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Canning. The thought of preserving fruits and vegetables in a way that doesn’t take up freezer real estate truly makes me happy. Canning also scares me a little bit. The thought that I could make my family very ill by a small error or omission on my part makes me tread very carefully when I decide to break out the Ball jars.
I’ve been canning for about 5 years, but I’ve limited myself to time-tested and well-instructed recipes for tomato salsa, grape jelly, strawberry jam and, after I was presented with a big box of apples from a neighbor’s tree and a highly-recommended recipe for apple pie filling several years ago, apple pie filling.
Most people start preserving with simple stuff like jam or tomatoes. I have a surprise for you: making canned apple pie filling is easy. It’s the first thing I ever canned, and I’ve followed the same process over and over again, always with fantastic results!
- 1 jar of apple pie filling is enough to make one apple pie.
- 2 quarts of apple pie filling will make a 9×13 pan of apple crisp (recipe to come tomorrow). 1 quart will make a 9×9 pan of crisp.
- Open 1 quart, warm it up and serve over pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, ice cream or even pork chops.
- Make a yellow cake mix and stir in a quart of pie filling. Bake in a bundt pan according to directions on the box.
I’m not going to lie, the first time I turned my kitchen into my own little apple-pie-filling-canning factory, it took a long time. Probably about 4 hours. I also didn’t realize that I was about to make 20 quarts of pie filling! Since that first time, I’ve learned to scale down my recipes to make the process faster and easier. In fact, I think that I could honestly make 8-10 quarts of apple pie filling in less time than it’s taking me to write out this whole article!
I’ve been using this apple pie filling recipe since I started canning, and it’s been a huge success every time I’ve made it. I do want to note that, since the recipe was published, the USDA no longer endorses using cornstarch in canning. The liquid does sometimes separate from the “gel” if the jars sit for a while, but a quick shake of the jar breaks up the gel and the heat from baking returns the contents to a delicious, syrupy consistency.
Honestly, I’ve not had any true issues in using cornstarch with this it, but my lack of problems doesn’t mean that you’ll get the same stellar results. See below the recipe for two alternatives to canning your apples with cornstarch.
After a long introduction, here’s my highly-recommended instructions and recipe:
Canned Apple Pie Filling Recipe
- 4 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 pinch ground cloves (optional)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 10 cups water
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 6 pounds apples, peeled and cored
Canning Supplies Needed
- 7-10 1-quart canning jars
- canning lids and rings
- Canning pot or large stockpot (your jars need to be fully submerged). (I use my trusty Le Creuset Enamel 12-Quart Covered Stockpot rather than a traditional canning pot since a huge stockpot can be used for so many things!
- Canning tongs (this canning kit is incredibly useful if you’re planning to can stuff more than once in your lifetime.)
- A big bath towel to set jars on when they’re ready to fill AND when you take them out of the water bath.
- Thoroughly wash your jars and rings in hot soapy water and set them on a towel to dry.
- Fill your canning pot halfway and put it over high heat on the stove.
- When the water gets to a simmer/boil, submerge the jars, lids and rings for at least 30 seconds to sterilize them.
- Pull them out of the water with tongs or a magnet and put them on a towel to dry.
- Leave your water on the burner so it’s ready to go when you’re ready to start canning.
Making the Homemade Apple Pie Filling
- In a large pan over medium heat, mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Add 5 cups water and mix well. Cook and stir constantly until sugar is dissolved.
- While the first mixture is heating, whisk the other 5 cups of water with the cornstarch in a separate bowl until thoroughly mixed.
- Add the cornstarch mix to the sugar and spice mixture and continue heating and stirring until the mixture is boiling, thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice.
- Fill your jars halfway with sliced apples. Ladle the syrup over the apples, then add more apples to about one inch from the top of the jar. Add more syrup until the apples are covered, but be sure to leave at least 1/2 inch of room between the filling and the jar top to allow for a little expansion.
- Slide a thin plastic, silicone or wooden knife around the sides of the jar to remove air bubbles, then put the lids and rings on the jars.
- Add a few cups of cold water to your boiling water bath to equalize the water temperature to the temps of the filled jars and place jars in the boiling water, making sure there is enough water to cover the jars with at least a 1/2 inch of water.
- Bring canning water to a rolling boil. Once the water is at boiling, let the jars sit for 25 minutes.
- Remove the jars and place on a thick towel to dry. As they cool, the lids will begin to make audible “popping” sounds as they seal up.
- After they cool, press down on the top center of each of the jars to make sure the lid doesn’t pop up and down. If it does, the jar wasn’t properly sealed.
- If your jar didn’t seal during the canning process, don’t worry! You can remove the ring and the lid, clean all around the top and rim of the jar and reposition the lid and ring. Then go ahead and reprocess the jar in a boiling water bath.
- Don’t feel like reprocessing the jars that didn’t seal? Just throw them in the fridge and remember that the apple pie filling won’t keep nearly as long as the stuff that was properly sealed and canned. Use it within a week or two and you’ll be fine!
If you want, there are two alternative methods to can the apples without the cornstarch:
1. Omit the cornstarch from the recipe and proceed to can and cool the jars. When you’re ready to open a jar to use the pie filling, add 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch to each jar. Put the cover back on and shake the jar to mix everything together. You’ll end up with the same final result.
2. The USDA now recommends Clear Jel modified cornstarch instead of traditional cornstarch. A big bag of Clear Jel is about $11 from Amazon. Just use 1 cup of Clear Jel instead of cornstarch and make the recipe as described.