Crab Apples Pickled in Sherry Vinegar and Five Spice Powder

My Estonian grandmother planted a fruit tree for each of her grandchildren when they were born.  Mine was the crab apple tree.  When I was about seven years old, I asked my grandmother why my tree was the one with fruit that was so hard and sour.  She told me that the crab apple tree helped all of the other trees to produce more fruit.  When she explained this to me, I thought that my tree helped those around it through magic, like a good luck charm for the orchard.  The trees of my cousins and siblings made good tasting fruit, but mine was magic….so there.  I now understand that crab apple trees attract pollinators…so there.   My grandmother also pickled the sour crab apples and served them with ham on Christmas Eve.Crab Apples Pickled in Sherry Vinegar and five Spice PowderCrab apples did well on Gabriola Island this summer so I bought some to pickle.  Luckily, my Aunty Mona was visiting my mother also, and she knows how to cook EVERYTHING…well at least everything that I ever seem to be interested in learning how to make.  Mona knew how to pickle crab apples in the old style. It’s very easy, so if you have access to crab apples give it a try!  Mona and I decided to use sherry vinegar and five spice powder, because we had them on hand and….Oh my goodness!  I would go out of my way to get sherry vinegar and five spice powder again next time because the pickles turned out so tasty.  In addition to producing wonderful pickles to serve with meat or fish,  this recipe will provide you with a spiced, sweet vinegar that, combined with a splash of olive oil and a bit of salt, makes a marvelous salad dressing.  If you are someone who likes switchel, crab apple pickling liquid would be great in that too!


  • Equal parts sugar, water and sherry vinegar (we used 1 cup of each)
  • Whole crab apples with stems, rinsed (we used about 4 cups)
  • five spice powder to taste (we used a generous Tablespoon)
  1. Combine the sugar, water and vinegar in a non reactive pot and bring the mixture to a boil.
  2. Add the five spice powder to the boiling pickling liquid.
  3. Add the whole apples to the pickling liquid and simmer until the apples skins just begin to split.  This does not take long so pay attention!
  4. Remove the pot from the heat and transfer the apples to a glass jar.  Cover the apples completely with the pickling liquid.  You could can these pickles for the shelf or just store them in a sealed jar in the fridge.  These pickles are quick!  They only need to sit around for a day to develop.



4 Comments Add yours

  1. Hoang Nguyen says:

    Hi, can you tell me what kind crab apples tree ( the name ) and where I can buy the tree . thank you .

    1. I’m so sorry! I don’t know the name of the kind of tree or where it can be purchased. I bought these crab apples from someone who grew them on Gabriola Island, where I was visiting last summer.

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