How to Make Canned Apple Pie Filling | Seasonal Food and Country Style Recipes

Nothing says fall like apple pie. With the abundant selection of apples available this time of year, you might like to try canning apple pie filling.

Apple pie filling is not limited to pie making but is handy for making a quick fruit crisp, cobbler or fruited coffee cake. Besides its excellent flavor, you will find that your home-canned pie filling usually contains more apples than commercially purchased ones.

A challenge of canning fruit pie fillings has been finding a thickener that is both safe and yields a desirable consistency. Flour, cornstarch and tapioca break down from the high temperatures used in the canning process, causing a runny consistency.

They also create a safety problem because they prevent the penetration of heat to the center of the jar during processing. Commercially prepared pie fillings use a modified food starch to overcome these problems.

Excellent and safe fruit fillings can be achieved using Clear Jel, a modified food starch. Unlike ordinary cornstarch, Clear Jel works well with acidic ingredients, tolerates high temperatures and doesn’t cause pie fillings to “weep” during storage.

It is a good choice for canning homemade pie fillings because it doesn’t begin thickening until the liquid begins to cool. This allows heat to be distributed more evenly within the jar during processing, which is important to the safety of the product. However, don’t freeze products made with Clear Jel, as they tend to break down when frozen.

Clear Jel is available at some grocery stores that sell bulk foods and can be ordered online. Find out about its availability before gathering other ingredients to make fruit pie filling.

Also, make sure you are getting the type of Clear Jel that requires cooking. Do not use instant Clear Jel in canned pie fillings.

Thermflo has similar viscosity and stability to Clear Jel and is a suitable alternative.

Besides the recipe for canned apple pie filling, there are tested recipes for blueberry, cherry and peach pie fillings. You can obtain the others by calling your Penn State Extension office and asking for the fact sheet, “Let’s Preserve Fruit Pie Fillings,” or by going to This fact sheet also includes recipes for frozen fruit pie fillings.

Because the kind of apple may alter the flavor of the pie filling, you should first prepare a single quart, make a pie with it and taste it. Then, adjust the sugar and spices in the recipe to suit your personal preferences.

The amount of lemon juice to fruit and liquid should never be altered because it affects the safety and storage stability of the filling. Select firm, crisp apples such as Stayman, Golden Delicious and Rome. If apples lack tartness, use an additional ¼ cup lemon juice for each 6 quarts of sliced ​​apples.

Canned Apple Pie Filling

Ingredients needed for 1-quart test recipe:

  • 3-1/2 cups sliced ​​apples, blanched
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup Clear Jel
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 3/4 cup apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice
  • 1 drop yellow food coloring (optional)
  • Ingredients needed for seven quart jars:
  • 6 quarts sliced ​​apples, blanched
  • 5-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups Clear Jel
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
  • 2-1/2 cups cold water
  • 5 cups apple juice
  • 3/4 cup bottled lemon juice
  • 7 drops yellow food coloring (optional)

Wash, peel and core apples. Cut apples into 1/2-inch wide slices. Place in an anti-darkening solution made by dissolving 1 teaspoon ascorbic acid (or 6 crushed vitamin C tablets) in 1 gallon water to prevent browning. A commercial color preserver, such as Fruit Fresh, may be used instead. Remove apples from solution and drain well. Place 6 cups of sliced ​​apples at a time in 1 gallon of boiling water. Boil each batch for 1 minute after the water returns to a boil. Remove fruit from blanch water, but keep the hot fruit in a covered bowl or pot while the Clear Jel mixture is prepared.

Combine sugar, Clear Jel, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large sauce pot with water, apple juice and food coloring. Stir and cook on medium-high heat until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Add lemon juice to the boiling mixture and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Immediately fold in drained apple slices, and fill hot jars with hot mixture. Leave 1-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rims. Adjust lids and process immediately in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes for pints or quarts. Make adjustments for higher altitudes.

Recipe Source: So Easy to Preserve.

Where trade names appear, no discrimination is intended, and no endorsement by Penn State Extension is implied.

If you have food preservation questions, a home economist is available to answer questions on Wednesdays from 10 am to 2 pm, by calling 717-394-6851 or writing Penn State Extension, Lancaster County, 1383 Arcadia Road, Room 140, Lancaster, PA 17601.

The Well Preserved news column is prepared by Penn State Extension.


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