Friday, May 10, 2013

Give the gift of pie!

Last year, my husband’s coworker gave out quart jars of homemade apple pie filling as her Christmas gift. I think that’s a fantastic idea. A one quart jar will fill an 8″ or 9″ pie for a fast, homemade dessert—but the possibilities go way beyond that. My favorite use was as a topping for pancakes. Just heat in a pan until thick, hot and bubbly and voila! Give the gift of pie!

It only takes one county extension class to have the importance of using a tested recipe in home canning. Seriously. They’re tested to make sure that the food quality is as good as it can be while still reaching the temperature to kill of the botulism that may be lurking in the middle of your jars. Botulism, in case you can’t tell, does NOT make a good neighbor gift.

Fortunately, other cooks, like the awesome people behind Our Best Bites, understand the importance of tested recipes. She used a recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation. And here it is:
Quantities of Ingredients Needed For
1 Quart7 Quarts
Blanched, sliced fresh apples3-1/2 cups6 quarts
Granulated sugar3/4 cup + 2 tbsp5-1/2 cups
Clear Jel®*1/4 cup1-1/2 cup
Cinnamon1/2 tsp1 tbsp
Cold Water1/2 cup2-1/2 cups
Apple juice3/4 cup5 cups
Bottled lemon juice2 tbsp3/4 cup
Nutmeg (optional)1/8 tsp1 tsp
Yellow food coloring (optional)1 drop7 drops

A note about ClearJel: it’s a modified cornstarch that stands up to heat, freezing and/or acid from fruit, unlike plain old cornstarch or other thickeners. The NCHFP says (emphasis mine):
Before assembling the other ingredients, including fresh fruits, to make the pie fillings in Extension canning recommendations, check to see if you will be able to get ClearJel®. There is no substitution for ClearJel® that can be made in these recipes. This means do not use other corn starch, flour, tapioca, or other thickener in our recipes. You also must use ClearJel® and not Instant ClearJel®, ClearJel A®, any other form of ClearJel®, or any other modified corn starch.

However, Sara at Our Best Bites contacted her local extension office and they said that Ultra Gel is the same product and it’s a bit easier to find than ClearJel. (But still—call ahead.)

And as with any home canning, double check the steps, especially the processing time for your altitude. If you don’t have a lovely water bath canner like the one above (and I don’t either), I’ve canned a few things without expensive equipment. I have to use pint jars and at least one site I looked at said to leave the processing time the same. Of course, this might affect the food quality, but I do believe in being safe rather than sorry.

Once your pie filling is done, tie it up with a bow and give the gift of pie!

What do you like to give your friends and neighbors?
Photos by Kurt and Sybilla

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