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Canning Fruit Pie Fillings with Clear Jel®

Commercially canned pie fillings are thickened with modified food starches that resist breaking down or ‘thinning’ during heat processing. Fruit pie fillings thickened with regular cornstarch will not have the same consistency as canned filling made with modified food starch. In addition, the heat penetration of products thickened with cornstarch is poor. Therefore, the USDA does NOT recommend preserving pie fillings that have been thickened with cornstarch or tapioca.

“But don't despair,” says Sandra Brown, Washington State University.  There is a recommended method for making great pie fillings that can be heat processed safely. The recipes use a modified food starch called Clear Jel. This starch produces the correct thickening, even after the filling is canned and baked.

Clear Jel is a corn starch derivative, and is a commercial thickening product used by bakeries and for frozen food. This product is used the same as flour or corn starch. Not only can it be used in preserved pie fillings but it can be used anywhere you would use flour or cornstarch as a thickener. It makes great clear gravy without the lumps, as well as puddings and sauces. It is used widely by bakeries and restaurants.

There are two types of Clear Jel, "instant" and "regular". "Instant" does not require heat to thicken. The product will thicken once the liquid is added. "Regular", on the other hand, must be heated. When canning pie fillings, be sure to use the `regular' Clear Jel product.

Some advantages to using Clear Jel is that it produces a clear color when cooked.  It remains smooth, and the liquid doesn't separate from the fruit after it has been frozen, canned, or baked.

Clear Jel can be used in pies that you are going to freeze or pie filling that you want to can and then make pies later. Just remember that frozen pies or pies made with the canned pie filling need to be baked before serving. If the fillings become "thin" during baking, increase the oven temperature, and shorten the baking time to prevent what is called "oven boil out". This usually is caused by excessive baking at a temperature too low.

Each canned quart of fruit filling makes one 8-inch to 9-inch pie. Fillings may be used as toppings on desserts or pastries. Because the variety of fruit may alter the flavor of the fruit pie, we recommend that you first make a single quart, make a pie with it, and serve it. Then adjust the sugar or spices in the recipe to suit your personal preferences. The amount of lemon juice should not be altered, because it aids in ensuring the safety and storage stability of the fillings.
 
Sources of Clear JeI

Clear Jel is available at the Juab County Extension office at our cost.  Our office is open Monday through Thursday, 7 am – Noon and 1 – 6 pm.  Clear Jel is also available at the Mending Shed in Orem, Alison’s Pantry representatives, Orson Gygi in SLC, or you can do a internet search and order it online.  The prices will vary as will the shipping and handling charges.

Below is the USDA recipe for canning apple pie filling:
 
 
Apple Pie Filling (USDA, 2009)        1 quart pie filling         7 quarts pie filling
Blanched, sliced fresh apples
3 1/2 cups
6 quarts
Granulated sugar
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp.
5 1/2 cups
Clear Jel® (regular—not instant)
1/4 cup
1 1/2 cups
Cinnamon
1/2 tsp.
1 Tbsp.
Nutmeg (optional)
1/8 tsp.
1 tsp.
Cold water or fruit juice *
1/2 cup
2 1/2 cups
Apple juice
3/4 cup
5 cups
Bottled lemon juice
2 Tbsp.
3/4 cup
Yellow food coloring (optional)
1 drop
7 drops
*Water can be replaced with apple juice for a more apple flavored filling.
 
Quality: Use firm, crisp apples such as Jonagold, Golden Delicious, Rome, Ida Red, and other varieties of similar quality are suitable.  If apples lack tartness, use an additional 1/4 cup of lemon juice for each 6 quarts of slices.

Procedure:  Wash, peel, and core apples.  Prepare slices 1/2-inch wide and place in water containing ascorbic acid to prevent browning (use 1/2 tsp. ascorbic acid crystals or six 500-milligram vitamin C tablets per gallon of water).  To blanch 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, Clear Jel, and cinnamon in a large kettle with water and apple juice.  If desired, food coloring and nutmeg may be added.  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.  Process HOT pie filling in pints or quarts for 35 minutes in a boiling-water canner (at altitudes between 3,001-6,000 feet).

For more information about preserving pie fillings or other pie filling recipes contact the Juab County office at 623-3450 or visit extension.usu.edu/juab. 

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