How to Make Cherry Pie Filling - Easily! With Step-by-step Photos, Recipe, Directions, Ingredients and Costs

This month's notes: December 2014: Harvested local apples are still available at farmers and farmer's markets! And of course, you can cut your own Christmas tree, get one already cut or get a libing one to plant after Christmas - see this page.  Make your own homemade ice cream including low fat, low sugar and other flavors))  Have fun, eat healthier and better tasting, and save money by picking your own locally grown fruit and vegetables, and then using our easy canning and freezing directions

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How to Make Homemade Cherry Pie Filling

Click here for a PDF print version!

You think making and canning your own cherry pie filling or jam is difficult or expensive?  Not at all!  Here's how to do it, complete instructions in easy steps and completely illustrated. The cherry pie filling will taste MUCH better than that over-sugared tasteless glop in the can from the grocery store, and by using fresh cherries, the flavor will be much stronger!

Prepared this way, the jars have a shelf life of 18 months to 2 years, and require no special attention.

Now here's how you can, too!


Directions for Making Cherry Pie Filling

Ingredients and Equipment to make 1 quart or 7 quarts of cherry pie filling
(just double the 1 quart numbers to make 2 quarts, etc.)

 

Ingredients for Cherry Pie Filling.

  Quantities of Ingredients Needed For
  1 Quart 7 Quarts
Fresh or thawed sour cherries 3-1/2 cups 6 quarts
Granulated sugar
(OR Stevia or Splenda,
honey or agave, see step 5)
1 cup 7 cups
Clear Jel® (dry) 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon 1 and 3/4 cups
Cold water or  cherry juice 1-1/3 cups 9 and 1/3 cups
Bottled Lemon Juice 2 tablespoons 1/2 cup
Cinnamon (optional) 1/8 teaspoon 1 teaspoon
Almond extract (optional) 1/4 teaspoon 2 teaspoon
Red food coloring (optional) 6 drops 1/4 teaspoon

 

  • ClearJel® starch - here's where to get it:
  • Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars)
  • Lid lifter (has a magnet to pick the lids out of the boiling water where you sanitize them. ($2 at mall kitchen stores and local "big box" stores, but it's usually cheaper online from our affiliates)
  • Jar funnel ($2 at mall kitchen stores and local "big box" stores, but it's usually cheaper online from our affiliates)
  • At least 1 large pot
  • Large spoons and ladles
  • Ball jars (Publix, Kroger, other grocery stores and some "big box" stores carry them - about $8 per dozen quart jars including the lids and rings)
  • 1 Water Bath Canner (a huge pot with a lifting rack to sanitize the jars of cherry pie filling after filling (about $30 to $35 at mall kitchen stores and local "big box" stores, but it's usually cheaper online from our affiliates) You CAN use a large pot instead, but the canners are deeper, and have a rack top make lifting the jars out easier. If you plan on canning every year, they're worth the investment.
  • Cherry pitter: without one of these, it's pretty hard to remove the pits from a fresh cherry.

Recipe and Directions

Step 1 - Selecting the cherries

You can use fresh or even frozen cherries, but obviously you'll get the best price and freshest taste if you go pick your own. Typically, cherries are in season in the US and Europe in April in warmer climates through June in the colder areas - check the harvest calendar for your state! Select fresh, very ripe, and firm cherries. Unsweetened frozen cherries may be used. If sugar has been added, rinse it off while the fruit is still frozen.

 

 

Step 2 - Wash the jars and lids

Now's a good time to get the jars ready, so you won't be rushed later. The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle, the water bath processing will sanitize them as well as the contents! If you don't have a dishwasher with a sanitize cycle, you can wash the containers in hot, soapy water and rinse, then sanitize the jars by boiling them 10 minutes, and keep the jars in hot water until they are used. Leave the jars in the dishwasher on "heated dry" until you are ready to use them. Keeping them hot will prevent the jars from breaking when you fill them with the hot cherry pie filling.

Put the lids into a pan of hot, but not quite boiling water (that's what the manufacturer's recommend) for 5 minutes, and use the magnetic "lid lifter wand" to pull them out.

Step 3 - Wash the berries and sort!

I'm sure you can figure out how to wash the fruit in a colander of plain cold water.

Then you need to pick out and remove any bits of stems, leaves and soft or mushy berries. It is easiest to do this in a large bowl of water and gently run your hands through the berries as they float.  With your fingers slightly apart, you will easily feel any soft or mushy berries get caught in your fingers.

Then just drain off the water through a colander! A number of people have written to ask where to get the conical metal colanders that our grandmothers used - here's where:

 

Step 4 - Pit the cherries

Pit the fresh cherries, and keep them in cold water with 1/4 lemon juice add (to prevent browning)
             

A cherry pitter is inexpensive and easy to use, once you learn the trick.  The goal is to push down so the metal stem holds the pit down against the opening in the bottom of the cup.  The pits will not go through the hole; it is just to help trap them.  then releasing your grip, the cherry rides up on the metal stem, while the pit remains trapped in the cup, stuck in the hole. Then just push the cherry off and use your thumb on the underside of the cup, to push the pit back out.

 

 

I'm really like the next two.  They handle larger volumes of cherries reliably!

Step 4 - Blanch the Cherries

It's pretty simple:  place the  cherries (up to 7 cups at a time) in a large pot with at least 1 gallon of boiling water. Boil each batch 1 minute after the water returns to a boil. You're not really "cooking" the cherries - just blanching them.  Blanching means heating the at high temperature for a brief time to stop the enzymes that can cause the flavor to degrade during storage.

Drain and keep the hot cooked fruit in a covered bowl or pot.

Step 5 - Make the liquid for the filling

Mix 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of ClearJel starch with each 1 cup of sugar (see below for other sweetener options) in a large pot. Add the 1 and 1/3 cup of water or cherry juice.  If desired, add cinnamon, almond extract, and food coloring. (I don't add food coloring; I prefer mine to be natural!)

Sweetener Options (per quart)

Type of sweetener Notes Amount per 1 quart Amount per 7 quart batch
Stevia Stevia blends vary a lot in concentration and sweetness - just make it as sweet as you prefer.  1/3 cup 3 and 1/3 cups
Splenda   1 cup 7 cups
Blend (50-50 sugar and Splenda)   1/2 cup Splenda AND 1/2 cup of sugar 3 and 1/2 cups Splenda AND 3 and 1/2 cups of sugar
Blend (sugar and Stevia)   1/4 cup Stevia AND 1/2 cup of sugar 2 cups Stevia AND 2 cups of sugar
Honey You need to thin the honey with some normal strength, not undiluted concentrate, fruit juice 3/4 cup of honey and 1/3 cup of cherry or grape juice 6 cups of honey and 1 cup of cherry or grape juice
Concentrated frozen cherry or grape juice Use undiluted 1 cup undiluted concentrated thawed from frozen 7 cups undiluted concentrated thawed from frozen
Agave   1 cup 7 cups
Other combinations: Of course, you can use of combinations of agave, fruit juice, honey, sugar and/or Stevia. It will be trial and error to find out what works best for you, as I haven't tested all possible combinations.       

Stir mixture and cook over medium high heat until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. WARNING: it gets thick really quickly, so don't overcook it, and if you need to add additional fruit juice or water to thin it out enough to be able to fill the jars.

Add lemon juice and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.

  1 Quart 7 Quarts
Granulated sugar (other choices, see above) 1 cup 7 cups
Clear Jel® 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon 1 and 3/4 cups
Cold water or  cherry juice 1-1/3 cups 9 and 1/3 cups
Bottled Lemon Juice 2 tablespoons 1/2 cup
Cinnamon (optional) 1/8 teaspoon 1 teaspoon
Almond extract (optional) 1/4 teaspoon 2 teaspoon
Red food coloring (optional) 6 drops 1/4 teaspoon


Note: I use cherry juice to add the flavor and natural sweetness, but you can just use cold water, as the cherry juice can be expensive and hard to find.

Why use ClearJel?

ClearJel® is a corn starch that has been modified to give it special and unique characteristics when used in food products. It is recommended by the USDA for making pie fillings because it does not break down in the acid food mixtures and does not thicken enough during heat processing to interfere with the intended effect of the heat on killing bacteria during canning. In other words it reduces spoilage and is safer than corn starch. It is preferred for thickening canned pie fillings as well as other  foods over other corn starches because it has less or no aftertaste, the thickened juices are smooth and clear, and foods thickened with ClearJel® may be frozen.

 

Step 6 - Combine the liquid with the berries

Fold the berries into the hot liquid. Stir gently.

Step 7 - Fill the jars with the cherry mixture

Pretty self explanatory.  A jar funnel helps.  Gently jostle the jar to help it settle in the jar and reduce the amount of air space. Fill the jars to within 1 inch of the top, wipe any spilled cherry pie filling of the top, seat the lid and tighten the ring around them.

 

 

 

 

 

Step 8 - Process the filled jars in the water bath

Put the filled jars in the canner and keep them cover with at least 1 inch of water and boiling. if you are at sea level (up to 1,000 ft) boil pint and/or quart jars for 30 minutes.

 

If you are at an altitude of 1,000 feet or more, see this chart.

 

USDA-Recommended process time for Hot Pack Pint or Quart Jars of Cherrry Pie Filling in a boiling-water canner.

Process Time at Altitudes of
0 - 1,000 ft 1,001 - 3,000 ft 3,001 - 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
30 min 35 40 45
 

Step 9 - Remove and cool the jars - Done

Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight)  You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok.

 

 

This document was adapted from the "Complete Guide to Home Canning," Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 539, USDA, revised 1994, Reviewed June 2006.


Other Equipment:

From left to right:

  1. Jar lifting tongs to pick up hot jars
  2. Lid lifter - to remove lids from the pot of boiling water (sterilizing )
  3. Lid - disposable - you may only use them once
  4. Ring - holds the lids on the jar until after the jars cool - then you don't need them
  5. Canning jar funnel - to fill the jars

 

 

 

 

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[General picking tips and a guide to each fruit and vegetable] [How much do I need to pick? (Yields - how much raw makes how much cooked or frozen)] [Selecting the right varieties to pick] [All about apple varieties - which to pick and why!]  [Picking tips for Vegetables] [ Strawberry picking tips] [ Blueberries picking tips]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Illustrated Canning, Freezing, Jam Instructions and Recipes

All About Home Canning, Freezing and Making Jams, Pickles, Sauces, etc. ] [FAQs - Answers to common questions and problems] [Recommended books about home canning, jam making, drying and preserving!] [Free canning publications to download and print]

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* Also includes canning rack, funnel, jar lifter, jar wrencher, bubble freer, tongs and lid lifter.
* A Kitchen Krafts exclusive collection.

This is the same type of standard canner that my grandmother used to make everything from applesauce to jams and jellies to tomato and spaghetti sauce. This complete kit includes everything you need and lasts for years: the canner, jar rack, jar grabber tongs, lid lifting wand, a plastic funnel, labels, bubble freer. It's much cheaper than buying the items separately. You'll never need anything else except jars & lids (and the jars are reusable)! There is also a simple kit with just the canner and rack, and a pressure canner, if you want to do vegetables (other than tomatoes). To see more canners, of different styles, makes and prices, click here!
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