Spiced Apple Pie Filling

pie filling line up

For a time when I was young, we lived in a house with a cluster of antique apple trees at the very back of our property. Thanks to this easy abundance, apples were one of the very first things I learned to preserve. In those days, my job was to help gather the windfall apples that seemed mostly whole until they filled a paper grocery bag. My mom did the rest, but I always stood by and watched.

apples for pie filling

Later on, I’d help peel and core the apples (I absorbed a lot while watching). Both my sister and I would offer opinions about how much spice to add to the pot on the stove and when the sauce was all done, we’d sit down with cereal bowls full of warm, spicy applesauce. When the rest of the batch was entirely cool, I’d hold open plastic zip top bags while my mom spooned in the sauce for the freezer.

sliced apples for pie filling

Later on, we added apple butter to our fall repertory, but never felt the need to venture beyond those two basics with our apples. Pie filling was most decidedly not on the agenda, mostly because pies happened just twice a year (Thanksgiving and Christmas) and so there was no need to be prepared for a spontaneous pie.

blanching apples

It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve added pie filling to my personal canning routine and I’ve found it’s a nice preserve to have on the shelf. This time of year, a batch of apple pie filling is an easy way to put up several pounds of apples and it has a surprising number of uses beyond a basic pie.

sugar, spices, and clear jel

It tastes good stirred into oatmeal. If you have one of these old stovetop pie makers, you can make yourself a toasted hand pie with two slices of bread and a little smear of butter (it’s an especially fun project with kids). And, if you live in a household with an avowed fruit pie hater, you can make yourself a teeny tiny free form crostata with leftover quiche crust and a pint of filling. Not that I’d know anything about that.

apples becoming pie filling

When making pie filling, there are just a few things to remember. The first is that you need to use Clear Jel, not cornstarch (and if you can’t find Clear Jel, it’s best to can your filling without thickener and add a little cornstarch slurry just before using it). The second is that no matter the size of jar you use, you need to leave a generous inch of headspace. Pie filling expands during processing and really loves to ooze out of the jars when they’re cooling. Proper headspace can help prevent that.

pie filling close up

Third thing is that when you put the rings on your jars of pie filling, you tighten them just a little bit more firmly than you do for most other preserves. Often, you’ll hear me raving about how you don’t want to overtighten those rings but in this case, a little extra twist helps keep your product in the jars.

Finally, make sure to follow the instructions in the recipe and leave the jars in the canner for a full ten minutes after the processing time is up. Turn the heat off, slide the pot to a cooler burner, remove the lid and let the jars sit. This slower cooling processing will help prevent that dreaded loss of product. Really, the hardest part about making pie filling is keeping it in the jars once they’ve been processed.

pie filling air bubbles

Oh, and one more thing. Notice those air bubbles in the jars? Pie filling is thick and really likes to trap air pockets. Bubble your jars as well as you can, but don’t kill yourself over it.

For those of you who make pie filling, do you have any unconventional uses?

Spiced Apple Pie Filling


  • 10 cups peeled and sliced apples
  • 2 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 2 cups water
  • 6 tablespoons bottled lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup Clear Jel
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves


  1. Prepare a boiling water bath canner and six pint jars. Put new lids in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch the apple slices for 1 minute. Remove them from the pot and place them in a bowl of cold water with a splash of lemon juice in it.
  3. In another pot, combine the apple cider, water, and lemon juice. Set over high heat. While it heats, whisk together the sugar, Clear Jel, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.
  4. Stream the sugar mixture into the water and juice, whisking well to incorporate without lumps. Bring a boil and cook, stirring constantly until it begins to thicken.
  5. Once the canning medium has thickened, fold in the apples and remove it from the heat. Fill the jars, leaving a generous inch of headspace. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 25 minutes.
  6. When time is up, turn the heat off, remove the lid, and slide the pot to a cooler burner. Let the jars sit in the water for an additional ten minutes. This will help minimize the pie filling from siphoning out of the jars.
  7. Once that time is up, remove the jars from the canner and set them on a folded kitchen towel to cool.


Makes 6 pints or 3 quarts. Processing time is the same for both sizes of jars. Adjust processing time is for sea level. If you live at a higher elevation, please adjust accordingly.


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150 Responses to Spiced Apple Pie Filling

  1. 51
    Geoffrey says:

    Can you use fresh squeezed lemon juice?

  2. 52

    Just received two large boxes of apples, going to make this recipe today!!! looks and sounds delicious. It will be great to have on the shelf for when I get the urge for some apple turnovers-either use puff pastry or pie dough grab a jar of apple pie filling-and you have almost instant turnovers or hand pies!! Thanks for a great recipe!

  3. 53
    Michelle says:

    is the clear gel pectin? In Ca we don’t have many places for canning supplies so, I guess I need to know what it is and if I can substitute something else for it? Thank you

    • 53.1
      Marisa says:

      Clear Jel and pectin are not the same things. There’s nothing else that substitutes safely for Clear Jel. It’s designed specifically to be heat stable.

  4. 54

    Oh my geeze Marisa, I just cracked open a jar of these I made a month or so ago. So good right out of the jar! I Can’t wait to get these into apple tarts for T-day this week. Thanks again for the recipe! 🙂

  5. 55
    Christina & Nick Mclamb says:

    Can you use regular apple juice? And do you have an idea about how much slurry to add after canning? I want to give them as Christmas gifts this year. Thank you.

  6. 56

    […] apple-butter, apple crisp, etc., I consulted the canning blogosphere.  Food in Jar’s Spiced Apple Pie Filling fit my unmotivated apple void perfectly: a great way to preserve apples for the upcoming pie […]

  7. 57
    Leanne says:

    We don’t have clear jel in Australia. Thanks for the tip about not thickening it before it goes in the jar, I had not seen that tip yet. I’m new to this craft and have bought you book, you have a great blog. Thanks

  8. 58

    […] apple & pecan tart, using a little extra pie filling and some cheddar dough scraps from the […]

  9. 59
    Nicola says:

    Yummy looking recipe. Can this be made with Splenda instead of sugar? I’m diabetic.

  10. 60
    Stephanie says:

    My sister & I substituted the apples for peaches and oh boy! were we satisfied! We licked every spoon clean… And made sure to scrape out what was left in our dutch oven. Instead of apple cider, we used the peach infused water from boiling after blanching our peeled and chopped peaches. It is heaven!! Our’s did not, however, expand. After processing and removing, our filling levels remained the same. I almost wished we would have added an extra half inch. Adding a vanilla bean would be really good as well. Thank you for such great inspiration! I’m a huge new fan of yours & will be doing a batch of your pickled cherries tomorrow! Thank you, thank you!

  11. 61
    Jes says:

    I know this is an older post but I just went apple picking and have a ton of apples to can! But my question is how do you keep them from turning brown between peeling, slicing and cooking? Mine see to turn so fast it seems inevitable. I’ve tried a little lemon niice and water, but yours look absolutely perfect!

  12. 62
    Brighid says:

    Can I double the recipe to make 6 quarts and still can safely? I’ve seen some recipes that say don’t go beyond doubling or tripling.

    Thank you! Apple picking is on the list for this weekend.

    • 62.1
      Marisa says:

      Yes. You can double this preserve because it doesn’t need to reduce in the same way that jam does. Just make sure you’re using a big pan to accommodate the volume of filling!

      • Brighid says:

        Thanks for the reminder on the size! I think I’ll start with 10 cups of apples and see how that goes into my pan. Or how tired I am of peeling and slicing apples. 🙂

  13. 63
    Emily says:

    I made these today without the Clear Jel. I let the liquid-spice-sugar mixture reduce some, but it definitely wasn’t syrupy. I still left the generous inch of headspace. Now looking at my jars, I see some apple slices not covered by liquid. Will this compromise their safety and/or deliciousness down the road? Should I redo them with a more reduced liquid?

  14. 64
    Molly says:

    Have you ever used maple syrup to sweeten this apple pie filling instead of sugar? I would prefer to use maple syrup, but am not sure if it makes a difference when canning.

    • 64.1
      Marisa says:

      Unfortunately, maple syrup can alter the acidity of the finished product and render it unsafe. You could use maple sugar, which doesn’t impact the finished acidity in the same way.

      • Molly says:

        Thank you for responding to my maple syrup recipe! I have one more question, could I leave out the clear jel and thicken the apples as needed once I open the jar?

  15. 65
    Beth says:

    I tried this the first time without thickener, but the apples seemed to lose all structural integrity. I was using fresh, crisp apples, so the result was a little mystifying. The second batch with the same apples a few days later had thickener (was waiting on Amazon for it…) and I skipped the blanching step. These definitely retained their apple shape in comparison.

    Out of curiosity — why include the step where you blanch them?

    • 65.1
      Marisa says:

      Because according to the National Center for Home Preservation, that’s how you’re supposed to do it. And because it worked, I didn’t question the necessity of that step.

      • Beth says:

        Ah, thanks! I’m relatively new to canning, so wanted to make sure I wasn’t skipping steps that I shouldn’t be skipping.

        Maybe getting them into colder water more quickly or blanching smaller batches at a time will help the apples hold their shape. Do you immediately drain off the cold water or do the apples sit in the cold water until you’re ready to fold them in to the sauce?

        • Beth says:

          PS: Thanks for the recipe — and others on the site. All of these delicious jams and pie fillings are making learning a real hardship… 😀

          • Bianca says:

            Hi Beth,

            It can depend on the type of apple your using, some are softer/mushy when cooked whilst others retain a little texture.

  16. 66
    Ellen says:

    Just made this with apples from a local orchard- delicious!!!! Thanks so much for the recipe..

  17. 67
    jessica says:

    Hi, I am going to leave out the clear jell. Will the. Canning medium still thicken in step #4?

  18. 68
    Sheila says:

    Hi there! I just ordered my clear jel and I’m planning on making this next week. What are the best varieties of apple to use in filling? I’m guessing granny smith, just like a regular pie? Or a variety?

  19. 69
    Jenny says:

    I knew you’d have a recipe with less sugar than the one I’ve used in the past. Thank you! I have a ton of apples and was wondering if you think the apple peeler/corer/slicer would make the apple slices too thin. I think in the past I’ve cut them by hand so they have a thicker slice but it would be so nice to be able to get through them faster. What do you think?

  20. 70
    alta says:

    Can I use tapioca as a thinks thickener? I use it when using fresh apples

  21. 71
    Jennifer says:

    Do you think cranberries could be safely canned with the apple pie filling? If not, I’ll just add them when I open the jars 🙂 Thanks!!

  22. 72
    Spatsy says:

    I missed this one last year – and am so glad I found it this year. I have found a source for clear gel in Canada!! I used honey crisp apples and they have held up nicely from start to finish.

    We have it on our oatmeal, we eat it straight from the jar and this week we have been looking at Apple Pull Apart bread or apple fritter bread and thinking…

    We also eat this with cottage cheese.

  23. 73

    […] of local apples when they were in season during October.  I found the recipe I wanted to try at Food in Jars.  I bought my Clear Gel from Amazon after I quickly realized I could not find it in the stores. […]

  24. 74
    Hilary says:

    Hi there! So I have kind of a general question about canning apples. Do I really have to peel the skins off of the apples before canning them? I really like the peels and am trying to save myself some work! 🙂 ) thank you so much for such an informative website!!

    • 74.1
      Marisa says:

      The peels are going to give you a really unpleasant texture in the finished product if you leave them one the fruit.

  25. 75
    benbasone says:

    My wife has been making pie in a jar for some time now. Sometimes she makes the pies, freezes them, and them bakes them when needed. Sometimes the filling does not set and is really runny. Do you have any idea why this happens. Any help would be greatly appreciated. By the way, she has no idea I’m sending you this email.Thanks Ben

    • 75.1
      Marisa says:

      Ben, there’s so much variation in the water content of fruit that it’s hard to nail the right thickness every time. I’d suggest increasing the amount of flour or cornstarch she’s using to improve the set.

  26. 76
    Tameka says:

    I have an electric pressure cooker that is also a canner and was wondering how to can the pie filling in it?

  27. 77
    Kitty Forseth says:

    I just bought several 6 cup canning jars from a thrift shop, I am going to fill all of them with your apple pie filling and sell them at a flea market in October. I’ll paint the lids with chalkboard paint and label them with chalk. How fun! Thanks for the amazing idea!


    • 77.1
      Marisa says:

      Kitty, as far as I know, there’s no such thing as a 6 cup canning jar. It’s not recommended that you can this pie filling in anything larger than a 4 cup, quart jar.

  28. 78
    Bethanne says:

    Is using sure gel the same as clear gel

  29. 79
    Renee says:

    I am not sure what is meant by, “This will help minimize the pie filling from siphoning out of the jars.” How would that happen when the the lids and seals are on the jars? Sorry for being a dunce here, but I can’t figure this out.

    • 79.1
      Marisa says:

      When you take jars out of the canning pot, the seal hasn’t actually been formed yet. And so, there is still space for liquid to seep out of the jars, even with the lids and rings in place.

  30. 80
    Delta Breeze says:

    Can you please tell me the shelf life of this? I’d like to give as a gift.

  31. 81
    Donna Hepper McGee says:

    When you leave the jars in the hot water aftter the time is up,,,to keep it from siphoning out ….what exactly does that mean? I’ve never heard of that….

  32. 82
    Pam F says:

    So…baking instructions for pie? Like normal? 400 for 10 mins then 350 for 30?

  33. 83
    Jan says:

    Can’t find Clear Jel around here. Can I use cornstarch instead?

  34. 84
    Lori says:

    I would like to know what type of apples work best for this recipe. I know that a macintosh wouldn’t be the best. What have you used and it worked well? Thank you!

  35. 85
    Rachel says:

    Can I substitute 100% apple juice for the cider?


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    […] apple-butter, apple crisp, etc., I consulted the canning blogosphere.  Food in Jar’s Spiced Apple Pie Filling fit my unmotivated apple void perfectly: a great way to preserve apples for the upcoming pie […]

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