Canning: Apple Pie Filling

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

This was a fun one to can, but boy did it ever make a HUGE mess in my kitchen! :)

You can find the recipe at the Ball "Fresh Preserving" site:

Apple Pie Filling Recipe

This was my first time working with Clear Jel. It is a modified corn starch that can be used in canning (normal corn starch is no longer considered safe to use). It is not the easiest stuff to find, so you may have to hunt around for it a bit or order online.

I found some at Orson Gygi in Salt Lake, however, what I didn't notice was that the container I picked up said it was "Instant Clear Jel". Come to find out, there are two types - Instant and Regular (sometimes called Clear Jel A). The end result of both is about the same, but the application is VASTLY different!

For the pie filling, you want REGULAR Clear Jel. If you're in the Salt Lake valley, you can find it at Kitchen Kneads. I don't know whether Orson Gygi carries the regular stuff or just the instant. The batch above was made with the instant stuff, but it was my second attempt - the first batch was an utter disaster!

Why? Because the instructions assume you are using regular Clear Jel, which needs to be dissolved in liquid and then heated before it will gel. The instant stuff, however, doesn't require heat and will gel INSTANTLY when mixed with any liquid (yup, hence the "instant" in the title). So here I was following the instructions, not realizing that my Clear Jel was the wrong kind. It basically said to dump everything for the filling (except the apples) into a pot, mix, dissolve and then heat until thickened. So that's what I did. The Clear Jel was measured into the pot on top of the sugar. Then the apple juice was added. And INSTANTLY there were clumps - NOT a good sign! (And from many bad experiences with gravies and corn starch in my past, I know that once you get those clumps, you're pretty much done for - ain't no easy way to save it, baby.)

We boiled, we whisked, we strained - but no luck. So we had to toss the batch. (Thankfully we had not added the apples yet.)

We paused and I spent a few minutes looking up some Clear Jel instructions online, and found that I could use the instant stuff, but that to prevent it from clumping, I would need to mix it together with all the dry stuff FIRST, before adding any liquid, and then would need to whisk as the liquid was slowly added. So that's what we did, and it worked just fine.

So far it is holding up in the jars just fine, but some sites said the instant Clear Jel can tend to break down after being canned, or darken, so most of them suggested sticking with the regular Clear Jel (Clear Jel A) and skipping the instant stuff. That's what I would suggest, too, if you have the choice.

Moral of the story? Make sure you have the right ingredients for your recipe... ;)

[There was a little bit of pie filling left that didn't fit in the jars, so we dumped it into a pie plate and after dinner I made a crumb topping, sprinkled it on top, and baked it in the oven for a few minutes to make a psuedo apple crumble - DELICIOUS!!!]