I rescued three bushels of apples from a farm. Americans waste 25-40% of the food that comes in our doors—that makes me sad, so I rescue and eat or preserve it when I can.
It’s hard to grow food. My plants work their little leaves off to make me dinner. Then, I forget to water them, and…. bam! Dead!
The good news is I just go to the store, but pioneers didn’t have Super Walmart—they paid attention or died. To be fair, a lot of things survive despite my neglect and I get to appreciate how hard they worked to grow. That’s why I try not to waste.
It takes ten years for an apple tree to grow from from seed to pie, by the way. I know this because I have six years of deer-eaten trees on strike in my yard—not a single apple yet.
“Can you make something to put on yogurt?” my husband asked. “Only people with no teeth eat apple sauce.”
This goes back to my canning commandment, “Take annual inventory.” He’s right. Nobody here eats apple sauce. Yet, I make it every year. It’s overrunning the shelf.
So, I found a recipe for apple pie filling—delicious. It’s the only thing I’ll make from now on. I’ve been eating it by the jar—on yogurt, in some pastry, in oatmeal… not a single pie. Try it out!
PRO TIP: Apple selection matters. These boxes had Gala, Honeycrisp, and a few tart Granny Smiths—all crispy.
The next day, I got a box of Macintoshes. Macs are early-season and get grainy. That works for cider, but not for this.
This is a good beginning canner project
Apple pie filling is a water bath canning project—entry level. If you can boil water, you can do this.
Water bath canning, if you’re new, is for higher-acid foods. Recipes are tested by food scientists and master canners so they won’t kill you.
As long as you follow the recipe, use clean jars, and boil the jars for the right amount of time, you’re good to go.
Canning is science. Don’t get nostalgic about an old recipe in your grandma’s box. Here’s a story of an entire family in Minnesota wiped out by improperly canned peas 80 years ago. Here’s another story about peas from 2019 which put three New York City women into the ICU for over a month—the home canner used a water bath peach method to can veggies (which must be pressure canned). It’s not just peas. Any low-acid item must be canned properly.
SAFETY TIP: Don’t skip the lemon if you’re canning. You need the acidity in water bath canning or you’ll kill people. Low acid foods must be canned using a pressure canner—not an Instant Pot or pressure cooker. A pressure canner is a specific piece of equipment and process that kills botulism and keeps you safe.
About pectin and thickeners
Apple pie filling needs a thickener—either pectin or a modified corn starch (don’t use regular corn starch in canning).
Pectin makes things gel. It’s naturally found in grape skins, apple cores and other fruits, but it’s also in a box in the canning aisle in the store.
There are a few types of pectin. You’ve probably used the store stuff like Certo or Sure Jel. But, there are more you might not have seen unless your grandmother won the Iowa State Fair.
Introducing Pomona’s Universal Pectin
This is my favorite. It’s special.
Normally, you can’t change the amount of sugar in a recipe. Sure Jel and Certo have “low sugar” versions, but you still have to follow the recipe.
Pomona pectin lets me change sugars or leave sweetners out. I can use honey, maple. brown sugar—or no sugar.
Here’s the recipe from Pomona Pectin. I made triple batches—15 cups of apples—so about two Pyrex measuring bowls full which made seven or eight pints each time.
Another Thickener Option: Clear Jel
Clear Jel is a canning-safe cornstarch. You’ll be able to use it for fillings (follow the Ball Book recipe which asks for Clear Jel below) You cannot use regular corn starch in any canning recipe. Keep a pound of Clear Jel on hand for times for fillings and stews.
Here’s the Ball recipe for Apple Pie Filling with Clear Jel.
My (soon to be award winning) version of this pie filling
I used Pomona’s Pectin
I used half brown sugar, half white sugar
I used cinnamon and fresh grated nutmeg.
I’ll repost this next apple season, but if you’ve got a few extra apples on the counter or someone gifts you a box, give this a try in the mean time.
Happy New Year!