Classic Crab Apple Jelly


A classic, delicious crab apple jelly, that can be adapted to how ever many crab apples you are starting with!

I’ve only made crab apple jelly once before, many years ago. I wasn’t planning on making it this year either, until my Dad offered up a basket of apples left-over from his batch of jelly. He even threw in the “instructions” that my Mom had written out for him to follow.

Despite the commercial basket, these crab apples did not come from any market. Oh they were grown in Ontario alright … but on the tree in front of the local funeral home. My Dad picked them himself, perhaps under cover of darkness. (I didn’t ask ;)

It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that the provided instructions were a bit lacking. Despite some clear warnings (that would be the part in all caps and underlined), there were key parts missing like how many apples to start with, how long to cook the apples and how much sugar to add etc.

I hit up google to fill in the blanks and by the end of the afternoon, had 3 beautiful jars of crabapple jelly.

Of course, then I had to bake up a batch of my English Muffin bread, since I knew it was the perfect place to spread a bit of this delicious jelly. And it was.

Classic, old-fashioned crab apple jelly recipe

Cook’s Notes for Crab Apple Jelly

The freshest crab apples make the best jelly, so always start with apples as fresh as possible.

Wondering why the sugar is heated? Heating the sugar brings it closer to the temperature of the heating juice, so that when it’s added, it will dissolve more quickly and you won’t have to boil the jelly as long to reach the setting point.

Do be sure to WATCH THE SUGAR CONSTANTLY while it is heating in the oven, to avoid it over-heating and dissolving!

I have to be honest and say I’m not really sure why the jelly is placed to set on a “sunny windowsill”. My Mom says it helps create a clear jelly (the ultimate goal in jelly making). I’m not sure how, but I do it any way, because why not :)

Speaking of cloudy jelly, another reason that jelly becomes cloudy is if you poke or press the apple pulp while it’s draining, so resist the urge. Just collect and use juice that drains naturally from the apples.

How to Test if Jelly is Set with the Wrinkle Test

  • Place a glass plate in the freezer for about fifteen minutes before starting to make your jam.
  • To test your jam, turn off burner under jam. Spoon a puddle of jam onto the cold plate from the freezer. Run your finger through the jam on the plate. If jam wrinkles along the edges next to your finger line, it is set. If it seeps back in to the space where you ran your finger through, it is not yet set.
  • If jam is not set, rinse the plate with cold water and return it to the freezer. Turn the heat back on under the jam and cook for a few minutes longer then test again. Repeat until jam wrinkles when tested.

What to do if your jelly didn’t set

It happens and it can happen for any number of reasons. If you have left your jelly out for 24 hours and it didn’t set, simply dump the contents back in to your pot and re-boil it until it sets (use a thermometer to cook to 220° F. or until it passes the wrinkle test, as above. If you want to be super-sure it’s going to set the second time, you could also consider adding a bit of commercial pectin.

crabapple jelly

Crab Apple Jelly

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 2 jars
Calories: 774 kcal
Author: Jennifer
A flexible jelly recipe, that can start with any amount of apples*. Sugar is added in ratios to amount of juice and cooked until it sets. I recommend boiling no more than about 7 or 8 cups of juice at a time per batch.


  • 1 basket crab apples
  • Cheesecloth muslin or old (clean) cotton pillow case, for draining fruit
  • 2-3 cups White sugar
  • Clean jars


  1. Prepare your apples by washing, removing the stems and cutting off the blossom ends. You can leave whole or cut in half. If your apples come from a wild tree (ie. not sprayed), you may want to cut in half to make sure the inside is good. That's what I did.
  2. Place prepared apples into a large stock pot and add water, just until it just peeks through the top of the apples (if any of your apples are floating, you've got too much). Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer, without stirring, until apples are softened, 10-15 minutes.
  3. While fruit is simmering, place a large colander over a bowl and line with tripled-up cheesecloth, a piece of muslin or a cotton pillow case.
  4. When fruit is tender, pour into prepared colander and leave to drain for 2-3 hours. RESIST THE URGE TO POKE, PRESS OR SQUEEZE the pulp to get more juice. It will make for a cloudy jelly. Just let gravity do it's work and discard the pulp when draining stops.
  5. Measure out the amount of juice and make note of how many cups of juice you have (I got 3 cups of juice out of this basket of apples). Add the juice to a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring, for about 20 minutes, skimming off any foam, as necessary.

  6. Meanwhile, measure out sugar. You'll need 3/4 cup of sugar for every cup of apple juice that you had. (So if you had 4 cups of juice, you'll need 3 cups of sugar). Place the sugar in a stainless steel or oven-proof bowl (or on a baking sheet, alternately) and pop into a 300° oven anywhere from 5-15 minutes, stirring it around a couple of times (time in the oven will vary depending on how much sugar/oven etc., so WATCH CLOSELY. It should be hot to the touch, but not so hot it starts to melt around the edges.).
  7. When sugar is hot, remove from oven. Remove pot with apple juice from the heat. Stir in the hot sugar just until it is dissolved. Place the pot back on the heat and WITHOUT STIRRING, boil for 5-8 minutes, until jelly reaches 220° on a thermometer or passes the cold plate test*.
  8. Ladle jelly into clean jars and leave with lids off until almost cool (without moving jars around). When jelly is almost cool, seal with lids. Let stand in a sunny window, undisturbed for 24 hrs. Wax and store.

Recipe Notes

*Cold Plate Test: Place a plate in the freezer before you start your jelly. Place 1 tsp. hot jelly on cold plate and freeze for 1 minute. Remove from freezer. Surface should wrinkle when edge is pushed with finger. If surface doesn't wrinkle, continue cooking and repeat test every few minutes. What to do if your jelly doesn't set: Hey, it happens and it can happen for any number of reasons. If you have left your jelly out for 24 hours and it didn't set, simply dump the contents back in to your pot and re-boil it until it sets (use a thermometer to cook to 220° F. or until it passes the cold plate test, as above). If you want to be super-sure it's going to set the second time, you could also consider adding a bit of commercial pectin.

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  • I’ve never tried crab apple jelly but I’ve heard from my dad that it’s pretty good. I’ll have to keep my eye out for some or ask around where I might find some! Would love to try it some day.

    • They’re worth seeking out, Liz. Jelly is a bit more work than jam, but it’s so delicious (really fresh apple taste!).

  • Looks lovely! I have a crabapple tree in the backyard, unfortunately not getting enough love. If I get my act in gear maybe there will be apple butter. Oh for more hours in the day!

    • I hear you, Renee. We have a very old crab in our yard, but the apples aren’t the deep red ones like these, so don’t make the pretty red jelly. We just let them fall and the deer (and sometimes the bears) get to enjoy them instead.

  • You have bears in your yard?!?!

    I remember making your wonderful English muffin bread — I think it’s about time for another loaf :) Maybe I can convince someone to make this jelly for me. Sounds so good!

    • The bears don’t stop by too often. We’ve only seen 3 or 4 in the 10 years we’ve lived here. They’ll come around if the deer don’t show up to eat the apples, so we’re always happy to see the deer.

      Now about that bread, I hadn’t made it in a while and my husband, who often has baked goodies around, made a point of saying I should just bake that bread all the time. It was a treat and perfect for fresh jam or jelly.

  • Hi there,
    I’m trying the recipe. Unfortunately, my sugar burnt in the oven as I left it in for exactly 15 minutes. So I didn’t get all the sugar in. I’ve just put the jelly in the cans. I’m wondering if it will turn to jelly now that there’s not enough sugar called for. It’s still cooling but still watery. If it doesn’t, is there anything I can do to save it?

    First time canner,

    • How much sugar did you get in? Let it sit for now (don’t move the jars around) and check it tomorrow. If it doesn’t set, you’ve got nothing to lose by re-cooking it with more sugar.

  • I’ve been making crab apple everything for a few years, now. My jelly has never turned out such a nice color as in your picture, but, I will try your recipe, today, and cross my fingers. I do not seal with wax, however, I process in water, which I prefer, these days. I am also intrigued by your sugar in the oven method, and am looking forward to that!! Cheers to the harvest time of year!! Happy canning!!

    • Hi Cheryl, I understand that the colour of the apples dictates the colour of the jelly (the darker the apples, the darker the jelly). This is my Mom’s recipe. She always heats her sugar. I have read that it dissolves more quickly when heated, so it is dissolved before the jelly hits a full boil (which is apparently desirable). You just have to watch it carefully while it’s in the oven. Happy canning to you, as well!

  • I got all the right amount of sugar in, and cooked it and cooked it. I kept doing the test and after about an hour,(the lovely pink jelly was actually turning a little brown) it seemed to be at the wrinkle point. However the next day after I had put it into the jars it was not so much jelly as syrup. What did I do wrong?

    • Sorry to hear that, Rosemary. Apples have so much natural pectin that the only way the jelly won’t jell is if it doesn’t reach the required temperature (220° F.) Were your apples fresh? Were you boiling over high heat (was it really boiling well?)

  • If I can’t get my hands on the really red crabs, I cheat….I throw a handful of raspberries in with the apples while they’re stewing.

  • This looks really delicious! I was able to get some crab apples from my uncle this year (not nearly so lovely as yours), and am looking forward to trying a new jelly. I also have some rosehips from my garden, so I’m going to try using those to boost the color and add a little something special =).

    Quick question, though, what do you mean by “wax and store”? I’ve only canned using a water bath canner, or occasionally have just turned the hot jars upside down with the two-piece lid on to seal. Your method is entirely new to me!

    • Hi Joni, This is my mother’s recipe. She always melts paraffin wax in a small saucepan and pours it on top of the set jelly (after it’s sat and set for 24 hours). It should be about 1/2 inch thick (so allow room when filling jars) and ensure that the wax goes right to the edge and attaches to jar side, to ensure a good seal. Allow the wax to harden and then put the lid back on. It will then be shelf-stable. I suspect this is the preferred method for jellies, as a hot water bath would melt the set jelly and turning upside down would disturb the jelly consistency. I notice paraffin wax still readily available with the canning supplies around here.

  • Made this today, with nearly a bushel of crabapples – ended up with nearly 11 cups of the most gorgeous ruby red jelly with a perfect set. I threw half a cinnamon stick in while the apples boiled for a very subtle cinnamon flavour – I didn’t want it to overwhelm the delicate flavour of the apples. Thanks for a fabulous recipe, I’m thrilled!

  • Looking forward to trying this. We live in Ontario and have an amazing tree in the front yard, that I just picked two big containers of apples from. The tree has been lovingly cared for for the past 30 years and is so full of fruit it still looks untouched.

  • Haven’t made crabapple jelly for several years. When I did, I used the pressure cooker to get the juice and used pectin.
    Just finished making your receipe. Had 5 quarts of crabapples & got 6-250ml jars. I sterilized the jars (oven method) & did the lids in boiling water. The lids have “popped” and are now cooling. They’re such a beautiful colour! And have gelled beautifully. And a spoonful tastes yummy! Thank you, Jennifer!
    Got the crabapples at a local market and was told that this variety (Dolga) was the best.

  • Does it need to be crabapplel? We have an apple tree in our back yard and they aren’t crabapplrs but small sour apples would that work as Well?

    • Hi Katarina and no it doesn’t have to be crabapples. We have a similar apple tree here, with small yellow/pink apples. My dad made jelly with them one year and it was fine and tasty. Just not red in colour. It was a yellow jelly. So other than the colour, should be fine :)

  • Hi,Jennifer I have a flowering crab tree in my yard can these apples be used for jelly? I am going to try your recipe today for crabapple jelly.have never made it before,thank you for any info.

    • Hi Carol, If you are talking about the very tiny fruit that appears on flowering crab trees (the ones with pink flowers in the Spring), then no, you can’t use those apples. You need to find a classic crabapple tree.

I love hearing from you, so if you have a question or something isn't quite clear, I'm happy to help. If you made this recipe, I'd love to know how you liked it ~ Jennifer

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