{excerpted from Irish Country Living}

If you walked into our kitchen on Saturday afternoon you may have mistaken it for a confectionery. There were all the inner workings: steaming stainless steel pots of bubbling sugary concoctions on the stove, candied apples drying on waxed paper, tiny bottles of food colouring lining the countertop, finely chopped nuts of every sort in bowls ready to be dipped. It looked and smelled like some sort of candy heaven, which, of course, is always a good thing.



Building this kitchen confectionery actually began days earlier when my father-in-law said he had spotted a crab apple tree bursting with fruit in a hedge while checking cattle one afternoon.

So, when a sunny window of opportunity welcomed us, Geoffrey and I met Grandad at the gate of the pasture; ladder and empty rucksack in hand.  We swiftly walked as a trio toward the tree, acknowledging that the weather could change and blow us and our dear apples hither and tither at any moment. Time was most certainly of the essence.


The tree was situated on the edge of a shallow stream running through the paddock so Michael had no choice but to plant the ladder into the water and climb on up.  As he quickly plucked the abundance of fruit, Geoffrey and I stayed below to catch any falling apples. This turned out to be quite laughable because each time an apple dropped into the water, the current would hastily whisk it away before we could grasp it in our hands. We came away soaked, but with smiles and an overflowing sack of dainty apples.



I perused Pinterest in search of crab apple concoctions and came across several delicious looking images of tiny candied apples which are a popular treat in other parts of the world. Descriptions revealed that sweet candy coating plays perfectly with the tart apple taste creating a tantalising balance of flavours.


It was decided. As well as preserving a few jars, I would pick out the smallest fruits with the longest stems and try my hand at bringing this world-class candied treat to our Irish country kitchen.  And, let’s just say: there were no regrets.

Candied Wild Crab Apples

adapted from


10-15 small ripe crab apples
 with stems intact
675g/3 cups granulated sugar
180g/1/2 cup golden syrup (or light corn in USA) syrup
250ml/1 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon of red food colouring


1. Clean and dry the apples and set aside.
2. Heat and stir sugar, golden syrup and water in a saucepan until sugar has
3. Boil until the syrup reaches 150c/310f degrees on a candy thermometer.
4. Remove from heat and stir in food coloring.
5. Allow to cool slightly and wait for bubbles to disappear
6. Dip one apple completely in the syrup and swirl it so that it becomes fully coated. Hold the apple above the saucepan to drain off excess.
7. Place apple onto a baking sheet that’s greased or lined with waxed paper or silpat.
8. Repeat the process with the remaining apples. If your syrup thickens or cools too
much, simply reheat briefly before proceeding.
9. Let the apples cool completely before serving.
10. Chomp away!

Recipe Notes:
Do not allow candy temp to go over 150c/310f degrees or it will burn.
Be very careful, this mixture is extremely hot. Not a project for the children.

The winner of Pat’s Irish Beef Book is: PAULA LYDON. Congratulations!

Slan Abhaile,


Photos + Styling by Imen McDonnell 2013. Excerpted from my Country Living column 7.11.13  

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19 Responses to “Candied Country Crab Apples”

  1. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good.
    I don’t know who yoou are but definitely you’re goong tto a famous blogger if yyou are not already 😉 Cheers!

  2. […] Any blog post that begins, “If you walked into our kitchen on Saturday afternoon you may have mistaken it for a confectio… is a perfect way to start my […]

  3. Chef Matsui says:

    Absolutely delightful! Love everything about this post. The beautiful photos, the colours, the recipe. Big ❤

  4. Phryne says:

    Love your blog Imen. I live in Co. Wexford. Do visit my new blog (still a baby blog but working on it!)

    The crab apples on the tree are almost done now but think I can salvage a few to try this. Can’t believe I never thought of it. Sometimes you just need a little shove don’t you think?


  5. […] A twist on the ubiquitous fair apple: candied country crab apples. […]

  6. […] A twist on the ubiquitous fair apple: candied country crab apples. […]

  7. I felt like I was walking through the countryside with you while reading this post- it really made me think of home! I have never actually cooked with crab apples and they actually surround our farm at home in Ireland. My Mum used to always tell us they would give us wicked cramps- I think she was trying to deter us from eating them like sweets. Just as you do here, I absolutely love this recipe, so quirky and beautiful. I bet the aromas in your kitchen making them was something else! I love your photographs too, so delicate but unbelievably enticing. All the apples are off our trees now, but I’ll definitely be putting this on the recipe to do list for next year! Gorgeous post, and gorgeous blog! x

  8. Emily Grace says:

    delightful! Thank you for sharing!

  9. Aine says:

    Hi Imen,
    I was so inspired by this post that I rushed to find crab apples so I could make the jelly of my childhood. No luck in whole foods, or Balduccis, not even at the local farmers market in alexandria, v.a. Although one of the farmers said she thought she remembered her mother having a crab apple tree in the backyard. “Can you eat them?” She asked, vaguely. Wanted to whip out your blog and point and should “see? See?” Alas though, no candied apples or jelly for me this fall. Your own tree! Lucky you!

  10. Dao says:

    Love it! we used to have some of these tiny cute apples in our garden. I would eat them with delectation despite my mother always telling me these were not to be eaten because too sour…Thanks for the recipe! wish I could get hold of some in Paris to give it a try..:) Have seen them on the markets in Shanghai.. Guess they do use it there..

  11. YES! I just got some extremely tiny crab apples the other day (like, globe grape size) and have been at a loss as to what to do with them. This recipe is boss. Thank you!

  12. These sound (and look) great, Imen. Tooth achingly sweet and wincingly sour – I’d love to try them.

    • imen says:

      That is EXACTLY how they taste Sharon, really good. Give em a go! Thanks for the comment, hope all is well xx

  13. molly yeh says:

    love this post. are crab apples the ones that always grow on the best climbing trees?? i vaguely remember a crab apple tree in a park close to the house where i grew up… there were always sooo many apples and no one wanted to eat them because they were too tart! if only you were there to be like “oh just candy them!”

    • imen says:

      You crack me up! Okay, so it’s really important to have ripe crab apples, they are tart, but not unbearably so…like the ones you’ve had (and me too) unripe crabs also tend to be “woody”. But, yes, if I was there I’d just come along with my pan of hot candied topping and say “let’s make candied apples!!!!!!!! weeeeee!!!” Thanks Molly xx

  14. tara says:

    That last photo got me. Wowza, stunning work, Imen.

  15. Niamh says:

    Oh how lovely! I love candied apples and can see how candied crab apples with that gorgeous play of sweet and sour, would be divine.

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