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Preserving Backyard Fruit: Crab Apple Juice

Making Crab Apple Juice
I was given an ice cream bucket of nickle to quarter size crab apples by a friend and fellow gardener about a week ago.  At first glance those little apples seem almost worthless because they have so little fruit in each one, but they do pack a punch when it comes to flavor and make some excellent apple juice with just a little time and energy.

I got this crab apple juice recipe from my mother-in-law a few years ago and love its simplicity! :)

You will need to gather:
-a sharp knife & cutting board
-a container for scraps (throw these in the compost when you are done!)
-clean 1 gallon ice cream bucket with lid
-your apples
-boiling water
-2Tbsp Cream of Tartar
-optional sugar

1. Wash the fruit and remove all stems and flowers.

2. Quarter the fruit (half is fine if they are very small, but the more surface area, the more juice and flavor you'll be able to extract.) and place in a clean plastic container.  You need to have a tight fitting lid. I like to use an ice cream bucket.  Don't worry about the seeds; they will be thrown out in the end.

3. Add 2 Tbsp Cream of Tartar to the top of a full bucket of the quartered apples.

4. Pour boiling water on top until it is just covers the apples.  Cover the bucket and set aside for 24 hours.

5. Drain off the liquid into a stockpot and quickly bring to a boil.  Add sugar to taste if desired.

6. Pour into hot jars and process in a boiling water bath for long term storage or refrigerate and use as fresh juice. For those like me who are below 1000 ft in elevation, process pints or quarts for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.  The USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, 2009 revision Guide 02: Selecting, Preparing, and Canning Fruit and Fruit Products provides more details and times for higher elevations if you have questions. 

Happy Preserving! :)


  1. Great idea! I never would've thought you could make juice that way.

  2. Me neither until I thought about it. Gotta love the 'miracle' of reverse osmosis! :)

  3. Do you think this would work in some regular apples we have? They are probably a little bigger than a golf ball. I hate to waste all those apples and not do anything with them but I made some applesauce with them last week and since they are so small it takes A LOT of apples to make sauce and my hand was cramped after 5 minutes. My kids love apple juice and this would be a great use up of those apples (besides deer and horse treats).

    1. I would cut them into smaller chunks so there is more surface area exposed to draw out the juice from. I don't know how many apples you have but you could try a small batch (half size maybe) and see how it goes and what everyone thinks before you commit all your apples. Good luck! :)

    2. I was thinking smaller chunks as well. We have a ton of apples so I think I will just try a full batch and see what happens. I am thinking it will be a project for tonight once I finish slicing and dicing the two ice cream pails of bell peppers we picked this afternoon. Thank you so much for your response and I will let you know how it goes :) We also have a crab apple tree with the little apples like you used, so if those apples ripen I will try it with those too :)

    3. I made this and it turned out great! I am so excited to have found a use for all those apples that normally go to waste from our trees. I am going to make up several batches of this and can it for the winter. I am going to process it for 10 minutes though instead of 5 since the apple juice recipe I found in the Ball Canning Guide calls for 10 minutes. I added about 1/2 a cup of sugar to the juice and will probably add a smidge more on the next round since the apples are really tart. I can't wait until it is completely cooled down and my hubby is home to taste it. Thank you again for this super simple recipe.

  4. I am making crabapple jelly and crabapple butter(with left over mush from juicing). I experimented this year and just washed the apples and then put them whole (didn't remove blossom or stem) into pot with water. After they soften, mash and cook a little more. Then I put over metal sieve in pillow case and let juice drip. It did not affect the clearness or taste or the juice. Then I mash the pulp through the sieve to get "butter". I have lots of apples left and I thought, boy this would make a good drink. I tried it and it is (would be good as punch too with sprite or vernors). So I searched the web to come upon this site about canning the juice to drink later.

  5. I have made crab apple juice long as I can remember was a real treat for Thanksgiving each year as I grew up. Wait till after the first frost (32 degrees) but before a hard frost ( 28 degrees) then you will not have to add much sugar. Like Beth M I do not do anything but wash the apples and then into a pot of boilin water stems and all, after the apples are done (just a few mins ) the cooked apples go into a food mill for apple sauce. I use the apple sauce for canning in mason jars as well as laying the sauce out on the dehydrator trays for fruit roll ups the most requested from the children and they love them! For time sake I also will freeze the sauce for later either to eat of dehydrate.The left over liquid is strain and sweetened for fresh or water bath for juice all winter long, can also use the same juice for making wine, Anything you can do with a regular apple can be done with a crap apple. I would really like to know how to make my own pectin from the crab apples.

  6. I was wondering if you could take the juice and make jelly out of it or if the cream of tarter would have an effect on it setting.

    1. I honestly have no idea. I would definetly strain the juice well through a filter or several layers of cheese cloth before I would attempt it. If you give it a try come back and let us know how it went.

  7. You have done a great job on this article. It’s very readable and highly intelligent. You have even managed to make it understandable and easy to read. You have some real writing talent. Thank you.
    benefits of juicing


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