Imagine a cold winter day. You have a warm crackling fire in the fireplace as you gaze out the window at your forlorn apple trees standing tall in the blustery weather. You think about how only a few short months ago, those trees produced the most delicious apples. Boy, wouldn’t it be great to have a warm apple pie made with those same apples right about now?
Well, guess what? You can have that locally-grown apple pie in winter!
All you need to do is “put up” some apple pie filling in a jar right now during apple season and then later in the middle of winter, you can pop that filling into a pie crust and enjoy fresh, local apples while snow is falling outside. Oh baby! And if you don’t grow your own apples, now is the time to hit your local farmer’s markets for the best apples of the year. By canning pie filling, you are capturing that flavor in a jar!
Better yet, impress your friends by giving them a jar of pie filling for the holidays. They won’t stop talking about if for weeks. Trust me!
For pie filling, you can use any baking apple you wish. Just make sure they are firm and crisp. I like to use Golden Delicious, Granny Smith or Jonathan. Based on the apples you choose, you can adjust the sugar and spices to your personal preferences. That’s right! You can adjust the sugar and spices in this recipe! That is because in this recipe, they are only there for flavor.
However, do NOT adjust or omit the bottled lemon juice. It is there for color preservation and acidity safety. Bottled lemon juice is called out because it has a consistent acidity level. If the acidity level is not right, the bad bacteria can grow. So, be safe. Don’t leave out the bottled lemon juice!
Special Ingredients are optional:
The recipe below calls for a special ingredient called Clear Jel, that can really take this pie filling to the next level. Clear Jel (not to be confused with Sure Gel) is a powdered modified food starch that is used in canning as a thickener. It can be difficult to find sometimes, but well worth the effort of tracking it down. (I order mine from KitchenKrafts). Canners use Clear Jel instead of traditional thickeners like cornstarch, tapioca or arrowroot because during the canning process, those traditional thickeners either gum up or break down. Using traditional thickeners before proccessing, will result in a runny pie at baking time. So Clear Jel is used instead.
However, if you can’t find Clear Jel, you can still make this recipe. Just don’t use any thickener at all. Then, when you actually made the pie from the jar, add your traditional thickener at that time. You may get some lumps, but it is better than a runny pie.
Another special ingredient I use is something called ascorbic acid. It is actually powdered vitamin C and is used to prevent browning or discoloration of the apples. Yes you can just use lemon juice, but it has been proven that ascorbic acid works much better. It is a very common ingredient in canning and should be easy to find at the supermarket in the canning section or wherever canning supplies are sold. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, which usually call for dissolving about 1 teaspoon of powder per gallon of water and soaking the fruit for a few minutes before processing.
I highly recommend that you make one sample jar of pie filling first to verify your spices and sugar before making a huge batch. Each apple variety has a different sweetness level. You don’t want to go to all the trouble of canning only to discover that the finished batch has too much or too little sugar. The sugar called out in this recipe is what I use for sweet apples. If you are using very tart apples you may need more sugar. But keep in mind that you can always add more sugar and spices just before baking, but you can’t take out. So, adjust carefully.
Use quart size jars for this recipe. Each quart will make one 8-9 inch pie. The ingredients below are for a 1 quart sample jar or a full batch of 7 quarts
Ingredients for 1 Sample Quart:
3 ½ cups sliced fresh apples
Ascorbic acid (as needed)
½ cup sugar
¼ cup Clear Jel
¾ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. allspice
½ cup cold water
¾ cup unsweetened apple juice
2 Tbsp. bottled lemon juice
Ingredients for 7 Quarts:
6 quarts sliced fresh apples
Ascorbic acid (as needed)
3 cups sugar
1 ½ cups Clear Jel
4 ½ tsp. cinnamon
1 ½ tsp. allspice
2 ½ cups water
5 cups unsweetened apple juice
¾ cup bottled lemon juice
Wash, peel and core the apples. Then slice them and measure for your recipe. Mix ascorbic acid with water according to manufacturer’s instructions and soak sliced apples while you bring a stockpot of water to a boil. Blanch the apple slices, in small batches, in the boil water for one minute. Drain and set aside. In a large stockpot, combine sugar, Clear Jel, spices, water and apple juice. Heat and stir until mixture begins to thicken and bubble. Continue to stir and add lemon juice. Boil 1 minute. Fold in drained apple slices and stir to heat through.
Turn off heat, and immediately fill hot canning jars with mixture, leaving a 1-inch headspace. Run a plastic knife or rubber spatula around the inside edges of jar to remove any air bubbles. Add more if necessary to maintain the 1-inch headspace. Use a damp paper towel to wipe off rims of the jars. Add hot lids and rings and tighten to just finger tight. Process immediately in a water bath for 25 minutes if you are below 1000 ft altitude. Process 30 minutes for 1,001-3,000 ft. Process 35 minutes for 3,001-6,000 ft. (For more information on water bath canning see Water Bath Basics 101)
Each quart jar will make one 8-9 inch pie. You can also use the pie filling as dessert topping or in pastries.