Crab apples on a branch

Crab apple

Pronounce it: crab app-el

A tiny sour apple that either grows wild or is cultivated. There are several varieties that grow in the UK, North America and the Far East. Most crab apple recipes are local to where they are grown. Some fruits are green, others yellow or bright, bright red. 

Generally too sour or astrigent to eat raw, they are cooked with lots of sugar to make crab apple jelly and crab apple butter, or roasted whole alongside meat. 

They have a very strong apple flavour once the sourness has been masked. They are also pressed to make verjuice, a tart liquid you can use instead of vinegar, and you can use them in recipes such as ketchup. Red crab apples will give red juice and jelly. 


For a ready source of crab apples you’ll need access to a tree, either in a garden or growing wild.

Prepare it

Crab apples are often cleaned and cooked whole as they are so small, although some varieties can be about 5cm in diameter so halve or quarter these.

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