Cherry Pie Filling

When someone asks me what kind of pie I want cherry is never going to pop into my head. However, when I ask people what kind of pie they want I hear "Cherry!" very often. On top of pies the filling can be used for fried pies, cheesecake topping, eating straight from the jar and many other treats.

When you want to make a cherry pie it takes two cans of cherry filling that you buy from the store to make a decent pie. I can't honestly say how much that costs or if it is cheaper to make at home. I just know there is much more satisfaction in making it at home.

Pie fillings that I am going to be posting about do take a special ingredient. Old versions used corn starch. Corn starch breaks down after it is canned and you get these lumpy globs of stuff that separate from the fruit. It's edible but not visually appealing. When it comes to food, appearance means a lot to me. I'm not talking about how fancy it goes on a plate. Just the basic appearance.

That ingredient is Clear Gel. You can't just go to store and order it. It is expensive but it's worth it. You can use it to make cherry, peach, strawberry, rhubarb, apple, blueberry, blackberry etc. pie fillings. Here is a link to what I'm talking about. Clear Gel (Tip: You can order 4 bags for the same shipping cost. Stock up or find a friend to go in with you.)

Okay, the other stuff is all canning basics. This is a hot water process. To learn more about canning check out The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

About my recipe: I can the filling in pint size jars. It takes two to make a pie but only one jar for cheesecake or other desserts. I find this is less wasteful even though it takes more jars.

Cherry Pie Filling 3 pints
(double recipe to have enough for 3 pies)

Fresh or thawed pitted cherries     3-1/2 cups    
Granulated sugar     1 cup    
Clear Jel®     1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon    
Cold water or  cherry juice     1-1/3 cups    
Lemon Juice     2 tablespoons

Get your jars and all your canning supplies ready before you start to cook the filling.

Blanch the cherries. Place the  cherries up to 7 cups at a time, in a large pot with at least 1 gallon of boiling water. Boil each batch 1 minute AFTER the water returns to a boil.  Blanching is heating the cherries at high temperature for a brief time to stop the enzymes that can cause the flavor to degrade during storage. Drain the cherries and keep covered to retain heat while cooking filling liquid.

Cook the filling liquid. Mix the ClearJel starch with sugar in a large pot. Add the water or cherry juice.
Takes a while to get to boiling point and first starts to look like this.

Then this. Getting closer.

Stir mixture and cook over medium high heat until mixture thickens and begins to bubble.
Very thick.

Add lemon juice and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Fold the berries into the hot liquid. Stir gently. 

Fill the jars. A jar funnel helps.  Gently shake the jar to help it settle in the jar and reduce the amount of air space. Use a plastic knife or bubble reducer to get most of the air out. Leave 1 inch head space, wipe any spilled cherry pie filling of the top, seat the lid and tighten the ring around them.

Process for 30 minutes in a hot water bath canner.