After our move to the countryside, we suddenly found ourselves the proud owners of no less than TWO apple trees. Neither of us as ever owned a producing fruit tree in our entire lives, so this was quite exciting for us! Fresh apples in the fall, applesauce, apple pie, YUM!
As the cool autumn weather moved in, our apples ripened, we picked them, and now we have a huge half wine barrel planter, a big Amazon box, and a 5 gallon bucket full of fresh, home grown Honeycrisp apples. One tree was a prime producer, but the other only yielded about five usable, un-bug eaten fruits, which may be a blessing in disguise since I rather spontaneously learned how to can over the past three weeks.
So far, my favorite recipe is Apple Pie Filling. It’s not the easiest recipe in the world, but if you have patience and are willing to get a little messy, this might become your new favorite! It’s a lot of work on the front end, but once you’re finished you’ll have plenty of delicious, homemade pie filling that you simply have to pour out of your jar into a pie shell and bake!
Before You Get Started....
By now I’ve made this recipe more than a handful of times, so I’m going to share with you a number of tools and gadgets and bits of knowledge that you should have at hand before you start this recipe.
Learn to Can: If you don’t already know the canning basics, I would suggest checking out a few YouTube videos. It’s really, really not that hard once you figure out what you’re supposed to be doing, and I promise after the first time it will become second nature! Time consuming? Yes. Hard? No. I watched Guildbrook Farm’s Canning 101: Start Here video, which provides the basic overview of canning fruits and vegetables and goes into detail about water bath canning, pressure canning, and even different types of jars and tools! A quick Google search of “Canning Basics” will get you plenty of results, as well.
Have the Proper Tools: When I started I neglected to procure the correct tools to do the job safely and 1000x easier. I think the absolute must haves for canning are a jar lifter, a “headspace tool”, and a funnel. Without a jar lifter, it is insanely difficult to both place and remove jars from your boiling lava hot canner without dropping them, breaking them, and subsequently splattering your entire batch of apple pie filling all over your kitchen. I DID use a pair of tongs at first, and I’m surprised I didn’t have any accidents.
The headspace tool helps you measure how much space is between the rim of your jar and your food. Different recipes will call for different amounts of headspace, and sometimes it’s difficult to eyeball it. The tools also doubles as a nifty utensil to remove those pesky air bubbles from your food.
Third, a funnel is especially useful if you have liquid-y foods (like apple pie filling). It helps keep food off the rims of your jars, it makes packing your jars go faster, and it makes cleanup easier.
Obtain a Mechanical Apple Peeler: If you plan on processing large amounts of apples, peeling and coring them all by hand is a slow, and sometimes painful, procedure. I highly recommend a mechanical apple peeler. It not only peels, but cores and slices your apples in a few seconds. They are relatively affordable (usually less than $30), and you will not regret the investment! It can cut your prep time in half and save your hand from being stiff and sore in the morning!
You can purchase tabletop versions that either suction to your surface or clamp to your surface. The model I linked to above is a clamp type. I currently have a suction version, but the suction often fails and it’s usually easier just to hold the thing down with my hand while I crank the handle. Next time I will be purchasing a clamp down model.
Get Yourself a Big Huge Bowl: When you can foods, you typically work in very large batches. I thought I had plenty of large bowls, but when you’re working with many pounds of apples, you need larger containers! Seriously, the bigger the better. I had to use two containers for one batch of apples in order to mix them properly.
Apple Pie Filling for Canning
- 6 Quarts Apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
- 5 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups Clear-Jel
- 1 Tbsp. Cinnamon
- 1 tsp. Nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. Cloves
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 5 cups water
- 3/4 cup bottled lemon juice
2. Transfer prepared apples to a large bowl. Add 2 1/2 cups of the sugar to the apples and mix.
3. In a large stockpot, mix together the remaining 3 cups of sugar, Clear-Jel, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla, water, and lemon juice.
4. Cook the Clear-Jel and sugar mixture over medium high heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until it begins to thicken. You should be able to see the whisk’s trail through the mixture as you stir for a second or two.
5. Add the apples, and fold in gently until all apples are coated.
6. Fill pint or quart jars, leaving 1 inch headspace. Wipe your rims and place lids. Process in a water bath canner for 25 minutes at 0-1,000 feet, 30 minutes at 1,001-3,000 feet, and 35 minutes at 3,001 feet and over.
7. Remove canner from heat, remove lid, and allow to cool for 10 minutes to prevent excessive siphoning. Remove jars from water bath and let cool on your countertop for at least 12 hours.
My pie filling is siphoning! Some foods tend to siphon out of their jar in the canner or even run down the sides of the jar after you’ve removed them from the canner. Apple pie filling seems to be notorious for this, but it’s completely normal. As long as the seal is intact when you test it, the contents are fine. I just clean the outside of the jars with soap and water before storing them away.
You can keep siphoning to a minimum by allowing the jars to cool in the water bath for 5-10 minutes. In my recipe, I recommend 10 minutes. Also make sure to leave the recommended amount of headspace.
My jar isn’t sealing! Did you wipe your rims? 99% of the time my jars don’t seal, it’s because I forgot to wipe the rim or didn’t wipe it well enough. Regular water works fine, but some people use water and white vinegar.
Did you boil your lids? Yes? Well, you shouldn’t. Take it from me, I learned this the hard way when an entire batch of my apple pie came unsealed and I had to throw it away. Nowadays, you ARE NOT supposed to boil your lids before placing them on a jar. This can actually ruin the integrity of the lid’s seal. Clean your lids in hot soapy water and lay them on a clean towel to dry. As long as they are clean and free of debris, they are fine to use without boiling.
Are you using previously used lids? Don’t do that, either! It is recommended that you use new lids each time. Reusing jars and metal rings is perfectly fine, but lids are something you should buy new.
What canner do you use?
I purchased the Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker from Amazon.com. I knew I was going to be canning vegetables next year, and you need a pressure canner for that, so instead of purchasing just a regular water bath canner, I decided to spend the extra money and do a pressure canner. It doubles as a water bath canner so I don’t have to have two. I just remove the pressure gauge and the wobbly thing (ha) and don’t actually seal the lid. So far, it’s worked perfectly fine!
Where do you buy canning jars?
Grocery stores, Target, Wal-mart, Amazon, craft stores. Where can’t you buy canning jars? I often shop at Fleet Farm because they often have great deals on canning jars, and they have tons in stock every time I go, especially in the fall. Sometimes other stores like the grocery store or Wal-Mart only have a few cases on the shelf, so then you have to go hunt down a sales associate, have them look in the back for you, and maybe dig up a few more. Every once in a while the grocery store has a great sale, and sometimes I find even better deals on Amazon. Shop around, know a good deal when you see one. So far, Fleet Farm has had entire aisles dedicated to canning jars, and when you have over a hundred pounds of apples to can, that’s what I need!
Where do you find your recipes?
I find recipes online, and I’ve been using the Ball Blue Book: Guide to Preserving. Check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation for reputable, tested recipes. Although I do add spices or skip seasonings if I don’t like them or want more flavor, I don’t mess with things like cook times or acidity levels. If it says add acid, I add acid. If it says process it for 30 minutes at my elevation for a particular jar size, that’s what I do. I want my food to taste good, but I also want it to be free of botulism!
Can you use cornstarch or flour instead of Clear-Jel?
No, you shouldn’t. Cornstarch and flour can’t hold up to the heat of canning. Clear-Jel can. Some recipes do call for cornstarch, but I guess I’d rather be safe than sorry and not have all my hard work ruined because I used the wrong product. Clear-Jel is hard to find, even in the grocery store, so I would recommend buying it online and having it shipped to you. I purchase Hoosier Hill Farm Clear Jel powder from Amazon and have it shipped right to my door.
In a pinch you can do the pie filling recipe, but don’t add the thickener. You’ll have to add the thickener when you’re ready to make your pie.
If you’re a new canner, don’t be afraid to give this recipe a try! If you’re an old canning hand, let me know what you think!