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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148 Responses to Spiced Apple Pie Filling

  1. 1
    Christine Phillips says:

    Thx for the timely post. Im headed to Eastern WA and plan to hit an apple festival. Ive already put up plenty of applesauce and have been looking for pie filling recipes.

    I have Ball liquid pectin. ..is that the same as Clear Gel?

    • 1.1
      Marisa says:

      It is not the same. Clear Jel is a modified corn starch that comes in powdered form. It is most definitely not the same as liquid pectin and the two are not interchangeable.

  2. 2
    Cheryl says:

    Figures, I find the apple pie filling canning recipe I was looking for on the very same night the government is opened back up. Now I have to go back to work and I have apples overflowing my kitchen.

    Do you have a canning recipe for peach pie filling as well?

  3. 3
    Cheryl says:

    Oh the other thing I forgot to ask, does the 25 minute processing time take into account high altitude? I live more than a mile above sea level and usually have to cook in the water bath a good 15 to 20 minutes longer than a recipe calls for.

    • 3.1
      Marisa says:

      Cheryl, I live at sea level so all my recipes are written for that elevation. You should always increase your processing time for your elevation.

    • 3.2
      Judy says:

      Can I use a pressure cooker/canner? If so, how long should it process?

      • Marisa says:

        I wouldn’t recommend processing this pie filling in a pressure canner. It has more than enough acid to be safe for the boiling water bath canner. What’s more, the heat and intensity of a pressure canner would make this product siphon even more than it already has a tendency to do.

  4. 4
    Judy says:

    Oooooh! Looks wonderful! Am heading out to Linvilla Orchards tomorrow. Any suggestions as to which apple varieties will hold up in wedges and not turn to sauce in the jars?

  5. 5
    Pat says:

    Can I replace the sugar with Splenda or other sugar substitute ?

  6. 6
    Aleesha says:

    I’m SO excited to try this! I have been hoping for a good pie filling recipe, but was afraid they would all have buckets of sugar. All the ones in the store are full of nastiness and my farmers market is FULL of apples. Thank you so much for posting this recipe 🙂

  7. 7
    Samantha Read says:

    Thanks for this “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”.

    I’ve been frantically reading all the apple pie filling recipes I can find. Some say you must use ClearJel, others say that Cornstarch is alright.

    It just seems strange to me that if it’s so required for making pie filling, that it’s not available in stores. By avoiding the ingredient altogether and adding thickener when I make the pie/whatever itself, this is great.

    PS – I’ve been waiting for a pie filling recipe on your site! Thanks so much!

    • 7.1
      Another Marisa says:

      It’s not required for making pie filling if you’re not canning it – apparently the processing doesn’t work well if you use regular corn starch (additionally, it’s not an “approved” canning addition, so there may be safety concerns as well).

      • Emily says:

        I think it gets too thick, thus potentially hampering the heat penetration of the product. Not hot enough in the middle -> not safe.

        I have canned apple pie filling with cornstarch instead, but I won’t do it again. It REALLY jelled up in the jar after processing, sort of turning it into one big blob standing away from the sides. We still have a few jars from last year because nobody really wants to eat it. It tastes ok, if bland (probably not related to the thickener), and no one has died of eating what we have used, though.

        I have also read that cornstarch may only have enough “oomph” to thicken once, in this case after processing, so it wouldn’t really work properly in the pie afterwards.

    • 7.2
      tanya says:

      I used cornstarch when I canned pie filling last year, as I was a rookie and followed an old recipe. It was fine. No one got sick out of the 11 jars used, but it didnt look very pretty when it was dumped into the pie crust, and it did not re-heat very well. Some parts were very watery, while other parts were thick. I learned my lesson and get clear-jel. You can get it on amazon, from some Amish stores (if you live near any), or from SBCanning’s fb page.

    • 7.3
      Sue says:

      I turned my neighbor on to clear jel finally this year, she had done pie filling for 40 years with corn starch and seemed reluctant to change. I had it shipped in to her and she did 100 qts this fall! She now raves about clear jel and how wonderful it is. She even did 24 qts. for me…she’d gotten a new peeler and between it and the clear jel she was having a blast.

      • Pam R says:

        I got my Clearjel at King Arthur Flour. I would not use as much next time though. My mixture was a huge glob so I used more apple cider and a little more lemon juice. I ended up with 4 quart jars.

    • 7.4
      Missy says:

      I found it at a bakery supply store. Also saw this at amazon.com. . Can’t wait to try this out.

  8. 8
    Cheryl says:

    I find that a terrific substitute for the Clear Jel is the King Aurthor Flour pie filling enhancement. It’s great in most pies and one bag will work for this 8-jar recipe, and you might have some left over. I can’t wait to find out!

  9. 9
    Jennifer says:

    Can you confirm if pasteurized cider is ok or this recipe. Thanks so much!!

  10. 10
    Alica says:

    It’s a dreary day here today, so this just might be my project! Thanks for the tips about how the pie filling expands…good to know!

  11. 11

    Brilliant suggestion to just leave out the Clearjel! I’ve been avoiding canning apple pie filling because of it, and this completely solves the issue. Looking forward to trying it out!

  12. 12
    Devon says:

    Oh how I needed this a couple of weeks ago! I recently had my first try at apple pie filling and ClearJel, needless to say the recipe was not as good as yours and it was nearly disasterous. Thank goodness for the canning helpline!

  13. 13
    Lindy says:

    I too have had trouble with locating Clearjel! Question though~ If the Clearjel is left out, should the amount of water be adjusted? Adjusting my plan to include apple picking today! Thanks for your website, without you I wouldn’t be a canner!

  14. 14
    Marina says:

    Getting 80 lbs of apples tomorrow and I was planning on canning some apple pie filling.
    Thanks for sharing your apple pie filling recipe! I need search no more, for I know this one is the best!
    Will it be okay to double the recipe or should I make one batch at a time?

  15. 15
    Katrina says:

    I have made apple filling for several years and am always looking for different ways to use it. Some of my favorites are to make a layered baked apple french toast in the oven and a fruit pizza with an oatmeal crumb topping. My new experiment this year was to fill a batch of cinnamon rolls with it and top with cream cheese frosting- I will be making those again soon!!

  16. 16
    Debbie says:

    Yahoo! Doing this today and will be sharing the jars in Christmas gift baskets. Thanks so much!

  17. 17
    Ingrid says:

    I too am unable to find the clear jel in Canada and US will not ship it here. I will try without, but sure would like a source for it here. I really enjoy your blog and have tried many if your recipes. I hope to receive your book for Christmas.

  18. 18
    Patricia says:

    Does one pint jar = one pie? Thanks.

    • 18.1
      Marisa says:

      Typically, two pints equals one pie. You could can it in quarts for an easier conversion. I do mine in quarts for added flexibility. I can make smaller pies or eat the filling in oatmeal without a giant quart jar taking up room in my fridge.

      • Michelle finn says:

        Marisa, what about using half gallon jars? How long would the water bath need to be? I made quart jars last weekend and got rave reviews, but one quart isn’t enough for a large deep dish pie.

  19. 19
    Another Marisa says:

    I made my first batch of filling using ClearJel a few weeks ago – it was stunning how quickly it thickened, and how thick it was afterward. I’ve never used anything like it. Wild.

  20. 20
    Judy Pedigo says:

    Such a timely post! I was just situating my brain around putting some pies in the freezer, but I’m never truly happy with this. They take up so much room, are so time-consuming when I don’t really have a lot of spare time, I’m never really happy with the results, and they are so easy to pop in the oven that my husband is always filching them to feed his sugar addiction–which creates major unpleasantness in this particular husband. Ahh! My aunt always talks about canning peach pie and apple pie fillings, but I’ve never really latched on to the idea. I know not why. But, now, I’m thinking I’m going to try out your method as soon as I get these greenhouses laid by. Maybe, Sunday. I’ve been using several of your recipes and am pleasingly impressed. You’re doing a fine job. Thank you. By the way, what would you think of using all cider instead of cider and water? I could probably cut the sugar a little more that way, huh? Would the liquid get too glucky without the water?

  21. 21
    Hollis says:

    Happy to try this recipe this weekend. I personally never use thickener aside from a little flower when making apple pies and turns out fine. As long as one uses baking apples and not eating apples!

  22. 22
    Anita says:

    Don’t know if this is a stupid question – would it be okay to leave the peels on? I like apple peels and I also REALLY hate peeling apples cause I’m not good at it. 🙂 I’m also curious about using all cider – that sounds yummy!

  23. 23
    Sue says:

    We do qts. and find if you make big or deep pies, 3 qts. work well for two pies. If making only one big pie may use one qt. and add some blueberries or something to fill it up more.

    • 23.1
      mb says:

      I needed a little extra fruit after using one quart of filling and added some chopped rhubarb that was in the feeezer. I did cook it a bit before, aince it
      was frozen …..with a bit of sugar. The pie was wonderful

  24. 24
    Jane says:

    So just for clarification, if you don’t have Clear jell, you follow the direction exactly as written and add corn starch later when you make your pies? So you don’t add liquid or powder pectin to it when you prepare it for canning. Thanks. I have your canning books and I love it. I have tried several recipe and they tuned out go.

  25. 25
    Martha says:

    I just made apple pie filling using a recipe very similar to this. It is great. I immediately made a pie for my sister. I can mine in both quarts and pints. I use the pints for the 2 of us and the quarts when we have guests. It is nice to have something so good and quick when I need a dessert. I am fortunate that I can buy the Clear-Jel at a local Amish store. Does anyone know how long the Clear-Jel powder can be stored? I have a good bit left and need to mark it’s use by date.

    • 25.1
      Judy Pedigo says:

      Funny. I just did a trial run on the recipe (pretty close, anyway) and found that I’m going to need to make quarts and pints inasmuch that it takes about 1 1/2 quarts to make a good sized pie in my preferred pie pan. I’ve been told by our extension agent that Clear-Jel has a very long shelf life–several years if kept clean and dry.

  26. 26
    Carol says:

    Amazon has Clear Jel and Instant Clear Jel. Which one should I buy?

  27. 27
    sabrina says:

    Yay! Thank you for recipe! I’m going to scrump some apples this weekend.

  28. 28
    Andrea says:

    Thanks for this post! It is very timely as I am hosting a girls night tonight with the intent of canning apple pie filling. I love your extra tips!

  29. 29
    megan w says:

    Stupid question. How do you then use the filling to make a pie? I saw in an earlier comment that it takes 2 pints for 1 pie, but how long would you recommend baking it for and at what temp? I want to make some and give it away as gifts and would like to have instructions to go with it. Thanks!!

    • 29.1
      Marisa says:

      I’d bake a pie made with pie filling at 425 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes. Really, you’re just cooking long enough to fully brown the crust.

  30. 30
    Martha says:

    Thanks, Judy, for the information on storing Clear-Jel. All my pie pans are my preferred ones! The deep dish does take 1 & 1/2 quarts, a regular one takes a quart. I have a deep dish personal pie pan that takes a pint. It’s the one I use for hubby and me only. Even though it’s a”personal” pie pan there is enough for 2 generous servings.

  31. 31

    I REALLY want to toss aside my weekend to-do list and make a batch of these, Marisa. Great tutorial.

  32. 32
    auntie beak says:

    just a reminder to all you home jelly and jam makers… save your apple peels and cores! these are full of natural pectin, and can be used to thicken jams and jellies. you can even make your own pectin from them. see this tutorial: http://foodpreservation.about.com/od/Preserves/r/Homemade-Apple-Pectin.htm.

  33. 33
    mb says:

    I needed a little extra fruit after using one quart of filling and added some chopped rhubarb that was in the feeezer. I did cook it a bit before, aince it
    was frozen …..with a bit of sugar. The pie was wonderful

  34. 34
    Jennifer says:

    So looking forward to having this in my pantry! Quick question about the apple slices…your slices need look fairly thin, does it matter how they’re cut?? I tend to like chunks rather than slices…


  35. 35

    […] And low and behold, what little glorious tip came through my email this week, but a delightful tutorial on canning apple pie filling from my favorite canning girlie, Marissa McClellan and her blog Foods in Jars. This Clear Jel thing is still a mystery to me, but Marissa sure did clear up a few other canning questions and had some great advice on this project! So if you are feeling adventurous, try canning a little apple pie in a jar.  Then bring a jar over to me!  http://foodinjars.com/2013/10/spiced-apple-pie-filling/ […]

  36. 36
    Lucia Romero says:

    Can you use fresh lemon juice instead of the bottled? I do not want the preservatives from the juice in the apple pie filling..

  37. 37
    Mary Beth Lynn says:

    Clear Jel can be found in cake decorating shops. Here in Portland Or the Decorette shop carries it (for a lot less than Amazon). I wish I had known the tips of leavinv extra head room…..and leaving the jars in the water for 10 minutes…..in August when I did peach filling……what a mess that day was. Yesterday I did 12 quarta of apple filling and everything went sooooooo much better. Your blog is so appreciated and I have bought your book for myself, my friend and my daughter. We all love it! Thank you for sharing all you knowledge

  38. 38
    Susie says:

    I made some pie filling with a friend and they were overfilled. Some of the filling leaked out and the jars where quite sticky, but the seal held. Are they ok to save? Or do they need to be refrigerated?

    • 38.1
      Evlayn says:

      The seal is the thing, if it’s good, the jar is good. Be sure to carefully clean ALL the residue from the outside of the jar. Mold will form if you don’t, and that’s really icky to find later on.

  39. 39
    Lucia says:

    Thank You, for getting back to me with my other question. This is my first time canning and want to get it right. This is the most informative website I have found. I live in long island, NY and am confused about sea level? Where do I find out if I am above sea level and how would I adjust accordingly?

  40. 40
    Sarah says:

    Some of my filling leaked out after canning (the jars were too full). The lids are still sealed and tight. Are they still ok to use? Or should I try again?

  41. 41
    Buck Weber says:

    Last week we finished putting up over 30 quarts of applesauce, apple butter and apple pie filling. We give away much of it in holiday gift baskets, along with homemade bread with the applesauce as one of the ingredients and homemade dry soup mixes and various other goodies. The baskets are always a big hit with family and friends.

    This blog is a fantastic resource; count me as a new regular reader!

  42. 42
    Sophia says:

    I was thinking about canning applie pie, just last weekend, thank you for this récipe, I just have a question. Here in Guatemala, central america there is no Clear gel so I’m going to leave it out, but my question is when I’m making my pie, in what point do I add the cornstarch sluchie?

    • 42.1
      Marisa says:

      When your pie crust is ready, pour the pie filling into a bowl and whisk in a cornstarch slurry. If you want to ensure that it sets up, you could even drain off the juice from the fruit, pour it into a saucepan, add the slurry and heat until it thickens. Put the apples in the crust and pour the thickened liquid over them. Top and bake.

  43. 43
    Evlayn says:

    “no need to be prepared for a spontaneous pie” I’m horrified. There is ALWAYS a need for Spontaneous Pie.

  44. 44
    Jeanie says:

    Thanks so much for this! I made it without the Clear Jel and it was fantastic. I made my first pie tonight- yum! Instead of adding cornstarch I boiled the liquid down with a little butter until it was almost caramel like. I poured the carmelized liquid over the apples in the pie- so so so delicious! I will use this recipe again and again.

  45. 45
    Brenda says:

    I have made pie filling with a recipe very close to this for years and it is sooo great. Glad to see this on your site and thanks for the no clearjel tip but especially the head space tip! That took me a couple of years to figure out and what a mess! An inch head space is about perfect but it is different than most canning recipes.

    I found clear jel at my local kitchen supply store. The one where you can buy all the unusual kitchen implements, the gluten free flours, the bulk suppy beans. I think almost every decent sized town has one.

    The first time I did over thicken the liquid but it wasn’t a problem, it will thin a bit when it’s heated.

    If I am doing multiple pounds of apples I do them in batches so they are still hot when they hit the canner. If you are going to do more than your water bather will hold then do smaller batches so the hot pack is still hot when you put it in.

    One way that I use these is to take left over flour tortillas, make a “burrito” by folding the apple pie filling in them, place side by side in a pie plate, brush with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 350 until they are brown and bubbly on top. We always have left over tortillas and this makes a delightful way to use them up.

  46. 46

    […] Spiced Apple Pie Filling :: Food in Jars […]

  47. 47
    Ellen says:

    I made a double batch of this apple pie filling today. It looks and smells great, but the proof will be in the pie.

    I’m not able to compost the apple scraps, and the thought of just throwing the cores and peels away pained me. Instead, I put the cores and peels, along with two vanilla pods split down the middle, in a large pot. I covered it with water, brought it to a boil and then reduced the heat to a gentle simmer. I left it simmer, uncovered, while I made the pie filling. I cooled it, removed the peels, cores and vanilla pods, and filtered the liquid through a double layer of fine cheesecloth. I then returned it to the pot, added about the same volume of sugar as I had liquid, and simmered until it thickened. I cooled it and ladled into two bottles. It’s a very pretty, intensely apple syrup. Can’t wait to try it in oatmeal and over pumpkin pancakes. I think I’m going to make this syrup every time I make an apple pie. It’s a very satisfying way to feed my desire not to waste food, even scraps.

  48. 48

    […] people who don’t really eat a lot of desserts. .  but I went ahead and tried a few pints of apple pie filling – it certainly has the potential to make our holiday baking easier, doesn’t […]

  49. 49
    noreen says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I have a huge basket (greater than half-bushel) of apples in my kitchen just waiting to be canned as pie filling.

    One question – I made my first batch today and, when I took it out of the water bath, there was a good inch of liquid at the bottom of the quart jar and the apples were floating. (I’m not using Clear Jel, as I want these apples processed ASAP, and I don’t want to wait for Amazon to deliver.) Would it be better to try and pack more apples into the jars next time, or is there a minimum amount of canning liquid that is necessary for proper storage of the filling?

    Thanks again!

  50. 50
    karyn says:

    Thank you for the recipe I tried a small batch and it is yummy. I used Thick Gel made by a company called Cornaby’s. Clear Gel is made with GMO corn. The thick Gel is organic, gluten free, made for canning and freezing and is used exactly the same way.


  1. Thrifty Sister Newsletter Vol 6, Issue 12 – October 20, 2013 | Thrifty Sisters Living - October 20, 2013

    […] And low and behold, what little glorious tip came through my email this week, but a delightful tutorial on canning apple pie filling from my favorite canning girlie, Marissa McClellan and her blog Foods in Jars. This Clear Jel thing is still a mystery to me, but Marissa sure did clear up a few other canning questions and had some great advice on this project! So if you are feeling adventurous, try canning a little apple pie in a jar.  Then bring a jar over to me!  http://foodinjars.com/2013/10/spiced-apple-pie-filling/ […]

  2. Weekend links | Simple Bites - October 27, 2013

    […] Spiced Apple Pie Filling :: Food in Jars […]

  3. Monday Musings: 10.28.2013 Edition | Dark Side of the Fridge - October 28, 2013

    […] people who don’t really eat a lot of desserts. .  but I went ahead and tried a few pints of apple pie filling – it certainly has the potential to make our holiday baking easier, doesn’t […]

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