I had some frozen blueberries in my freezer that needed to be used. This was a large food service bag that I received from my local food pantry this past winter. I had run across a video that was showing how to can blueberry pie filling from frozen blueberries in January. So I thought this was a great idea to use the frozen berries I had. My mother never canned pie fillings only the fruit that would be used when making pies. To can pie fillings you have to purchase a product called Clear Jel. It is a special corn starch made to with stand the heat of canning. You will need the “cook type.” In February I ordered some from Amazon because no one carried it locally. Edited to add: You can order it from Walmart on line now and pick it up at the store.
I finally got around to canning the pie filling after researching for a recipe and watching all the videos on line. The videos really help to see the process being done. Written recipes don’t always give you all the tips that videos do. One of them used white grape juice instead of water and she suggested apple juice was good too. I was in luck because I had some regular grape juice and took that to heart. First I measured out how many cups of frozen berries I had before I started. I had to do a little math to figure out the amount of sugar I wanted based on what was in all the recipes I had researched. I set the blueberries in pan aside and washed up my jars. I figured I would need at least 7 pints plus and extra one just in case. I actually ended up filling 6 pints.
You don’t pressure can pie filling, but water bath process the filled jars. The empty clean jars went into the canner to be sterilized. I have a big blue canner that I have had since the late 1960’s. The basket that the jars sit in is still in great shape and will still hook safely on the rim of the pan out of the boiling water. To sterilize the jars in the canner with plenty of water needed to cover the pints and boil for 10 minutes. When the jars started to boil, I started to cook the clear jel and grape juice mixture in my large Dutch oven pot. You cook it first with out the berries and get it thickened. Then the berries and sugar mixture that has thawed is added. You do lots of stirring cooking the filling so be ready with every thing you need. You will have to continue with stirring from the beginning of the juice and clear jel until it is time to jar it up.
This is a hot pack process. How I do it is leave my sterilized jars in the hot water and lift them up with the basket and let the basket hang over the hot water with the jars, just before I fill them. You don’t have to do it the way I do. I remove the jars one at a time and fill them. Then seal the jars and place them right back into the basket . Then take the next empty jar from the basket and fill that one until I have all of them filled. All that is needed to do is lower the basket into the water bath to finish processing. You can put your hot jars in a warm oven after they are sterilized to keep them warm. Some people like to turn them upside down on the towel by the stove just before they cook the food that is being canned. I don’t have any kitchen space in the trailer to use the oven or counter. You do need very warm jars when you are filling them with hot food so they don’t break.
Important to note that you have to leave extra head space when filling the jars. The clear gel will expand while in the water bath. You will have a mess if you don’t. I thought I was leaving enough space but didn’t. The four of the jars didn’t seal and filling pushed out. I had to clean up the tops of the four jars and remove some of the filling. Then reseal them with a new flat lid and process them again in the water bath. The two jars that did seal, I marked on the label to use first because I am afraid they won’t stay sealed. The filling is all the way to the top with no head space.
This is the recipe I used to make 6 pints of pie filling from frozen blue berries. I chose pints because I make 7 1/2 inch pies and only one can of pie filling is needed. A quart jar would be too much. When I make a larger pie I can open two pints. Freeze your blueberries to can in the later months of the year when you have time to make jam and pie filling.
Canned Blueberry Pie Filling
Makes 6 pints
- 10 cups frozen blueberries
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 cup clear jel (cook type)
- 1/4 cup bottled lemon juice
- 4 cups water or white grape juice
- 1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
Measure frozen blueberries first and set them aside to thaw. When thawed do not drain the juice because the juice and berries will be added all at once after the clear jel is cooked.
Water bath hot pack process. Wash jars and sterilize in water bath.
In a large pan mix sugar and clear jel. Whisk to blend together before adding water or juice. Cook over medium heat while stirring all the time. You don’t want the mixture to stick or burn. Cook gently until very thick and bubbly. Add lemon juice and stir in until mixed. Add blueberries, juice and all. Continue to stir and bring to a boil. Add vanilla and cook for one minute.
Fill jars leaving more then one inch head space. This is important because the pie filling will expand while being processed in the water bath and not seal. The pie filling will leak out of the jars. You will have to remove some filling and wipe rims off. Then reseal with a new lid and process again in the water bath. Use a knife to remove the air bubbles from the jar. Wipe the rim with white vinegar to remove any filling and seal with lids.
Place filled and sealed jars into a hot water bath with 2 inches of water over the tops of the jars. When the water begins to boil hard, start timing the process for 25 minutes for pints and 30 minutes for quarts. When done turn off canner and let jars rest for 5 to 10 minutes in the canner before removing. Set on a towel and let cool completely.