Home Canned Fruit Pie Fillings


Guide E-316

Revised by Nancy Flores and Cindy Schlenker Davies

College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, New Mexico State University


Authors: Respectively, Extension Food Technology Specialist, Department of Extension Family and Consumer Sciences; and County Program Director/Extension Home Economist, Bernalillo County Extension Office, New Mexico State University. (Print Friendly PDF)

NOTE: This publication is intended for use by individuals with a basic understanding of canning procedures. For more detailed information, consult the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, which is available at https://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html.

Tasty fruit fillings for pies, pastries, and dessert toppings can be prepared at home. The following pie fillings are excellent, safe products when processed according to the directions in each recipe. Each canned quart makes one 8- to 9-inch pie.

Many factors affect a fruit’s flavor, so you may wish to adjust the sugar and spices in each recipe to suit your tastes. This is best done by preparing a single quart of filling, making a pie, and tasting it. However, never decrease the amount of lemon juice in the recipe because it ensures the filling’s safety and storage stability.

Photograph of a blueberry pie with a lattice crust top.

© Jenifoto406 | Dreamstime.com

General Canning Procedures

Use regular or wide-mouth Mason jars with self-sealing lids held in place by screw-on metal bands. The bands hold the lids in place during the processing and cooling periods. Mason jars are made of tempered glass to resist high temperatures. Jars are available in 1/2-pint, pint, 1 1/2-pint, and quart sizes. Larger jars are not recommended for home canning.

Inspect jars carefully for cracks or chips and discard faulty ones. Wash jars in hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly, or wash in the dishwasher. When canning, keep jars hot by storing them in the dishwasher, a sink of hot water, or in a warm oven until they are filled. Check metal screw bands for signs of rust or dents and discard badly corroded or dented bands. Use only new self-sealing lids and follow manufacturer’s directions for preparing lids for canning. Ladle fruit mixture into jars, leaving a 1-inch headspace, or as indicated. Wipe the sealing surface of jars with a clean, damp paper towel. Add lids, tighten screw bands, and process in a boiling-water canner.

Photograph of two Mason jars of pie filling.

Follow these steps for successful boiling-water canning:

  1. Fill the canner halfway with water.
  2. Preheat water to 140°F for raw-packed foods, or 180°F for hot-packed foods.
  3. Load filled jars, fitted with lids and bands, into the canner rack and use the handles to lower the rack into the water; or fill the canner, one jar at a time, using a jar lifter.
  4. Add enough water so the water level is at least 1 inch above jar tops. For processing times over 30 minutes, the water level should be at least 2 inches above the tops of the jars.
  5. Turn heat to its highest position, put the lid on the canner, and heat until water boils vigorously.
  6. Set a timer for the minutes required for processing the food (Table 1).
  7. Keep the canner covered and lower the heat setting to maintain a gentle boil throughout the process schedule.
  8. During processing, add more boiling water so the water level is at least 1 inch above jar tops. For processing times over 30 minutes, the water level should be at least 2 inches above the tops of the jars.
  9. When jars have been boiled for the required time, turn off the heat and remove the canner lid. Wait 5 minutes before removing jars.
  10. Using a jar lifter, remove the jars and place them on a towel, leaving at least 1-inch spaces between the jars during cooling. Let jars sit undisturbed at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours to cool.

Test for Jar Seals

Remove screw bands when jars have cooled (12 to 24 hours) and test for vacuum seals by these methods:

  • Press the lid center with your finger. If the lid springs up when released, it is not sealed.
  • Tap the lid with a small metal spoon. A sealed jar lid will make a ringing sound.
  • Hold the jar at eye level and look across the lid. A sealed jar lid curves down slightly in the center.

If liquid has been lost from sealed jars, do not open the jars to replace the liquid; instead, store them in the refrigerator and use these first.

Reprocessing Unsealed Jars

If you decide to reprocess foods from jars that did not seal, do so within 24 hours. Remove and discard lids from unsealed jars. Check the sealing surface of the jar for tiny nicks or cracks. If the jar has defects, discard it and replace it with another jar. If not, add a new lid and process for the original processing time. Label food that has been re-canned, store in the refrigerator, and use within several days. The produce will be softer in texture and lower in nutritional value than food processed once.

Storing Canned Food

If lids are tightly vacuum-sealed, remove the screw bands from sealed jars to prevent them from rusting closed on the jars. Wash, dry, and store the screw bands for later use. Clean the outsides of sealed, cooled jars. Label with date and contents and store in a cool (50–70°F), dark, dry place away from sun, light, or dampness. Canned products are best if eaten within one year.

Accidental Freezing

Freezing may cause food in jars to spoil if the jars become unsealed. Freezing and thawing cause food to soften and decrease its nutritional quality. Protect jars from freezing by wrapping with layers of newspaper.

If Canned Food Spoils

Examine jars carefully before tasting contents. Check lids for a vacuum seal. NEVER taste food from an unsealed jar.

Signs of food spoilage are streaks and dried food at the top of the jar, swollen lids, broken jar seals, rising air bubbles, and any unnatural color. Other indicators include bad or unnatural odor, spurting liquid, foaming, or white, blue, green, or black mold.

Dispose of any food you suspect of being spoiled. For safety, spoiled canned food and containers may need to be detoxified before disposal. Contact your county Extension office for detoxification instructions.

Elevation Adjustments

All communities in New Mexico are above sea level, varying from 3,000 to 10,000 feet, with elevation differences even within a county. The boiling temperature of liquids is lower at higher elevations, and therefore food must be processed longer at high elevations (Table 1). Use Table 2 to determine the elevation of your community, and then select safe processing times from Table 1 for canning your fruit. Special Notice About Clear Jel

Table 1. Recommended Processing Times for Fruit Pie Fillings in a Boiling-Water Canner

Process times at elevations of

Fruit filling

Jar size

up to 3,000 ft

3,001–6,000 ft

6,001–9,000 ft

Apple

Pints or quarts

30 min

35 min

40 min

Blueberry

35 min

40 min

45 min

Cherry

35 min

40 min

45 min

Peach

35 min

40 min

45 min


Table 2. Elevations of Cities and Towns in New Mexico

City/Town

Elevation (ft)

City/Town

Elevation (ft)

Alamogordo

4,350

Las Vegas

6,450

Albuquerque

5,000

Logan

3,830

Artesia

3,350

Lordsburg

4,250

Aztec

5,650

Los Alamos

7,400

Bayard

5,800

Los Ranchos de Alb.

4,950

Belen

4,800

Lovington

3,900

Bernalillo

5,050

Magdalena

6,555

Bosque Farms

4,865

Melrose

4,600

Carlsbad

3,100

Mora

7,200

Carrizozo

5,450

Mosquero

5,550

Chama

7,900

Mountainair

6,500

Cimarron

6,450

Portales

4,010

Clayton

5,050

Raton

6,650

Cloudcroft

8,650

Reserve

5,750

Clovis

4,300

Rio Rancho

5,290

Columbus

4,020

Roswell

3,600

Corona

6,665

Roy

5,900

Corrales

5,005

Ruidoso

7,000

Cuba

7,000

San Jon

4,200

Deming

4,300

Santa Fe

7,000

Dexter

3,500

Santa Rita

6,300

Eagle Nest

8,250

Santa Rosa

4,600

Elida

4,345

Silver City

5,900

Española

5,600

Socorro

4,600

Estancia

6,100

Springer

5,800

Farmington

5,400

Taos

7,000

Fort Sumner

4,050

Texico

4,150

Gallup

6,500

Tierra Amarilla

7,460

Grants

6,450

T or C

4,250

Hobbs

3,650

Tucumcari

4,100

Hurley

5,700

Tularosa

4,500

Jemez Springs

6,200

Vaughn

5,950

Las Cruces

3,900

Wagon Mound

6,200

Special Notice About Clear Jel

The following recipes all use a modified food starch called Clear Jel, which is recommended by the USDA for home canned fruit pie fillings. This starch produces the correct thickening, even after fillings are canned and baked. Other starches, such as cornstarch, break down and result in a runny filling. Clear Jel must be used as the thickener in these recipes; there is no appropriate substitute.

Clear Jel may not be available in all grocery stores, but it is easy to find online. Obtain your Clear Jel before preparing these pie fillings. One pound of Clear Jel yields about 3 cups. The following fruit pie filling recipes use about 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 cups per 6 to 7 quarts of pie filling.

Before adding Clear Jel and sugar to liquid (juice and water), make a slurry with small amount of the liquid. This will prevent “clumping.” An immersion blender can be used to make a slurry that will not have clumps and will be easier to incorporate with the other ingredients.


Photograph of two small pies.

© Nishant Aneja | Pexels.com

Apple Pie Filling

Quantities of ingredients needed for

Ingredients

1 quart jar

7 quart jars

Fresh sliced apples

3 1/2 cups

6 quarts (24 cups)

Granulated sugar

3/4 cup plus
2 tablespoons

5 1/2 cups

Clear Jel

1/4 cup

1 1/2 cups

Cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon

1 tablespoon

Bottled lemon juice

2 tablespoons

3/4 cup

Cold water

1/2 cup

2 1/2 cups

Apple juice

3/4 cup

5 cups

Yellow food coloring (optional)

1 drop

7 drops

Nutmeg (optional)

1/8 teaspoon

1 teaspoon

Quality. Use firm, crisp apples. Stayman, Golden Delicious, Rome, and other varieties of similar quality are suitable. If apples lack tartness, add an additional 1/4 cup of lemon juice for each 6 quarts of slices.

Procedure. Wash, peel, and core apples. Cut into slices 1/2 inch wide. Prevent browning by placing slices in one gallon of water mixed with 1 teaspoon of ascorbic acid crystals or six 500-mg vitamin C tablets. Place 6 cups of apples at a time in 1 gallon of boiling water and cook for 1 minute after the water returns to a boil; drain well. Keep heated apples in a covered pot or bowl to retain heat while other batches of apples are being blanched.

In a large pot, combine cold water and apple juice, then stir in sugar, Clear Jel, and cinnamon. If desired, add food coloring and/or nutmeg. 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. Fill hot jars with mixture, leaving a 1 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Process immediately.


Photograph of a person measuring headspace of small Mason jars of blueberry pie filling.

Blueberry Pie Filling

Quantities of ingredients needed for

Ingredients

1 quart jar

7 quart jars

Fresh or thawed blueberries

3 1/2 cups

6 quarts (24 cups)

Granulated sugar

3/4 cup plus
2 tablespoons

6 cups

Clear Jel

1/4 cup plus
1 tablespoon

2 1/4 cups

Cold water

1 cup

7 cups

Bottled lemon juice

3 tablespoons

1/2 cup

Red food coloring (optional)

1 drop

7 drops

Blue food coloring (optional)

3 drops

20 drops

Quality. Select fresh, ripe, firm blueberries. Unsweetened frozen blueberries can be used. If sugar has been added, rinse it off while the fruit is still frozen. Thaw frozen blueberries before use.

Procedure. Wash and drain blueberries. Place 6 cups of blueberries at a time in 1 gallon of boiling water and cook for 1 minute after the water returns to a boil; drain well. Keep heated blueberries in a covered pot or bowl to retain heat while other batches of blueberries are being blanched.

In a large pot, combine cold water, food coloring (if desired), sugar, and Clear Jel and stir well to mix. Cook on medium-high heat until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Add lemon juice and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Fold in drained berries. Fill hot jars with mixture, leaving a 2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Process immediately.


Photograph of a cherry pie with a lattice crust top.

© Valeria Boltneva | Pexels.com

Cherry Pie Filling

Quantities of ingredients needed for

Ingredients

1 quart jar

7 quart jars

Fresh or thawed sour cherries

3 1/3 cups

6 quarts (24 cups)

Granulated sugar

1 cup

7 cups

Clear Jel

1/4 cup plus
1 tablespoon

1 3/4 cups

Cold water

1 1/3 cups

9 1/3 cups

Bottled lemon juice

1 tablespoon plus
1 teaspoon

1/2 cup

Cinnamon (optional)

1/8 teaspoon

1 teaspoon

Red food coloring (optional)

6 drops

1/4 teaspoon

Almond extract (optional)

1/4 teaspoon

2 teaspoons

Quality. Select very ripe, firm, tart cherries. Unsweetened frozen cherries can be used. If sugar has been added, rinse it off while the fruit is still frozen.Thaw frozen cherries before use.

Procedure. Rinse and pit cherries. To keep the stem ends from browning, hold pitted cherries in 1 gallon of water mixed with 1 teaspoon of ascorbic acid crystals or six 500-mg vitamin C tablets. Place 6 cups of fresh cherries at a time in 1 gallon of boiling water and cook for 1 minute after the water returns to a boil; drain well. Keep heated cherries in a covered pot or bowl to retain heat while other batches of cherries are being blanched.

In a large saucepan, combine cold water, sugar, Clear Jel, and cinnamon (optional). If desired, add food coloring and/or almond extract. Stir and cook over medium-high heat until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Add lemon juice and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Fold in drained cherries. Fill hot jars immediately with mixture, leaving a 2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Process immediately.


Peach Pie Filling

Quantities of ingredients needed for

Ingredients

1 quart jar

7 quart jars

Fresh sliced peaches

3 1/2 cups

6 quarts (24 cups)

Granulated sugar

1 cup

7 cups

Clear Jel

1/4 cup plus
1 tablespoon

2 cups plus
3 tablespoons

Cold water

3/4 cup

5 1/4 cups

Bottled lemon juice

1/4 cup

1 3/4 cups

Cinnamon (optional)

1/8 teaspoon

1 teaspoon

Almond extract (optional)

1/8 teaspoon

1 teaspoon

Quality. Select ripe but firm peaches. Red Haven, Redskin, Sun High, and other varieties of similar quality are suitable.

Procedure. Peel peaches. To loosen skins, submerge peaches in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds, then place in cold water for 20 seconds. Slip off skins and cut into slices 1/2 inch wide. Prevent browning by placing slices in 1 gallon of water mixed with 1 teaspoon of ascorbic acid crystals or six 500-mg vitamin C tablets. Place 6 cups of fresh peach slices at a time in 1 gallon of boiling water and cook for 1 minute after the water returns to a boil; drain well. Keep peaches in a covered pot or bowl to retain heat while other batches of peaches are being blanched.

In a large pot, combine sugar, Clear Jel, and a small amount of the cold water to make a thin slurry. Then add the rest of the cold water to the slurry and whisk to prevent clumping. If desired, add cinnamon and/or almond extract. 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 peach slices and continue to heat for 3 minutes. Fill hot jars with mixture, leaving a 1 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Process immediately.

For Further Reading

E-314: Making Jam, Jelly, and Sweet Spreads at Home
https://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_e/E314/welcome.html

E-321: Freezing Fruit Basics
https://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_e/E321/welcome.html

E-326: Home Canned Sweet Spreads Made with Green Chile
https://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_e/E326/welcome.html


Original author: Priscilla Grijalva, Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist. Subsequently reviewed/revised by Alice Jane Hendley, Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist; Martha Archuleta, Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist; and Carol W. Turner, Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist.


Photo of Nancy Flores.

Nancy Flores is the Extension Food Technology Specialist in the Department of Extension Family and Consumer Sciences at NMSU. She earned her B.S. at NMSU, M.S. at the University of Missouri, and Ph.D. at Kansas State. Her Extension activities focus on food safety, food processing, and food technology.



Photo of Cindy Schlenker Davies.

Cindy Schlenker Davies is the County Program Director and Extension Home Economist at NMSU’s Bernalillo County Extension Office. She earned her B.S. at Eastern New Mexico University and her M.A. at NMSU. Her Extension and public outreach work focuses on food processing and preservation and food safety.


This publication was originally adapted for use in New Mexico (1989) from Let’s Preserve: Fruit Pie Fillings, which was developed by Penn State Cooperative Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.


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Revised November 2019 Las Cruces, NM