Fruit trees, whether apple, pear, or some other type, are a common sight on homesteads and in a growing number of urban backyard landscapes. And there are good reasons for it. Fruit trees give you a food source that requires less work to grow (after the initial planting) than most vegetable gardens. You need to prune fruit trees once a year and keep an eye out for diseases and pests, but they don’t require the labor-intensive planting, watering, and weeding that your vegetable garden does. They’re a good complement to annual gardens, and they strengthen your food security. And, what’s the best reason to have apple trees in the backyard? Homemade apple pie.
But, there’s a catch. As yummy as apple pie tastes, nobody wants to eat it every night for 4 weeks straight. The thing about having your own apple trees or garden is that the harvest tends to come all at once. There’s a window for baking with and eating homegrown fruits and vegetables fresh from the tree, vine, or ground, and then that window is gone.
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To preserve the flavor of fall, and give yourself the ability to quickly make a hot apple pie for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or some random night in the middle of February, you need canned apple pie filling. The good news is, it’s one of the easiest canning recipes, and it’s great for beginners because it’s processed in a water bath canner (as opposed to a pressure canner). Here’s how to make this delicious apple pie filling.
- 12 cups of peeled, sliced apples
- 2-3/4 cups of sugar
- 3/4 cup of clear jel (a special corn starch thickener for canning)
- 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons (t) of ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon (t) of ground nutmeg
- 1-1/4 cup of water
- 2-1/2 cups of apple juice
- 1/2 cup of lemon juice (plus a splash to keep the apples from discoloring)
- Prepare your jars, lids, tools, and water bath canner.
- Peel, core, and slice apples, splashing them with a bit of lemon juice to prevent browning.
- Blanch the apple slices in boiling water for 1 minute and set aside (keep them covered so they stay warm).
- In a large stainless-steel saucepan or stockpot (note: aluminum pans react to the acid in apples, leaving a metallic taste), bring the sugar, clear jel, cinnamon, nutmeg, water, and apple juice to a boil. Add the 1/2 cup of lemon juice and boil for another minute. The mixture will start to thicken quickly.
- Stir in the apple slices to incorporate fully and heat them before processing.
- Fill prepared canning jars, leaving a 1-inch head space. Remove air bubbles, wipe the rims with a clean paper towel or cloth. Add canning lids and rings.
- Process in a water bath for 25 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, and let everything sit for 5 minutes to cool before removing the jars with a jar lifter (Do not tilt the jars. The water on top of the jars will evaporate). Let the jars sit for 24 hours in an area free from drafts, then check the seals and refrigerate any jars that don’t seal properly.
The recipe makes approximately 7 pints. With canning, though, you sometimes end up with not quite enough to process the final pint or quart properly or a bit extra that you didn’t plan on. If that happens to you with this apple pie filling, you can refrigerate the extra knowing that it makes an excellent topper for pancakes the next morning.
For those who are interested in learning more about home canning, I recommend the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. It covers everything you need to know about the science and safety of canning in an easy-to-understand format, and it has hundreds of recipes that explain the steps in detail.
Wondering which apples to pick up from the market or to plant in your backyard? Head over to the Pursuit Of It All blog post on how to tell apples apart. There’s a terrific graphic on different apple varieties and what they are best for (pies, snacking, sauce, etc.) that originally comes from the USApple Association.