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!
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Peach Pie Filling with Ginger
- 4 pounds peaches peeled and sliced
- 2 1/4 cups water
- 3/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup Clear Jel
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger optional
- Prepare a boiling water bath canner and six pint jars. Put new lids in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
- In another pot, combine the water and lemon juice. Set over high heat. While it heats, whisk together the sugar and Clear Jel,
- 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.
- Once the canning medium has thickened, fold in the peaches and ginger, if using, and remove the pot 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 30 minutes.
- 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.
- Once that time is up, remove the jars from the canner and set them on a folded kitchen towel to cool.
Can I substitute nectarines in this recipe? Peaches are still available, but we just picked about 20 pounds of nectarines off of our tree. I have no clue what to do with all of this fruit !
Marisa, you are knocking it out of the park with these peach recipes. I can’t wait to try them all – after I resolve to peel a peach again 🙂
Can this recipe be made without the “clear gel” and thickened upon use (cornstarch)? Thanks.
Yes. However, your yield will be lessened, because you’ll be able to fit more peach slices into each jar without the Clear Jel.
One thing I have that intensifies the flavor when I make pie filling is to use either a fruit juice that complements the pie filling (e.g. tart cherry or pomegranate juice for cherry, apple cider for apple or peach nectar in this case) or the water in which the fruit was blanched for the part of the liquid instead of plain water.
Nectarines are kinda iffy, something came out about 2 summers ago that they were not acidic enough for canning but I can’t find the article. I’ve searched the National Center for Home Canning and there were a few nectarine recipes, but I believe those are old recommendations. Personally, I’d slice and freeze in individual pieces, then you can pull out quantities needed for whatever recipe you want to use them in. Smoothies, cobblers, pies, BBQ sauce, etc. (Certified Slow Food LA Food Preservation Advisor)
Yellow nectarines are perfectly safe for canning. It’s white peaches and nectarines that can raise issues.
Thanks for sharing. Although I am a Californian, I have a similar recipe from Oregon State Extension. I always can in quarts for pie filling so I do a larger batch so that I fill my water bath canner. I don’t want to heat up the kitchen for just 6 pints of pie filling when I can burn as much fuel doing up 7 quarts.
As for the Clear Jel, it can be ordered on Amazon easily enough. It really is great for canning pie filling. Although my grandmother taught me to use corn starch, I would not go back to using it after using Clear Jel. Much easier to use and the end product is much better.
Also, thanks for sharing your method for slipping the skin off the peaches. My grandmother taught me that about 50 years ago and it works great for peaches, nectarines and tomatoes. Since we usually do the larger batches, we always use the blanching method you mentioned.
Thanks again for sharing.
I can’t wait to try this recipe. It sounds so easy ànd delicious. Thank you for sharing.
Not sure why this recipe calls for such a large quantity of water. The basic recipe from So Easy To Preserve and Linda Ziedrich’s suggestion for pie filling both call for much less liquid per quart, the former for 3/4 cup per quart of fruit, the latter for only about 3 tablespoons. This recipe calls for over 1 1/2 cups per quart. Seems like you would get more goo than fruit. Definitely trying this method of blanching peaches though.
I don’t know why I used so much water. It’s been two years since I made this recipe, so I can’t speak to what I was doing then. But you’re right, it’s more water than the National Center for Home Food Preservation calls for, and I use their ratios. So it could be a typo.
What would need to change if I wanted to do these in quart jars?
Add five minutes to the processing time.
Good morning! In an Aug 1, 2020 comment the amount of water used is questions. Have you editted the recipe to reflect the ratios you mentioned in the post?
My apologies that I didn’t fix that originally (my twins were still tiny, so that’s probably why). I have corrected the recipe so the volume is now the proper one.
I have lots of frozen whole peaches and wanting to can them. I’m not wanting any jams/jellies. I made a cobbler yesterday from them and the only difference was the need to cook it longer since more moisture. So am thinking pie filling could be the thing to do. What do you think? I just bought Clear Gel and it’s coming soon (can’t find it in my local stores).
I have lots of frozen whole peaches and wanting to can them. I’m not wanting any jams/jellies. I made a cobbler yesterday from them and the only difference was the need to cook it longer since more moisture. So am thinking pie filling could be the thing to do. What do you think? I just bought Clear Gel and it’s coming soon (can’t find it in my local stores). From my reading, the frozen will produce more liquid so what they produce could end up being the liquid in the recipe.
You could certainly try it with the frozen peaches. I’ve not done it myself, so I can’t anticipate how it will turn out.
Can you leave the skins on? Is it just preference or is there an issue with acidity for canning?
The skins will slide off during the canning process and leave you with a product that includes a bunch of texturally weird skins hanging out in the jar.
Is liquid “sure gel” from Certo an equivalent product? I just harvested over 100 Nectarines from our tree in ID and I’m really hoping to use this recipe! HELP ME!
No, pectin is not the same as clear jel. If you can’t find clear jel, I recommend you skip the thickener entirely and thicken the pie filling with cornstarch just before using.