About this recipe
The underutilized crab apple is the only apple native to North America and is far more than just a decorative tree bracketing your front entranceways with pale pink blossoms and crimson fruit. Tart, sweet, brilliant-red and almost too simple to be considered cooking, crab apple syrup will transform your mixed drinks and breakfasts throughout the fall and winter.
Yield: Each pound of crab apples will yield approximately two cups of syrup.
- Ripe crab apples in any quantity, rinsed and left whole
Collect only intact, firm crab apples in whatever you quantity you desire. Wash the crab apples and place in a pot, just barely covering them with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, lowering to a simmer and covering the pot for 5 minutes or until crab apples are soft enough to mash with a potato masher and release their juice.
Line a colander with cheesecloth layered over 3 or 4 times and place over a bowl large enough to drain out all liquid. Pour mashed crab apple into lined colander and let drain without pressing. (If you press out the flesh, your syrup will still taste great but be cloudier. I usually wouldn’t care about this, because more syrup equals a win, but it is just so pretty in glass jars that I recommend not messing with it.)
Once the juice has drained through, use a liquid cup measure to see how much liquid has been released. You will need ¾ cup of sugar for every 1 cup of crab apple juice.
Return the juice to a clean pot and place over medium-high heat. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Lower heat and cook, stirring, for 2 or 3 minutes. Do not boil or overcook, since the natural pectin (a key ingredient in jams and jellies) in the crab apples will cause your end product to be thicker than you want.
Allow to cool slightly before pouring into clean jars or containers. Syrup will thicken some as it cools.
Crab Apple syrup will last for several months if refrigerated. You can also freeze the syrup to use later. If freezing, I recommend using non-glass containers to prevent glass cracking upon expansion.
*A note on canning:
While some recipes indicate that you can process crab apple syrup in a water-bath canner, I have not had luck with this. The abundance of natural pectin in crab apples has transformed my lovely syrup into jelly once processed. While crab apple jelly is great, this recipe is for syrup, so I recommend cooking for the minimal time possible and storing the finished product cold.