Canned Apple Pie Filling

Updated 08 October 2011. The original recipe was a modified version of the Ball Book apple pie filling; this version reflects more closely how I make a fresh apple pie, with some added apple cider and ClearJel canning starch to provide the necessary liquid for canning. There are 2 pounds of apples packed into each quart of pie filling in this version, making this a very apply, not overly sweet, and not overly goopy filling. If you like a sweeter apple pie, feel free to increase the sugar: the Ball recipe contains about 3 cups  of sugar for this amount of apples.


Just in time for the weekend, an apple project!  The weather is supposed to be nice in my neck of the woods and some apple orchards still have apples in the trees.  It’s supposed to drop down to 29 degrees tonight, however (brrr!), so this may be your very last chance for apple picking this season. If you’re game, check out Pick Your Own and search for a farm or orchard near you.

And when you get home with all of your apples, what could be nicer than having homemade apple pie filling at the ready over the holidays? This recipe is a bit of a project, what with the peeling and coring and slicing and canning, but at the end of the day you’ve got 3 proto-pies, or hostess gifts, or last minute Thanksgiving lifesavers, or Christmas gifts, or door prizes for your own holiday party… the options are endless! Just open a quart jar, pop it into a pie shell, bake for an hour, and hey Presto! Apple pie.

Adapted from The Best All-American Apple Pie in The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum and Apple Pie Filling in The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, J. Kingry and L. Devine


Canned Apple Pie Filling


  • 6 lbs apples (Mutsu and Honeycrisp are favorites; you can find organically grown apples locally at Fishkill Farms and Westwind Orchard)
  • 2 cups apple cider, preferably freshly pressed, or unsweetened apple juice
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar (organic turbinado)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar (organic dark Muscovado)
  • juice of 2 lemons (about 1/2 cup) + zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup filtered water
  • 1/4 cup ClearJel (modified cooking starch that can be processed and then re-heated for pie baking)


  1. Combine cider, sugars, lemon juice & zest, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a very large bowl.
  2. Peel, core and slice apples. As you slice, toss apple slices in the cider/sugar/lemon mixture (in order to prevent browning). Try to keep the apple slices thin and as even; I shoot for 12 to 16 slices per apple half, for a medium to large apple. Allow apple slices to macerate, at room temperature, for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours, tossing to coat in juice every now and then.
  3. Prepare canner, jars & lids.
  4. Strain juice from apple slices into a large measuring cup: you should yield at least 3 and 1/2 cups (if not, make up the difference with cider). Transfer juice to a wide, heavy-bottomed preserving pot or Dutch oven and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Allow to boil, without stirring, for 5 minutes or so, just enough to reduce the volume slightly.
  5. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup water and the ClearJel; mix well with a fork until smooth. Scrape into the boiling juice, whisking until fully incorporated and smooth. Boil until juice is nicely thickened, about 1 – 2 minutes. Add apple slices (along with any remaining juice), stir well to coat, reduce heat, cover the pan, and simmer for 5 minutes, until apples are heated through.
  6. Ladle hot pie filling into hot jars, leaving 1 and 1/4 inch headspace. Carefully remove air bubbles and push apple slices below the syrup; adjust headspace, wipe rim, affix lid, and process in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes (for pint or quart jars). At the end of the processing time, allow jars to rest in the canner, with the heat & lid off, for at least 10 minutes, in order to prevent siphoning. Remove and rest jars, undisturbed, until cooled.

Yields about 3 quarts.


  1. The Ball recipe specifies a headspace of 1 inch; I’ve made this recipe several times now and very often have issues with siphoning. My jars have eventually sealed (a jar in this situation is still viable and safe as long as a good seal forms), but I’ve found that a headspace of 1 and 1/4 inch lessens this problem. In addition, ensure that the apples are thoroughly heated through before processing, to prevent expansion when they are heated in the boiling water bath.
  2. For a boozy twist, replace 1/2 cup of apple cider with bourbon, whiskey or brandy.
  3. When you are ready to use your filling for a pie, prepare one recipe of Rose’s Deluxe Flaky Pie Crust (double recipe for a top-crust pie), shape into a 8- or 9-inch pie pan, and fill with one quart of filling. If using a top crust, seal the seams around the edge of your pie and make slashes or decorative cut-outs in the top crust in order to allow steam to escape. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree F oven for approximately 1 hour, or until filling is bubbling and crust is browned. Allow to cool at least 30 minutes prior to serving. One quart makes one shallow 8- to 9-inch pie, but I often find for today’s larger pie dishes that I need 3 pints to fill a pie shell.  You can easily make pint jars of this filling, which are a bit easier to handle; 1 pint jar will make an 8-inch tart, 2 pint jars a standard 8- or 9-inch pie, and 3 pint jars a larger or deep-dish pie.
  4. I’ve tried this recipe with honey, but it turned out rather cloyingly sweet and with a watery texture.
  5. Save the apple ‘leavings’ (cores and peels) to make Apple Cider Vinegar (needs organically-grown apples) or Apple Pectin Stock. You can freeze the leavings until you have enough for either recipe.


In a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.


Fall through winter.


  1. hi kaela!

    i looked around on your site to find your contact info but could not find it. so i am sorry to post it here as a comment, but i am hosting a canning blog challenge over at my blog and thought it might right up your alley!

    have a look over at my site, it’s the new post and the name of the challenge is tigress’ can jam.


  2. localkitchen

    Hi Tigress,

    Thanks for stopping by! I think your can jam sounds like a lot of fun – count me in! 🙂

    p.s. Thanks for reminding me.. I thought the contact email was on my “About” page, but I guess not – it is now!

  3. It would certainly be safe to do so; I’m not sure about the ability of the starch to thicken up the filling sauce in the presence of the apples, so the end result may not be the same. But I don’t see why you couldn’t just can it without ClearJel, then toss the canned pie filling with cornstarch or arrowroot prior to baking. If you try, please come back and let us know how it turns out!

  4. Flan

    Excellent! I just didn’t pre-plan enough, and can’t seem to find ClearJel locally, so I’ll have to order online, and since I have a house full of apples, I need to make filling now! 🙂

  5. I couldn’t find any locally either, but once you buy it online, it’ll last a while: I’m still working on my original purchase. There is another brand, but the name escapes me (Easy Jel, maybe?)

    At any rate, let me know how it goes! Good luck with all those apples.

  6. Posey

    Do you think adding rhubarb to this filling, for example substituting half of the apples for rhubarb, would also work? From what I gather rhubarb is quite acidic so my guess is it would be safe . . . but trust your good judgment better than my own! Thanks for any tips you have.

  7. Hi Josey,

    Absolutely, rhubarb is safely acidic, so on the pH front, substituting for apples is perfectly safe. One should also consider density (or how heat will penetrate rhubarb pieces vs apple pieces in processing): the Ball book has a rhubarb strawberry pie filling recipe that calls for 1-inch slices and processes for only 15 minutes, so you should be fine with a 25 minute processing time if you keep the rhubarb to 1-inch pieces or less.

    Since rhubarb acts as a thickening agent, I would cut down on the ClearJel; perhaps cut the amount in half. (FWIW, the Ball rhubarb-strawberry recipe specifies 7 cups of rhubarb, 4 cups of strawberries and 3 large apples, but no added ClearJel). You may also want to adjust the sugar amount, as rhubarb is much more tart than apple, but that is totally up to you: it will have no affect on recipe safety.

  8. Brooke - in Oregon

    I am excited to try this and our apples are just starting so this is great. I am reading this after your update in 2011, but I got all excited reading the comments cause I thought maybe Tigress was doing another can jam! lol Then I had to laugh at myself when I realized she was talking about the original can jam! 🙂 (You probably have figured out by now I am such a DORK) Lol

    • Ha! I both miss the Can Jam and am so thankful that we didn’t have one this year. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought in recent months, when looking back at old Can jam recipes: how did I EVER squeeze it in? I know Tigress has had a crazy year as well: but, there’s still hope. There is always next year! 🙂

  9. Just beautiful! I did my Apple Pie Filling this past week too 🙂 I want to post up something on it, but just overwhelmed. Gorgeous photos and love reading over the old comments!

  10. My jars are doing their cooling period in the canner right now. I tried the one on SB Canning’s site the other day. Way too sweet even after I cut the sugar down and way too goopy from a lot more Clear Jel. But I can give it as a gift since my friends like things way sweeter than I do. I am love with this recipe. I doubled it since I am trying to use up the last of the apples. I ended up with 8 quarts. The only addition I made was to add some vanilla bean paste to cider mixture.

    I have been assisting at a local culinary school so I can take some classes for free. The chef who runs it wants to try some of my canned stuff. I will be taking her a quart of your recipe not the other one.

    • The SB Canning recipe is essentially the same as the Ball recipe, although doubled in volume. I tried the Ball version the first time I made canned apple pie filling but yes, found it much too sweet for me, and the texture, IMO, was cloying with that much ClearJel. This one, I hope, will taste more like a fresh-made apple pie.

      I hope your Chef likes it!

  11. Pingback: Canning Apple Pie Filling | No Empty Chairs

  12. The chef who used to be the head baker at one of the better restaurants in town for decades teaches at the school as well. She took the jar I brought in and used it. She also cans but had not tried pie filling. She liked it a lot.

    I just used this as the base for a pear cranberry filling. I swapped out the apples for pears and throw in a bag of cranberries. And used cardamom along with the cinnamon. And pear cider. I can’t wait to bake it. The pears had a lovely flavor.

  13. jen c

    I tried this for the first time this year, some in quart jars, some in pints (that’s what I had). I got some siphoning, all of them sealed. Only challenge was getting the quart jars fully submerged for the BWB. I’ve got the full size enameled canner pot, but it’s just not tall enough to get 1-2 inches of boiling water above the jars w/o it all boiling over onto the stove top! Any advice on dealing with quart jars?

    • I find quart jars a pain, honestly, and rarely use them. But when I do, I have a tall, skinny stockpot that I prefer to use for them; it only fits 3 jars, but there is more room at the top for water at a full boil. One thing I have done with my regular canner is to place a weight on the lid (usually a few heavy potholders); this keeps the lid from rattling and cuts down on water sloshing out the sides. Also if your canner rack is high (ie, 1/4 to 1/2-inch off the floor of the pot) you might consider using a dishtowel under the jars instead: every little bit of space helps.

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  15. Sandi

    These recipes have been terrific. Thank you! We have had great success this season with the Quatro jars. The apple butter – both plain, and we used rum instead of bourbon, is amazing. Love this pie as well. Processed easily with all three types of apples (mixed). Our three apple trees this year were super abundant so these recipes helped to keep much of the harvest for the coming year. Our final task is to use the remaining apples for cider. Will let you know how the homemade press and the 1.5 liter jars work out. Again, great recipes.

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