It’s finally day five of Peach Week 2018 (oops! I’m a week late with this post)! On the first day, I shared a tiny batch of Peach Cardamom Jam. Tuesday was all about the Peach Walnut Conserve! On Wednesday, we moved on to Peach Chutney with Toasted Whole Spices. Next came Peach Mustard. And finally, here’s the promised Peach Pie Filling!
Pie filling. If you’ve never made it, the first time through can be sort of weird (thanks to the Clear Jel, takes on a consistency unlike any other preserve). But if you’re into making things that fall into the category of pantry filling, convenience foods, pie filling should definitely be on your list.
Sure, you can make pie from it (just add a crust), but it’s also a great addition to baked oatmeal, cobbler bars, and it makes the really great hand pies.
Pie fillings require a specialized ingredient called Clear Jel. It’s a modified cornstarch that’s been designed to hold up to the heat of the canning process. It produces a thick, stable gel that holds its consistency for the duration of the product’s shelf life. If you live in a city, you might have to order Clear Jel, but if you live in a more rural, canning friendly area, you should be able to get it at your local farm store (I can’t find it in Philadelphia, so I make sure to stock up whenever I’m in Lancaster County).
Also, know that you don’t want Instant Clear Jel (that one is for thickening pie fillings that you aren’t going to can), you want the conventional, heat activated version.
Once you have the Clear Jel in hand, the process of making pie filling is straightforward. You gather up your peaches and peel them (for a batch sized like this one, I use the peeling technique described in this post), and then cut each peach into eight segments.
Once your peaches are ready, you combine some water and lemon juice and bring it to a boil (make sure to use a pot that’s large enough to hold all the peaches). While the liquid heats, you whisk the sugar and Clear Jel together. When the liquid is bubbling away, you add the sugar/Clear Jel in a slow and steady manner, whisking constantly as you stream it in. As soon as the Clear Jel hits the hot liquid, it activates and begins to thicken.
Then, you tip the peaches and any juice that’s collected in the bowl into the pot and gently fold them into the goo. This is also when I add the freshly grated ginger. Pie fillings can also be flavored with dried spices or extracts. Add the dry spices with the sugar and Clear Jel, and the extracts to the liquid just before adding the dry ingredients.
Once you have your peaches in the goo, it’s just a matter of filling the jars. Make sure to bubble the jars well (pie filling is dense!) and 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, though it may happen even if you left a generous amount of headspace. As long as the jars seal, a little leakage is okay. Just make sure to clean the jars well after they’ve cooled.
Other things to remember. Tighten the rings just a little bit more firmly than you do for most other preserves 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 product loss.
This blog post was written in partnership with the good people at the Washington State Stone Fruit Growers as part of my role as official Canbassador. They sent me 18 pounds of peaches and asked me to preserve them. I’ll be posting peach recipes all week long, so check back tomorrow for the next installment. For more about Washington State Fruit, follow them on social media!