A homemade apple pie is such a labor of love, but if you have this canned apple pie filling recipe sitting on your pantry shelf, you can have apple pie any day of the week in much less time than from scratch. The reason? All the labor-intensive work is done! Apples are peeled, cored, and sliced, the sauce is thickened and, as long as you have a pie crust ready to go, it's just minutes away from popping into the oven.
I'm a sucker for pie season. Truth be told, I really don't think about pie much unless it's cold outside (OK, maybe I do think about my homemade hand pies – AKA pop tarts – when it's not cold!). There's something about the changing of the weather, the falling leaves, the heavy fog that rolls through the property. It all just beckons a pie baking in the oven.
Am I the only one who thinks this?
That's not to say I don't bake pies year-round, or at least I didn't used to until I started canning my own pie filling.
Learning how to can apple pie filling means you never have to buy apples out of season, when they cost an arm and a leg, and it also means you can have pie whenever you want. Which makes it one of my favorite pantry staples.
Nothing says fall like a good crisp apple. I love the way an apple fits perfectly in the palm of my hand. The way they perfume the air, promising delectable delights. And it means I get to can up a new batch of homemade apple pie filling in my pressure canner.
My father-in-law adores apple pie and it's my
responsibility privilege to provide the apple pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.
My favorite apple in pies and applesauce is the Gravenstein. I planted my own a couple of years back, so it's only producing enough for fresh eating. Thankfully, my parents have an ancient one in their field.
Why I Love This Recipe
- Quick: If all I have to do is whip up a batch of my grandma's pie crust, which truly is the flakiest and most delicious pie crust recipe you'll ever try, then making a homemade apple pie is quick and simple. (Have you ever tried baking pie crust with home rendered lard you made yourself using my foolproof method? You'll never go back!)
- Makes a great gift: Having a jar of apple pie filling sitting on the pantry shelf is not only a gift to yourself, but it makes a great Christmas or hostess gift. It's like a hug in a jar, just sitting there waiting for the right time to be opened and enjoyed!
- You know all the ingredients: Sure, you could go buy a can of apple pie filling at the grocery store, but there's something about knowing that all the ingredients used in your food are healthy and the highest quality available.
- Store it for up to a year: While fresh apples won't last an entire year, this canned apple pie filling will have no problem sitting on the shelf for a year. Actually, if you follow proper canning protocol, this would likely store longer than a year, but because you'll want to can up fresh with your apple harvest next year, only can how much you'll need for the year and for gifting.
Best Apples for Apple Pie
I always get asked what the best kind of apples are for apple pie and, the truth is, it totally depends on your taste! Some people swear by Granny Smith apples, but I actually like my apple pie a bit sweeter, so I prefer a Gravenstein apple. This is a very old variety of apple.
Because my Gravenstein apple tree isn't very big, I don't usually get enough to make pies, so I'm using Honey Crisp. I also like to use Gala and Fuji, but the trick is harvesting them when they're ripe and still very firm.
You can always adjust the sugar content to your taste and the sweetness of your apples.
Harvesting the Right Apples
It's important to choose the right apples just at the peak of ripeness. If you're harvesting your apples or picking them from an orchard, you'll know the apples are ripe when a few apples have already fallen to the ground.
The other trick is if you grab an apple that's still on the tree and start twisting it, if it pops off within a couple of twists it's ripe. You don't want to harvest apples too early because they won't have their best flavor, but if you harvest them too late, they won't store as well and you'll be having to work around soft spots and other blemishes.
Likewise, when you get your apples inside and all rinsed off, you want to go through them and pick the very best looking apples.
Save the bruised apples for apple sauce, homemade apple pie jam, apple butter, raw apple cider vinegar, or these other 11 ways to preserve apples at home. But for apple pie, you want those slices beautiful!
Cornstarch or ClearJell?
My original apple pie filling recipe used cornstarch, but the cornstarch does break down after time, and is no longer approved for canning due to safety issues. The jars I use for Christmas baking were fine, but by the time I hit spring, they were a mushy runny mess. They still worked, but the crusts were a bit soggy in the pies.
I've now been using ClearJell® both because it's the only approved canning thickener and because it truly does create a superior end product! Plus, there's too much precious time and work to waste on a recipe that's not safe and doesn't hold up.
Want a canned apple pie filling recipe without ClearJell? Simply omit the ClearJell (follow instructions in the notes of the recipe if not using ClearJell due to headspace difference) and instead, when you open the jar to bake your pie , add a thickener of your choice to the pie filling just as if you were using fresh apples, bake, and enjoy!
Preparing the Apples
Before you begin peeling and slicing your apples, have a large bowl filled with water and some lemon juice. This will keep the apples from turning brown.
There's nothing wrong with brown apples and it won't affect the flavor, it's just that they'll look prettier in your jars once you've canned them if they don't oxidize.
Peeling and coring the apples is much easier when using a hand cranked apple peeler and corer , but I actually prefer to hand peel and hand slice my apples because the hand-cranked kitchen gadget I have actually slices the apples too thin for apple pie.
In fact, I used to can my filling this way, but in my experience, the apples broke down too much and resulted in a mushy apple pie filling (no one wants mushy apples in their apple pie!). So save the peeler and corer for those apples that'll be turned into applesauce (and then used in these homemade pumpkin applesauce muffins!
Trust me, it's worth the extra work to do it by hand.
Blanching your apples is an important step because apples have a lot of oxygen in them. When you can your apple pie filling, that air will want to escape and you'll end up with siphoning of your jars which can lead to seal failure.
Also, your apples will shrink as that oxygen escapes during the canning process so you'll have jars that aren't full. I've done both raw pack apple pie filling and hot pack apple pie filling, the hot pack method, though it takes an extra step, is worth every bit of effort.
Blanch your apples, six cups at a time, in boiling water for one minute. Once they're done you can remove them with a slotted spoon to a large bowl.
If you're blanching your apples in batches, you'll want to keep the apples warm, so place a lid over the bowl (or place a cookie sheet over the top like I do!).
Prepare Your Canner
Most canners can only fit up to 7 quart jars at a time, but I usually like to can about 4 quarts at a time. This allows me to have enough filling for four pies, but it doesn't take up too much of my day.
While you're blanching your apples, go ahead and bring the water in your canner up to 180 degrees F. This is a hot-pack recipe, so you want all your ingredients and supplies hot when you start canning
Prepare Your Jars
Wide mouth quart jars work best for this recipe, but narrow mouth can be used as well.
Wash your jars with warm soapy water, then either keep them in a sink filled with hot water or if you're using a steam canner like I am, place them on the rack above the hot water to keep them warm.
Canned Apple Pie Filling Recipe
(Adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving )
- With your prepared and blanched apples keeping warm in a bowl, add 3 & 3/4 cups water to a large stainless steel pot.
2. Add in the sugar, spices, and ClearJel® and bring to a boil over medium-high heat (don't use a hard boil). Stirring constantly, cook until it thickens and bubbles. Add lemon juice and boil for 1 minute more, constantly stirring.
3. Remove from heat and fold in apples. Ladle apple pie filling into warm prepared jars, a canning funnel makes this way easier, let me tell you.
4. Leave 1-inch headspace, run a spatula down the inside of the jars to remove air bubbles. Wipe rim with a damp clean towel. Center lid and screw bands down until tight.
5. Place jars filled with apple pie filling in a hot water bath for 25 minutes.
6. Turn off the heat, remove the lid, and let sit for 5 minutes.
7. Using a jar lifter, carefully remove hot jars to a towel and allow it to cool without moving overnight.
8. Remove bands, check seals, wipe down outside of the jar, and store in the pantry, out of direct sunlight for up to 1 year.
Altitude adjustment: If you're 1,000 to 3,000 feet above sea level, increase processing time by 5 minutes (30 minutes total), 3,001 to 6,000 feet above sea level, increase processing time by 10 minutes (35 minutes total).
I have to confess, I licked the side of the syrup pot before washing. We have to taste test right? It was soooo good.
How to Bake Your Pie
When ready to bake your pie, pour one-quart apple pie filling into an 8 or 9-inch pie plate lined with pie pastry (don't forget to use my grandmother's flaky pastry recipe that takes less than 15 minutes to make).
Arrange the top crust over the pie filling and cut slits for steam to escape. Crimp the edges, and bake at 400 degrees F for 50 minutes.
Alternately, this filling works great for a homemade apple crisp! Just use your favorite crumble recipe and bake!
Apple Pie Filling FAQs
Can You Pressure Can Apple Pie Filling?
No. I used to pressure can my apple pie filling, but without being able to find an approved tested time for pressure canning, I only water bath process my pie filling now for safety.
Why Didn't My Recipe Make 4 Quarts?
Each apple variety (and even within the same variety) has a different water content, so once you've blanched your apples, you may end up with fewer apples. You haven't done anything wrong, this is just the way it goes when preserving your own food.
Can I Adjust the Sugar?
Yes, the sugar in this recipe is for flavor only and does not affect the canning process. You can scale the sugar up or down according to your preference
How do I Adjust for Altitude?
If you're 1,000 to 3,000 feet above sea level, increase processing time by 5 minutes (30 minutes total), 3,001 to 6,000 feet above sea level, increase processing time by 10 minutes (35 minutes total). All other steps remain the same.
Other Apple Preserving Recipes:
- Low Sugar Apple Pie Jam
- How to Can Apple Butter
- 11 Ways to Preserve Apples at Home
- How to Make Raw Organic Apple Scrap Cider Vinegar
Canned Apple Pie Filling
- 12 cups apples peeled, cored, and sliced
- 2 3/4 cups raw sugar
- 3/4 cup Clear Jel. See notes if omitting
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 3 3/4 cups water
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- Place peeled, cored, and sliced apples in boiling water for 1 minute, working 6 cups of apples at a time.
- Remove apples with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Cover to keep warm.
- In a large stainless steel pot, combing sugar, ClearJel®, spices, and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat (don't use a hard boil), stirring constantly, and cook until it thickens and bubbles.
- Add lemon juice and boil for 1 minute more, constantly stirring.
- Remove from heat and fold in apples.
- Ladle apple pie filling into warm prepared jars. Wide mouth jars work best for this recipe, but narrow can be used.
- Leave 1 inch headspace, run a spatula down the inside of the jars to remove air bubbles.
- Wipe rim with a damp clean towel. Center lid and screw bands down until tight.
- Place jars filled with apple pie filling in a hot water bath for 25 minutes.
- Turn off heat, remove lid, and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Using a jar lifter, carefully remove hot jars to a towel and allow to cool without moving over night.
- The next day, check seals, remove bands, wipe down outside of jar and store in out the pantry of direct sunlight for up to 1 year.