Notes on a Batch of Sour Cherry Pie Filling

cherry pie filling

When I made the cherry pie for Sarah and Dave last week, I used the very last of my fresh cherries (it was the very end of the season, after all). Happily, I managed to snag enough sour cherries this year that in addition to making a bunch of jam and preserved cherries in a bourbon-spiked syrup, I also made a two quarts of sour cherry pie filling (plus one half pint jar of overflow).

One is promised to the winner of the Pie Box giveaway (have you entered yet?), but I have grand plans for the other one. Sometime next winter, when the days are painfully short and sour cherries are just a flickering memory, I will open that last jar and brighten my day with pie.

cherry pie filling top

It had been at least two years since I worked with ClearJel and I remembered a couple things about it in this go-round (though a little too late to be truly helpful). The first is that I like a thinner pie filling than the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s recipe makes. This time, I’ve made a note in my cookbook to remind myself to go a little lighter on the thickener. Second, headspace is really important when canning pie filling.

You see, I didn’t quite tell the entire truth up above. When I made this batch of pie filling, my initial yield was three quarts. However, I was so focused on squeezing every last drop of pie filling into the jars that I overfilled that final jar. During processing, ClearJel expands a little and in the case of that jar, it expanded so much that it popped the lid right off. It was a frustrating reminder about the importance of following headspace instruction. Live and learn.

The recipe I followed can be found here. I made enough to fill three quarts and next time I make it, I will use a scant 1/4 cup ClearJel per quart (the recipe calls for 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon). I skipped the food coloring and cinnamon, but did add the almond extra.

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19 Responses to Notes on a Batch of Sour Cherry Pie Filling

  1. 1
    Pru says:

    That’s tragic. Would it have been different if you’d been using a traditional Ball jar with screw on ring?

    • 1.1
      Marisa says:

      If I’d been using a mason jar, chances are that the jar would have siphoned to the point where the seal was compromised. It would have looked a little difference, but the outcome would have been the same.

      • Valerie says:

        I just canned blueberry pie filling last night, and BOTH of my quarts popped their seal in the standard two-part lidded jars, despite leaving the suggested headspace. GRRR! Now I have two jars of pie filling in the freezer, instead of two wonderful holiday gifts.

  2. 2
    Meg H. says:

    I always make and can some sour cherry pie filling every summer and then enjoy a delicious cherry pie on Washington’s birthday in February. (And I overfilled the first year too – lesson learned.)

  3. 3
    Deb Weisberger says:

    We live near Traverse City, Michigan. It’s a big tart & sweet cherry producer. I bought your book & we went on an adventure to buy tart cherries for the jam recipe. It was a really fun ride on the Harley, about a 2 hour gorgeous ride thru rural towns & farm land. We bought 6 quarts of those lovely round rubies. Hubs & I pitted them all, one by one. I had enough for a pie, two batches of your oh-so-yummy jam recipe, and froze enough for two pies this coming winter. I’ll try canning the pie fill when I find Clear Jel.

  4. 4
    Katie says:

    I always wonder if I leave too much head space because I am so fanatic about leaving enough.

    Is there any real problem with leaving too much head space?


  5. 5

    Any idea where you could get Clear Jel other than Amazon? Sour cherries are my absolute favorite, and I would love to put up prepared pie filling, but can’t for the life of me find it anywhere other than online.

    Alternatively, have you ever canned whole sour cherries and used them later to make pie?

  6. 6
    Mama Urchin says:

    The same thing happened to me this year with pie filling too! One of my quarts popped the seal and went into the fridge instead.

    • 6.1
      Marisa says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your pie filling, but I’m so glad to hear that I’m not the only one.

  7. 7
    Becky says:

    I miss sour cherries! I grew up with them, but they are hard to find in Connecticut. I’m planning to make some blueberry filling this weekend. I ordered clearjel online from Amazon. Don’t forget to make sure you get the regular kind. Someone mentioned King Arthur, but I think they only sell Instant.

  8. 8
    Darlene says:

    Have you posted about how to can with those Weck type jars? They are so cool looking, but I have no idea how to use them.

  9. 9
    Carolyn says:

    Hi Marisa,

    I’m really enjoying this site and your book – thanks so much! I noticed a bit of errata in the book that I didn’t see listed on the errata page and wasn’t sure how to let you know other than through comments here. On page 36, the small batch stone fruit jam, you call for the zest and juice of a lemon but I don’t see where it should be added.

    Thanks again for the site and the book – all the best to you,

  10. 10

    […] Cherry Pie filling recipes from Simple Bites, the National Center for Home Food Preservation and Food in Jars. Blue Ribbon Country Canning also has some great Cherry […]

  11. 11
    Christine Phillip says:

    Looking for pie filling recipes to add into the repertoire for next year. Years ago, we found a commercial canned product that was wonderful- Cherry Cranberry. It was only produced that one year and we’ve craved it since.

    Do you have a recommendation for how we can adjust this Cherry pie filling recipe for adding cranberries?

  12. 12


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