe the edges clean, place clean lids on your jars, and screw the rims on firmly. Place the jars into your pot of hot water, and boil for 20 minutes. Remove jars to cool, ensure lids are sealed, and store in a cool, dark place until ready to use.

Apple butter spread on toast.

How to use crabapple butter

Now you know how to make crabapple butter, and it’s extremely versatile. Here are just a few ideas! Spread your crabapple butter on biscuits, pancakes, muffins, waffles, toast, and scones. Try it on both hot and cold sandwiches; it’s delicious with ham, turkey, or peanut butter. Stir some into oatmeal, yogurt, ice cream, or cottage cheese. Try it on top of a baked sweet potato. Crabapple butter makes a fabulous addition to a charcuterie board. You can also roast vegetables and glaze them with your crabapple butter a few minutes before the vegetables are done. Another idea is to stir a little crabapple butter into the brown sugar glaze for your fall cakes. Glaze pork chops, bacon-wrapped shrimp, or chicken wings with your crabapple butter. Apple butter makes a great gift, as well.

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