Tag Archives | Pie Filling

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?

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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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