Blackberry Raspberry Pie Filling

When I saw a recipe for raspberry pie filling in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, I have to admit that I was fairly skeptical as to how well it would turn out. It’s a recipe with ClearJel, and if you’ve ever used ClearJel, you know what a gooey mess it can become. I was unsure how well I could maintain the integrity of such a delicate berry, but of course, that didn’t stop me – challenge accepted. So I thought what I’d try was just making one jar at a time. Since I had picked raspberries and blackberries on this particular day, I made a jar of raspberry, a jar of blackberry, and a jar of half and half. I am actually pretty happy with how it turned out! For the recipe I ended up following the extension publication, which was pretty much the same as Ball, but it gives amounts  for 1 or 7 quarts – Fruit Pie Fillings extension pub linked to here.

Ingredients (for just one quart):

3 1/3 cups raspberries or blackberries (or a combination)
1 cup sugar (I reduced to 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp ClearJel
1 1/3 cups cold water or fruit juice
1 tbsp + 1 tsp bottled lemon juice

Here’s how it’s made:

Prepare your canner, jars, and lids. Combine the sugar and ClearJel in a large pot and stir. Remember, you can safely reduce the ClearJel or sugar, if desired, so make one jar, see how you like it, and adjust accordingly next time. The lemon juice (added later), should not be reduced.

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Add water or juice, and cook mixture over medium high heat. It will initially get thick in chunks, and will smooth out to look how it does below. For a few more pictures check out my Cherry Pie Filling recipe.

Once the mixture is thick and bubbling, add the lemon juice and boil for one more minute, stirring constantly to prevent burning.

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Remove from heat, and gently fold in the berries.

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Doing just one jar I was able to keep the berries fairly unsquished, but if you go for the full canner load of 7 quarts, I make no guarantees. I have done a full batch of blueberries though, and with their firmer texture it works beautifully. The blackberries might be ok too, but I have my doubts on the raspberries. However, mushy would still be tasty!

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Immediately fill the hot quart jars, leaving a full 1 inch headspace, or perhaps even slightly more. ClearJel will expand a bit and you don’t want to risk jars not sealing over cramming in a couple extra berries. Wipe rims, apply lids, and tighten bands finger tip tight.

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Process the jars in a boiling water bath canner for 30 minutes (0 – 1000 feet elevation).

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After processing, remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes, and remove the jars to a hot pad or towel. Cool 12-24 hours, check seals, label, and store. Below I have the raspberry on the left, blackberry on the right, and the 50:50 combo pie in the middle. Can’t wait to make these into pie!!

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A “berry” good weekend – things to do with strawberries

Believe it or not, strawberry season is wrapping up here next week! So sad! However, I did do a pretty good job taking advantage of the berries this year. We bought a chest freezer, so I’ve frozen a bunch, and I did some dehydrating, canning, and wine making with the rest last weekend. A berry good weekend indeed. For many of you, berry season is probably just beginning, but whether this is your last week, or first, here is some inspiration for things to do with your berries.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling – my first blog post ever, and still one of my favourite recipes. The universe is telling us to put these two awesome items together by having them mature at the same time – you should really listen.



Strawberry Fruit Leather – Since this post, I’ve learned adding some apple sauce or other more fibrous fruit helps with the cracking and crispiness issue. But I also still love it with just strawberries.



Strawberry jam – a classic favourite of course. Or on the wilder side, add some wine to your jam and try this strawberry pinot noir jam.

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Strawberry wine – heck yes! It’s really not as hard as it seems by the length of the post. You should really really try it. Shorter, point form directions coming soon to entice you more, since not all of you have the attention span for this novel of a post.

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Or a non-alcoholic beverage  (or alcohol optional I should say) – strawberry lemonade concentrate!

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Got a couple handfuls left over still? Flavour some vinegar (or vodka? Post coming soon on that, but it’s basically the same as vinegar)


Now go, quickly, before they are gone!! Pick some berries! Eat some berries! Can some berries! Dry some berries! Love the berries! And don’t forget to eat some fresh – sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in preservation.  And lay off the caffeine! (Oh wait, that one’s for me.)

Cherry Pie Filling – Canning with Clear Jel

Pie fillings made with clear jel are so easy to preserve and are really great to have during the winter, when none of that delicious fruit is in season anymore. However, if you’ve never used clear jel, it can be a bit weird to use at first. The first time I used it I was canning blueberry pie filling, and the jel was looking pretty strange so I almost threw it away thinking I had screwed up. As a result, I wanted to do a little clear jel tutorial for this post, along with the recipe for cherry pie filling. See the very end of the post also for some additional clear jel notes. This recipe comes from an OSU Extension Service publication on fruit pie filling that you can find by clicking here. In that publication you can also find the recipes for how to do blueberry, apple, peach, or blackberry pie filling, which are very similar.

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In the publication, it lists ingredients for 1 and 7 quarts, so here I’ve just listed ingredients for one jar and you can scale up as needed. I do recommend a small batch first though, to see if you like it, because you can then adjust the sugar and clear jel to your liking. When canning with clear jel, you can alter the amount of clear jel and sugar that you use if you decide that it is too much, but don’t alter the amount of lemon juice. The lemon is important both for safety, and for making the clear jel stay the right consistency and remain shelf stable.

3 1/3 cups fresh, pitted sour cherries
1 cup granulated sugar
5 TBSP clear-jel
1 1/3 cups cold water or fruit juice
1 TBSP + 1 tsp bottled lemon juice
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
1/8 tsp cinnamon (optional)

For this recipe I actually had sweet cherries, so I reduced the sugar because of that. Again, try one jar first and see what you think. I also omitted the almond. The first step is to pit the cherries, which is pretty much impossible with out one of these, and soak them in an ascorbic acid solution, to prevent browning. The solution is one teaspoon of ascorbic acid per gallon of water, or 6 crushed vitamin c tablets (500 mg).

The first step in preparing the clear jel, is to combine the clear jel powder with the sugar (and cinnamon if you’re using it). Stir to combine.

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Add in the water or juice, whichever you are using, and the almond extract. Begin to heat the mixture over medium high heat, stirring constantly. This step, and what you see happening below, is where I almost threw out my first batch. As you can see, parts of it are starting to thicken and it becomes sort of chunky and nasty looking. I thought bits were burning to the bottom, which can happen if you aren’t careful, but don’t panic if this happens and some of it starts to thicken faster in chunks.

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Continue to stir and heat until it looks more like the consistency here. It will thicken nicely and consistently and begin to bubble.

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Once that consistency is reached, add in the lemon juice and stir for one more minute.

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Remove from heat and fold in the cherries.

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Fill quart jars, leaving a generous 1 inch head space. Pie filling, especially with clear jel, is one thing where you really do want that full inch or a touch more. With the starch boiling and expanding in the jars, you don’t want pie filling to volcano out of your jars when you remove them from the canner. Wipe the rims, apply the lids, and tighten bands finger tip tight. Process in a boiling water bath canner, covered by at least one inch of water, for 30 minutes, starting the time once a full rolling boil is reached. After the 30 minutes, turn off the heat, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove the jars to a hot pad or towel. Cool 12-24 hours, remove bands, wipe clean, label and store.

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Enjoy delicious pies, tarts, etc. all winter long.

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Some additional notes on clear jel.

When purchasing clear-jel, which can often be hard to find, make sure you buy the one made for canning, linked to here. The instant clear jel is a different product and is not the one intended for the high heat of canning. Sometimes local garden stores will carry it seasonally, or your local extension service may carry it (mine does not) but it’s also available online.

What is clear jel anyways? Well, it’s a thickener that is actually made from corn starch, but it’s been modified to withstand the high heat of cooking and canning without becoming thin and runny, or chunky. Corn starch is a great thickener for regular cooking, but it doesn’t really stand up well to canning. Clear jel is also made for use in low pH environments, like the pH of fruits. It also deoesn’t seperate over time, like other starches can. If you don’t like the starchy pie fillings there are a couple other options. You could follow a recipe for canning fruit in syrup, and then drain the syrup to use the fruit in a pie, or freeze the fruit instead. Don’t just try and can a pie filling recipe without it though, it’s not going to turn out well.

Cherry Pie Filling and Canning with Clear Jel on Punk Domestics

*this post contains affiliate links, please see the “About the Blogger” page for more information

Master Food Preserver Class – Week 2

I promised to post about master food preserver class each week, so here is what we learned in last Thursday’s class! I took 116 photos in class during week 2, and it didn’t feel like enough, so you know it must have been a good class! And of course it means this post will basically be a picture show. 😉 This week we covered freezing, fruit pie fillings and soft spreads. So I would like to start off with some fun facts that I learned in class that you may or may not already know.

– The best way to freeze if you are going to do a bunch of stuff, is to turn your freezer extra cold (down to -10F) the day before so that things freeze quickly. Frozen goods should be kept at 0F or below, so once frozen return the temperature to 0.
– Vegetables should always be blanched before freezing to stop enzymes that would otherwise cause changes in colour, texture, flavour and nutritional value. Recommended blanching times vary by vegetable and range from 1-10 minutes

One thing we covered for freezing was freezing convenience foods. So we did just that, and will eat these food later in the class! YUM.

One convenience food we froze was a “meal in a bag”:
-1 chicken breast cooked and diced
– 2 cups blanched veggies (or frozen ones)
– 1 cup pasta cooked until almost done
– seasoning packet in a separate baggie (such as 2t chicken bouillon, 1/2t garlic powder, 1/2t onion powder, 1/2t paprika, 1t parsley, 2T parmesan cheese)

Freeze it all up in a baggie. When you want to eat it, dump it all in a wok, stir fry it up and … presto!

Chicken for the meal in a bag.

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Blanched veggies for the meal in a bag.

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Combine it all and freeze. A great idea if you have a free weekend day and freezer space!

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Another convenience food we froze was twice baked potatoes. nom nom nom.

Bake potatoes, halve, and remove innards to a large bowl.

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Mash and mix in milk, sour cream, garlic, salt, pepper and cheese.

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Refill, top with more cheese if desired, then freeze on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer to freezer containers. When you want to eat it, bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes.

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The last convenience food we did was cookies. Works with most cookie recipes.

Mix up the recipe.

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Mold into balls (and in this case dip in sugar – yum!)

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Freeze on a cookie sheet and then transfer to a freezer container. When you want to eat them bake without thawing at 400F for 10-15 minutes.

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Fruit pie filling (and juice hiding in back)

Most fruit pie filling recipes for canning call for clear jel. What is clear jel anyways? It’s a starch used for thickening, and is basically a modified corn starch. You shouldn’t used regular corn starch or other thickening agents in canning, because they are not specifically designed for canning like clear jel. Clear jel has been modified to make it more heat stable, so it can take the heat of the canning process. It is also stable in low pH, like the pH of fruits. It makes products more shelf stable, and doesn’t separate over time like other starches can. It can be reduced in recipes too if you don’t want quite as much. If you don’t like the starchy pie fillings though, don’t try and can a pie filling recipe without it. Either follow a recipe for canning fruit in syrup, and then drain the syrup to use it in pies, or freeze the fruit instead!

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Soft spreads

Fun fact. Do you know the difference between a jelly, jam, conserve, preserve and a marmalade?
Jam – made from crushed or chopped fruit
Jelly – made from fruit juice
Conserve – made with two or more fruits and nuts or raisins
Preserves – made with whole fruits, or large pieces, in a clear, slightly gelled syrup
Marmalade – made with soft fruit and citrus peel in a clear jel

In class we made the following soft spreads. Click the names to link to the full recipe posts.

Blueberry lime jam

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and all canned up.

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Jalapeno pepper jelly.

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Strawberry lemon marmalade.

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And strawberry rhubarb jam.

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So many delicious treats! And the day’s excellent haul.

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