Crabapple cranberry citrus chutney. Photo credit: Kristen Jas Vietty

If you’re like me, sweet fruity condiments may leave you craving some more depth and complexity. This recipe can make a more interesting substitute for holiday meal staples, serving as a possible replacement for Hanukkah’s latke applesauce or cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving. It pairs well with poultry, pork, fish, grain salads, sweet potatoes, even a spread with bread and cheese.

Here I started with crabapples – the diminutive version of their more popular Eurasian brethren, the common apple. Crabapples are usually cultivated as ornamental landscaping specimens and street trees for their spring blooms and small habit, but their fruits are edible and best when cooked. POP usually organizes autumn harvest events, and this batch used here was gleaned from the campus of University of Pennsylvania in October 2020. If you don’t have crabapples on hand, regular apples or virtually any other fruit will work. The basic concept is to combine fruits with herbs, spices, and citrus or vinegar for a sweet and savory, textural sauce.

Note that I cook with a folk method – I use intuition instead of exact measurements, and substitute ingredients based on what I have on hand. Consider this recipe a loose guideline or inspiration. I probably use 1/3 savory vegetables (onion, celery, carrot, peppers), 1/3 fresh fruit (crabapples, citrus), 1/3 dried fruit, grated ginger, and spices. But in my opinion, the only way to mess this up is to have too liquid a consistency. However, that can be remedied by simmering off.

Some of the diverse ingredients used. Photo credit: Kristen Jas Vietty


Crabapples (can substitute apples or most other fruits)

Mirepoix: finely chopped onion, carrot, celery, sweet or hot peppers

Citrus, any type, seeded, coarsly chopped inner flesh and finely chopped outer peels (white pith adds bitterness)

Cranberries, fresh or dried

Raisins or other dried fruit

Vinegar (apple cider vinegar preferred)

Fresh ginger, grated (a lot!)

Spices: cinnamon, garam masala, salt, black pepper, garlic, cayenne to taste.

Coconut oil or ghee (or butter) for sautéing


1. Simmer crabapples whole in a little water until softened. (If using apples, peaches, etc, remove any cores or pits and coarsely chop before cooking.)

2. Meanwhile, heat coconut oil or ghee/ butter in a stock pot, finely chop or food process onions, celery, carrots, and optional peppers. Sauté the mirepoix until aromatic and transluscent.

3. Use a food mill or food processer and strain crabapples. Discard skins and seeds, add juice/ pulp to sautéed mirepoix. (No need to strain if using other pitted fruits.)

4. Add cranberries. If using fresh cranberries, additional raisins or other dried fruit will thicken texture and improve consistency

5. Add citrus. Skin should be finely chopped or food processed. [Note – it might be worth experimenting with trifoliate orange here.]

6. Add lots of grated ginger, as well as spices, salt and pepper to taste. I find cinnamon and garam masala to be indispensable. You can also experiment with cardamon, sautéed mustard seeds, cumin, fresh herbs, etc.

7. Add apple cider vinegar to taste. You may not need much more acidity if you used lots of citrus and cranberries.

8. Simmer to combine flavors. Best served warm. 

Storing: This recipe is likely acidic enough for water bath canning storage. It can also be kept in refrigerator for weeks or freezer for months.

This post prepared by Orchard Assistant Kristen Jas Vietty

Related POP Resources:

Getting Creative with Fall Foraging: Crabapples and Gingko Nuts

POP Crabapple info sheet with Spiced Apple Butter Recipe!

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