Clove Apples

We had a tradition growing up on my mother’s side of the family. Every Christmas we would make a clove apple to give to our grandma. Eventually we started giving them to my paternal grandmother as well, but it was really a maternal family thing.

What are clove apples? They are regular apples with cloves jammed into them, hung from yarn or string. They go in the kitchen and are supposed to make the room smell good. These apples last forever, though they shrink and shrivel over time. One year my grandmother brought out ALL her clove apples. She had saved them all, and the oldest were nothing more than tiny shriveled clove balls.

The big question for me this year was whether or not to continue the tradition, or rather, whether or not wait until V is old enough to do it herself. Now my mother is already 4.5 years a grandmother. I believe we had the same question come up the year my niece was born, but decided not to do the apple that year. The problem is, my niece is almost five now and still no apples. I’m pretty hardcore on the Slovak family traditions so I’m a little irked this one hasn’t been continued. It looks like I’d be making an apple myself. I actually went out and bought two apples- one for my mom and one for my mother in law. However, after going through the whole painful process of making one apple I decided to just stick with my mom. That’s right, the process is painful. We had a love/hate relationship with these apples as kids. They take a good hour or more to make (faster if you have multiple children working on them).

This is the process:

You need a towel, fork, apple, some cloves (it takes about 1.5 bottle of cloves per apple), yarn and a ton of patience.

Begin by poking holes in the apple with a fork. It took us years to figure out to use a fork for this; originally we just shoved them in by hand. I recommend doing a section at a time. Once you have your holes you can start shoving cloves into each hole. Your fingers will rapidly get covered with sticky apple juice and clove bits. The cloves themselves are somewhat painful to insert, especially if you’re doing an entire apple in one setting. My siblings and I usually took turns to give each other a break.

Once your apple is completely covered you take the yarn and tie it around the apple. Make sure you leave enough yarn for hanging.

I look forward to the day when my daughter can make her own darn apple. Just going through the process again reminded me of how much I disliked it growing up. However, the results were always worth the pain, as Grandma looked forward to receiving them every year.



  1. Bimini Asheye

    I’m strapped for cash this year, so thank you for giving me an idea for something to give my mom. I just know she’ll love it!

    • You’re very welcome! 🙂

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