Canning Pie Filling? Do you have Clear Jel®?

Apple Pie Filling in Mason Jars
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It’s apple season! The leaves are changing colors, and your local orchards are filled with apples. Drying apples for chips, freezing apples, and canning apple pie filling are all great ways to enjoy fall flavors all year round! Extension offices have received numerous calls asking for safe canning recipes for pie filling. One of the main ingredients in canning pie filling is Clear Jel®, a flavorless modified corn starch that works as a thickener for canning pie filling. Clear Jel® doesn’t break down through the canning and eventual baking process. Additionally, it can withstand a variety of pH levels. There is not a safe substitute for Clear Jel® when canning pie filling. There are about three cups of Clear Jel® per pound. When preparing to can, do a kitchen inventory to ensure all the supplies and ingredients are available.  Read on for common questions about Clear Jel®:

Can you substitute tapioca, flour, or cornstarch for Clear Jel®?

No, when canning pie filling, there is no substitute for Clear Jel®. Other thickeners like cornstarch clump when canning and may interfere with heat being able to reach throughout the jar.  Without heat penetrating throughout the jar, yeast, mold, or other harmful bacteria can form. Other thickeners are unable to withstand the heat of the canning process and will produce a more liquid product.

Is there a difference in using regular (cook type) or instant Clear Jel® for canning?

Yes, regular (cook type) Clear Jel® is required for canning, not instant. The instant type of Clear Jel® does not require heat while regular does. Instant Clear Jel® is freezer stable, thus popular but not necessary when freezing pie filling.  Always check the label before buying to ensure it is the cooking variety and not instant.

Aren’t Sure Jell® and Clear Jel® the same?

No, each commercially branded product serves a different purpose. Sure Jell® is a commercial brand that sells pectin. Pectin is another type of starch found in fruits and vegetables. Powdered or liquid pectin works as a gelling agent in jams and jellies. Liquid and powdered pectin are not interchangeable and are not suitable for canning pie filling.

Where do I find Clear Jel®?

Clear Jel® can be hard to find locally or at the grocery stores. It is typically sold in bulk stores, cooperatives, and online. 

What if I can’t find Clear Jel®?

If Clear Jel® is unavailable, freezing pie filling may be another option. Packing sliced apples in syrup are best for pie-making. The syrup is created using sugar and water and poured over the fruit. Consider putting pie filling in a pie pan, freezing for a few hours, and storing it in a freezer bag. Perfect for quickly popping into a crust and in the oven. Canning apple slices in syrup may be another option. Find reliable canning and freezing recipes through the National Center for Home Preservation.   

For additional questions about food preservation, please contact your local extension office. Curious about other ways to preserve apples? Check out our webinar all about apples!

SOURCE: Lisa Peterson is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator serving Christian, Jersey, Macoupin, and Montgomery Counties.