Have I ever told you how much I love fall time? I love fall. And about this time every year I start getting antsy for it. So it was a super great move for me to make this recipe because it was better than any candle, Scentsy bar, or scented oil I own. The smell of fresh cut apples simmering in cinnamon and nutmeg? Heaven. I just ignored the fact that it was 96° outside. You can make this recipe to can in jars (read our Introduction to Canning and Preserving by clicking here) or pop batches in your freezer. It’s fun to have on hand for quick desserts like apple pie, apple crisp, apple turnovers, and it’s great on waffles, pancakes and ice cream too. It also makes a super cute gift for the holidays or for a hostess gift or new neighbor gift, etc.
You’re going to ask me for those labels, aren’t you? I’ll get on that. One day. Before Christmas. Maybe.
*A note about thickeners: I spent a better part of a Wednesday pulling my hair out and cursing driving around town in search of, and making phone call after phone call trying to get information about thickeners! A huge thanks to my friend/canning mentor Britanie for helping me figure out what the heck to use; I must have texted her 47 times this week. Thanks to her, and my new BFF at the extension office, I can sort of pretend I know what I’m talking about around here. It can be confusing because I noticed recipes call for different things depending on when they were written, and I know the #1 rule of canning is to not make substitutions or changes to a recipe that has been tested for canning. I noticed a lot of older recipes call for corn starch, which is not recommended by the USDA for safe canning. Then I found lots of recipes calling for ClearJel, but I couldn’t find ClearJel anywhere. I finally got a hold of someone at my local extension service (I seriously love those people!) and she explained that the only products that have been verified after testing are Ultra Gel and Thick Gel. Ultra Gel is just a modified corn starch that’s safe and effective for use in canning (as well as tons of other things). She said ClearJel is the same thing as Ultra Gel, it’s just changed names. I found Ultra Gel in several local canning supply stores, so if you find a well stocked location you should be able to easily find it. You should also be able to find it at cooking stores. If not, then you can order it on-line, but that’s what you should be using. It’s not the same thing as the little boxes of “Sure-Gel” you get to make jam. If you are a Boise/Meridian local, I bought mine at Karcher Ranch Market in Nampa. And I’ve been told in Utah it’s at Orson Gygi. I hope that’s helpful to someone else since it took me a while to figure out!
So in order to make this yummy filling, you’ll need a bunch of apples; obviously. Make sure they are crisp, and tart works best- like Granny Smiths, but really any crisp apple is just fine. Feel free to use a mix!
You can use an apple-corer-slicer-thingy (which by the way always reminds me of a medieval torture device. Not that I am in any way an expert in medieval torture devices) or do them by hand. If you’re not doing a huge batch, it really doesn’t take too long to peel them. To keep your apples looking purdy, toss them into a bowl as you cut filled with either water with lemon juice or water with ascorbic acid (which sounds like a not-so-medieval torture device…) Just a note- you’ll want to slice more apples than you think you need because they reduce a bit when blanched and you’ll measure them after blanching.
When they’re all sliced up, you’ll give them a douse in boiling water; only about a minute will do it.
Remove the apples from the pot and set them in a big strainer if you have one and just cover to keep warm. I use one of these pasta pots that has a strainer that fits inside; it works perfectly.
Now for the sweet, sticky, full-of-fall deliciousness. Mix your sugar, Ultra Gel, and spices, in a large sauce pot.
Whisk them together with some apple juice and some water,
And heat it until it’s thick and bubbly. The Ultra Gel works so fast that by the time the sauce simmers, it should be about done.
As soon as your sauce is hot and bubbly, add the apples back in
and stir them until they’re heated through again. Man I wish you all had smell-o-screens. Someone needs to invent that. This will smell so so good.
Use a funnel to ladle the hot mixture into your clean jars
Make sure you get every last drop of the ooey gooey syrup
Pie. In a Jar.
Slowly move your spatula around in the jar to remove air bubbles and make sure you have one inch of headspace (the amount of space from the top of your filling to the top of your jar). Wipe off the jar rim so it’s nice and clean and then place your jar lids on top. Remember, your lids should have been soaking in simmering water, and your jars should be clean and warm.
Secure with the bands and process in a water bath for the time allotted. Let cool completely at room temperature.
A quart jar should be enough to fill one standard pie. Just dump in a pie crust and you’re good to go! As I mentioned it’s also really yummy over pancakes, waffles and ice cream. You can fill crescent or puff pastry dough and make apple turnovers, or do as I did below and have an apple crisp made in the time it takes to whip up a quick crumb topping (I just used have of the crumb mixture from this Crumb-Topped Apple Pie recipe). There’s really no wrong way to eat a jar of apple pie filling. Unless you don’t eat it at all; that would be wrong. As noted in the comments- you can even put the pie filling in a pie crust and put the entire un-baked pie into your freezer and have ready-to-go fresh pies stocked up!
I love it when recipes are scaled way down- you could even try this out and just do one jar if you’re new and canning is intimidating. Or two jars if you find yourself ready to can a huge batch at 10pm only to realize you only have 2 jars left. Me? Never.
Apple Pie Filling
Recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation
Recipe as written below is for 7 quarts of apple pie filling. Click here, or see image above for measurements that yield just one quart (you can calculate from there depending on how many jars you wish to make, or according to how many apples you have.)
6 quarts Blanched, sliced fresh apples
5 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups Ultra Gel or Clear Jel
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 1/2 cups cold water
5 cups Apple Juice
3/4 cups bottled lemon juice
Use firm, crisp apples. If apples lack tartness, use an additional 1/4 cup of lemon juice for each 6 quarts of slices.
Yield: 7 quarts
Wash, peel, and core apples. Prepare slices 1/4-1/2 inches wide and place in cold water containing 1/4 cup lemon juice for every 4 cups water (or water containing ascorbic acid) to prevent browning.
For fresh fruit, place 6 cups at a time in 1 gallon of boiling water. Boil each batch 1 minute after the water returns to a boil. Drain, but keep heated fruit in a covered bowl or pot. Combine sugar, spices, Ultra Gel, and spices in a large kettle with water and apple juice. Stir and cook on medium high heat until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Add lemon juice and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Fold in drained apple slices immediately and fill jars with mixture without delay, leaving 1 inch headspace. Adjust lids and process immediately in a waterbath according to the recommendations below.
Processing time for pint or quart size jars: 0-1000 ft: 25 min, 1001-3000 ft:30 3001-6000 ft: 30 mins Above 6000 ft: 40 mins
Freezer Instructions: Alternately this recipe can be placed in freezer bags and frozen for several months. Place approximately 4 cups apple mixture to fill one standard size pie.
Have you all enjoyed canning week? I know I did; I learned a lot! I can’t thank my friends enough for answering all of my questions as I went along- I’m kind of a canning newbie too! Stay tuned in about a month or so when I have tomatoes coming out of my ears. There will probably be more canning projects then!
Does anyone know why corn starch isn’t recommended for canning? I made multiple batches of apple pie filling last year (we have six trees) to give as gifts and the recipe I used called for corn starch. Now I’m wondering if I accidentally poisoned everyone. Thanks!
Hannah, check out comment # 38.1 (don’t worry- I doubt you poisoned people! Just avoid cornstarch in the future 🙂
In the instructions you mentioned to immediately process after filling your cans. I’m new to canning and have only purchased the Ball Home Discovery Canning Kit you linked to (the green basket), so I can only process a few cans at a time. Since it sounds like this makes a pretty large batch, do I just need to really scale it down, or can the filling sit for a time in the cans as I do a few batches in the water bath? Thanks so much for posting this recipe, and all the info on canning. It has really piqued my interest in canning and I’m excited to try this!
Good question Erin! Just fill your warm jars while your apples are hot and get the lids on them. After that, it’s just fine if they sit on the counter while you process a few smaller batches at a time. Keep in mind also that if you do quart jars you’ll need a pretty tall pot (tall enough that you can get water 1″ above the top of the jars. So with the smaller kit, you may want to do pint jars. Enjoy the pie filling!
Sara is completely right. They’ll sit happily with the lids and rings on while you work through the batches. If you have to you can even put jars that have been hot filled and lidded in the fridge over night and process the next day. However, you MUST warm them to at least room temperature after they’ve been in the fridge so the glass won’t break. And this isn’t a suggested method, but a…if you’re in a bind. Better is to keep everything warm and just work through your batches. 🙂 I did 20 pints of salsa 8 pints at a time and it all sealed no problem.
I am with you! FALL is the perfect time of year….I so want to make Christmas gifts this year, what a fun idea…I could have a Apple filling Party! LOL Thank you for all of this post! It makes it look easy and you thought of all of the questions we were going to ask before we had a chance to! Have a great week! Sandy
Just read about this delicious idea the other day and then made a trip to Shipshewana in IN and visited Das Essenhaus (infamous restaurant there). While shopping in their bakery area following dinner I ran across of all things…..Clear Gel!! I thought I’d pass the info along to those who live in the general vicinity of that area as a possible source. =^)
Adding this to my Christmas gift list!!! Thank you! Has anyone found Ultra Gel in the Seattle area?
oooh, I would LOOOVE to make this! for gifting and for ME! lol
Thanks so much for linking up! I featured your post in my wrap up http://tidymom.net/2011/great-ideas-7/ Have a great weekend!
“Apple fie filling for canning or freezing”..or how bout eating right away with a spoon??? YUM
This week I had a ton of fresh ripe fruit (cherries and peaches) and there is not an ounce of clearjel in all of Dallas (if there is, speak up!! I looked everywhere that carried jars and supplies, and at a few places that didn’t). No time to order any, so I canned the filling without thickener and will thicken it when I’m ready to bake a pie. However, I do think it would be lovely to give the fillings as gifts, so I need to go ahead and order some. That apple looks delicious!!
I know there’s work being done to get Ultra Gel in the Whole Foods stores in Texas, but it’s not there yet. The best deal for shipping is likely the Ultra Gel three pack on the Cornaby’s site, since that uses the medium mailer from USPS, so 12 bucks shipping to get three pounds of starch. If you’re doing a lot of canning there’s a 5 pound box and a 6 pound case which have discounts and ships fairly cheaply too. I work for Cornabys, but I’m a complete Ultra Gel freak on my own. My husband calls it kitchen crack cause it goes in everything. 🙂
In the Ogden, Utah area, I know that Kitchen Kneads carries the Clear Jel, and I used to see it at the Maceys in Ogden all the time (I moved and don’t get up that way much now, but they probably still have it; it was in the baking supplies aisle by the yeast). I think Gregory’s Wheat Shop in Bountiful would also carry it.
For recipes for lots of different kinds of pie fillings, just go to the USDA website and search for canned pie fillings. They have cherry, blackberry, apple, blueberry and lots more. I always use Thick Gel from http://www.cornabys.com–it really is the best, and you just substitute the same amound of Thick Gel for the Clear Jel A. Ultra Gel is an instant starch,so you may need to use a little more to get the same thickness.
Thank you. I was wondering if there was a difference between the ultra and the thick Gels. I found clear jel at Cash and Carry, but it was a large bag and they wanted $52 for it!
As a grandma and mom first and a food scientist second, let me clear up a few things. Starch is generally used in pie fillings, not pectin, because pectin is hard to control and goes thin when heated. There are two kinds of Clear Jel, Instant Clear Jel and Clear Jel A. Clear Jel A is approved for canning, but goes kind of pasty and gloppy, like #48 says. Ultra Gel and Thick Gel are newer starches that stay stable for several years.
Great recipe! Thanks! Found ClearJel in King Arthur Flour online. Plus lots of other fantastic baking stuff sometimes hard to find in stores.
I am a Master Food Preserver here in Washington and thought I would tell everyone if you keep these very long the clear jel (Ultra Jel) gets kind of globby (is that a word) anyway it doesn’t stay as pretty as when you first can it. But when you make it warm again (make it in a pie it gets all pretty again) So even though it looks thick and weird in the jar it is still good and is ok to use. I would send a picture but am not really good on the computer…but I did find your wonderful website. Thank you
I once learned that apples have the most natural pectin than any other fruit. How could you utilize that (in reference to comment 45)? Did anyone you speak to have any know-how or input on that? I saw on a cooking show someone use a shredded apple or two to thicken the blueberry pie……………………just wondering if someone knew.
I tried this once. It didn’t work so well. It must have been because I didn’t use the clear gel stuff. I probably used cornstarch. I can’t remember!! I will definitely have to hunt down some clear gel and try again because we have 3 apple trees! If only I could figure out applesauce too!
For my applesauce, I chunck up my apples – removing the stems (& sometimes the seeds). Place the apple pieces in a quick dip in water with lemon juice to prevent them getting brown. After that – scoop them out & drain for a minute or two, then place them in a big heavy kettle and add a scant amount of liquid -(apple cider) – to prevent scorching – (also could use water). Cook them all down until soft. Cook on low to medium heat – to prevent scorching. Once they are soft – put them through a food mill of some sort. This will give you a nice sauce consistancy & remove all of the peels and seeds. (If you leave on the peels – it saves you work & gives the sauce a nice color.) Sweeten & spice the sauce to taste – place in sterilized jars & process as per instructions in canning book. Be sure to leave 1 inch head space. Good luck…..Carol
Any advice on how to make this without clear gel? I am trying to stick to whole foods and does that count? thanks!
Without the starch the sauce will be thin and runny, but it will still taste good.
You can make it and try just boiling it down. You’ll have to cook it for longer and you run the risk of getting more apple sauce versus apple pie filling. I’ll do some checking and see if there are other options which would fit under the whole foods list.
make it without thickener, thicken it when you go to add it to pie (heat on the stove, add a cornstarch slurry and a bit of butter.)
What a great recipe! I am so looking forward to fall also, and I can’t wait to try this. And, such cute packaging!! I linked to you from I’m lovin’ it Friday.
This is great, thanks so much. I go to the orchard to get applies in the fall and am always looking for something to do with them. This will certainly be on my list.
Have you ever tried anything similar with cherries? I have been looking forever for a good recipe to use with the sour cherries I pick each summer.
I am from AZ and I get my Ultra Gel from Shar’s in Mesa, AZ. Yes it is a must have pantry staple. The smaller container has lots of recipes on it from EZ freezer jam to a perfect Glace for something like strawberries to put over waffles. Can’t wait to try it with my apples!
I just love your tutorials. They are very informative and humorous 🙂
Thanks for the great site.
I just did basically the same thing with peaches for peach pie filling. I love peach pie. I has to order more clear jell because I used all mine while making it. I found a good deal at The Prepared Pantry. I bought it from them through Amazon. It is about 4 cups worth and was only like $4.00. Of course shipping was more than the product cost, but when you live in the stix and you can’t get it locally that is what you have to deal with. Thanks for canning week. I love to can and hope some will start who haven’t tried it before.
We purchase this farm and have LOTS & LOTS of apple trees and now I will make Apple pie filling my hubby will be so proud!! Thanks for sharing.
we have a heirloom seed place in oregon that carries clear gel. might want to try some places like that. also do you have to blanch the apples? and do you know why they say only clear gel is okay? because i have been using flour and cornstarch for years and i havent had a problem (that i know of).
Heidi, here is the “official” explanation (by someone who, unlike me, knows what they’re talking about 🙂
“Canning apple pie filling using tapioca or cornstarch as the thickener (outdated method.) Why is this risky? Botulism is not a major risk here because the high acid content of the apple filling. However, using cornstarch or tapioca may cause the filling to be too thick for the heat to penetrate and kill spoilage organisms throughout the product—a food safety issue. Cornstarch will break down during the canning process. .
Current recommendations: Clearjel®/Ultra Gel is the only thickening agent approved by the USDA for canning. It is a modified waxy food starch producing a smooth, heavy-bodied, gel-like product. Canned products retain a smooth texture with no liquid separation or curdling. Cornstarch and tapioca break down during the canning process causing the filling to be runny. Another option is to can the pie filling without any starch and then thicken it with tapioca or cornstarch before putting it in the pie shell.” – U of M Food Safety and Research Dept.
The problem with not blanching the apples is that the liquid inside of them will come out during the canning process and may be more than what you’ve accounted for, or less. A quick cook, like blanching in water or steaming quick in the microwave will make your liquid to solids balance so you get a more consistent end product than if you use raw. 🙂
You can find Clear Jel through Alison’s Pantry. You may be able to order it online at http://www.alisonspantry.com. I have found Alison’s Pantry to be the cheapest place to buy Clear Jel. To see if there is a rep near you, just visit their website. They are a Utah based company, but deliver to Nevada, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and Idaho.
Thanks for a great recipe. Love your sight.
Thanks for all the great canning recipes! I laughed out loud when I looked at the labels and I said “oh those are cute, how did she make those?” and then you stated on your blog that you knew we were going to ask. 🙂
I love fall also! I can’t wait to start making things with apples, pears, pumpkins, squash and others. YUM!
I’m a mind-reader! lol
My 3 year old was looking at the computer as I was reading this and in his sweet 3 year old voice said, “Mommy…what is that??? It looks NUMMY!!” 🙂
We’re not pig fans of pie at my house, but we love dump cake and use lots of pie filling! Thanks!
giggle. “pig fans”
What a great idea to have this delicious recipe available not to fill a pie, but to put on a waffle or do whatever one chooses. Never would have even thought of it. Thanks for the idea.
It’s also really fun to bake sugar cookies and put a scoop of warm pie filling on them. Easy mini apple pie. My kids love them. 🙂
Hi you wonderful ladies at OBB! I recently stumbled across your spectacular blog about 5 days ago and have spent all my free time since catching up on several years worth of your posts! I LOVE your taste/style/presentation and all around humorous approach to living realistically! And I don’t know how many times i’ve laughed out loud and thought to myself how much you both sound like myself. 🙂 Thanks for your dedication, I’ll be looking for your cookbook at Barnes and Nobel soon!
Oh great-I am looking forward to doing more apple pie filling this year and will try this recipe, it is different than mine! Now I will hunt done some Ultra/Clear Gel. Wondering where to get it in Pocatello, Idaho?!