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If you managed to survive my first diary on canning, this one will be a breeze. I’m going to show you a few more things you can do with a water bath canner. If you are a brand new canner, you might want to read the diary I published yesterday--How To Can, Part 1: Using A Water Bath Canner. Noddy also wrote an excllent diary on small batch canning--it is very good for those who only need to can a little bit at a time.

Notice that many of the recipes below call for the addition of lemon juice. That’s because adding seasonings, spices, cornstarch, or certain other things can lower the acid level of the finished product--making it unsafe to process in a water bath canner.

Pie Fillings

Canning pie filling differs only slightly from canning fruit in a medium or heavy syrup--it’s essentially the same thing, except now you’re adding a thickening agent--usually cornstarch. You can easily take a jar of canned fruit, add the seasonings you want along with some cornstarch, and make a respectable pie. If the fruit was loosely packed in the jar, you might need to drain a little of the liquid before you add the cornstarch.

Another thickening agent that has come out in the last few years is some stuff called Clear Jel Starch. According to the USDA, it’s a cornstarch type product that has been modified for use in canning, and they are now recommending that people use since it instead of regular cornstarch--it’s supposedly safer.  It is also very expensive--the cheapest I’ve seen it listed for is about $6 for a one pound package. For now, I think I’ll personally stick with plain old cornstarch--but you can decide for yourself which one you like better.

A quart jar of pie filing will make an 8 or 9 inch pie. Depending upon the ingredients you use, you can easily make pie filling a lot cheaper than you can buy it from the store, especially if you buy the fruit when it’s in season and cheap, or you raise your own. Below are a couple of  recipes for apple and strawberry pie filling.

Apple Pie Filling

Makes about 7 quarts

6 quarts fresh apple slices, soaked in fruit fresh, if desired
4 cups sugar
1 cup cornstarch or ClearJel starch
1-¼ tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ginger
2 cups cold water
5-½ cups apple juice
¾ cup lemon juice

Prepare your work area, then start getting the jars ready--you’ll need to wash and boil the jars, and get the lids and rings ready. In a separate large pot or kettle, bring a gallon or so of water to a boil. Blanch small batches at a time of the apples by dipping them in the boiling water for about 1 minute. Drain each batch and set aside in a large bowl. Rinse out the kettle you used to blanch the apples, and use it to make the syrup. Combine the sugar nutmeg, ginger water, and apple juice. Over medium high heat, bring to a boil. Combine the cornstarch(or ClearJel) with the lemon juice and add to the mixture in the kettle. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture just starts to thicken. Quickly add in the apple slices, and stir. Immediately spoon into the hot, sterilized jars, being careful to evenly distribute the apple slices. Leave 1 inch of headspace in each jar, and stir to remove air bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars clean and put on the lids and rings. Process in the boiling water canner as follows:

0-1,000 ft.    1,001-3,000 ft.    3,001 ft. to 6,000 ft.    Above 6,000 ft.
  25 min.          30 min.                35 min.                      40 min.

Remove from the canner at the end of the process time and cool.

Strawberry Pie Filling

Makes about 7 quarts

8 quarts of fresh strawberries
5-½ cups sugar
2 cups cornstarch or ClearJel starch
7 cups water
½ cup lemon juice

Prepare your work area. Wash and sterilize the jars, and get the lids and rings ready. In another large pot, get a gallon of water started boiling. Wash, hull, and clean the strawberries, throwing away (composting!) any that appear to be overripe or mushy. Slice the berries into quarters. Blanch the strawberries, small batches at a time, in the boiling water. Drain each batch and set them aside in a large bowl. In a large kettle, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and water. Cook over medium high heat until thickened. Stir in the lemon juice, then fold in the strawberries. Immediately spoon into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Stir to remove air bubbles, then wipe the rims of the jars clean. Put on the lids and rings and process as follows:

0-1,000 ft.    1,001-3,000 ft.    3,001-6,000 ft.    Above 6,000 ft.
  30 min.          35 min.                40 min.               45 min.

Remove from the canner at the end of the processing time and cool.

Fruit Sauces and Purees

Making a fruit sauce or puree just involves cooking the fruit in a little water until it is very soft, and then running it through a sieve, colander, or food mill to smash it up. A food mill is a handy kitchen tool--useful for many things beyond just canning. It will remove small seeds and skins from smaller fruits and berries. You can pick a good one up for about $25.

If you don’t have a food mill, and you want a smooth fruit sauce, you can smash up fruits that get peeled before cooking (like apples, pears, or peaches) with a potato masher, or you can even use an electric hand mixer. If you use a hand mixer, let the fruit sit for an hour or so before you pack it in the jars, since an electric mixer will incorporate some air into the sauce--something you don’t want. Remember to heat it back up to boiling before you pack it.

Below, I’ll show you how to make applesauce and cranberry sauce.


Ingredients for 9 pints
14 lbs. sweet tasting apples, such as Gala or McIntosh
½ cup water
½ cup sugar (optional)

Ingredients for 7 quarts
21 lbs. sweet tasting apples
½ cup water
1 cup sugar

Prepare your work area. Wash and start boiling the jars you are going to use, and start getting your lids and rings ready. Wash, peel and core the apples. Then start cutting them up--the more finely you chop them, the easier it will be to make a smooth applesauce out of them. They will also cook a little faster. Put the apples in a big kettle and add the water. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly to keep them from burning until they are very soft. Once the apples are soft, you can add sugar to them if you like. Cook and stir about another minute or so. Go ahead and pack them if you want chunky applesauce, or follow the directions above for smooth applesauce. Fill the hot sterilized jars with the applesauce, leaving about ½ inch of headspace. Stir to remove any bubbles, and wipe the rims of the jars clean. Put on the lids and rings, and process according to the chart below:

              0-1,000 ft.    1,001-3,000 ft.    3,001-6,000 ft.    Above 6,000 ft.
Pints        15 min.         20 min.               25 min.               30 min.
Quarts      20 min.         25 min.               30 min.               35 min.        

At the end of the processing time, remove from the canner and cool.

Cranberry Sauce

This recipe will make about 8 or 9 pint jars of cranberry sauce

4 quarts fresh cranberries
3 cups water
1 cup orange juice
8 cups sugar

Wash the cranberries, and make sure you remove any little stems or leaves. Cook them in the water and orange juice until they are nice and soft. Run them through a food mill, then return the crushed cranberries to the pot. Add the sugar and cook, stirring constantly, till the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 or 4 minutes. Pour into hot, sterilized jars, leaving about ½ inch of headspace. Stir to remove any bubbles, then wipe the rims of the jars clean. Put on the rings and lids, and process according to the chart below:

For processing pints:
0-1,000 ft.    1,001-3,000 ft.    3,001-6,000 ft.    Above 6,000 ft.
   15 min.         20 min.                25 min.              30 min.

At the end of the processing time, remove from the canner and cool.

Fruit Butters

Making fruit butters is just like making fruit sauces--the only difference is that you cook the fruit sauce until there is almost no liquid left. Fruit butters usually have additional seasonings and spices added to them. You can tell a fruit butter is done when it will mound up on a spoon. Another way to test it is to put a small amount of it on a plate--if no liquid runs out of it, it’s done. It’s very easy to scorch fruit butters, so you have to watch  them very closely.

Another way to make fruit butters is to cook them in a slow cooker over low heat for 6 or 8 hours, instead of cooking them on the stove. Leave the lid of the slow cooker part of the way off so steam can escape.

Below is a recipe for apple butter:

Apple Butter

Makes 8 or 9 pints

8 lbs apples
2 cups apple juice
2 cups lemon juice or vinegar
2¼ cups white sugar
2¼ cups packed brown sugar
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground cloves
1 tbsp. ginger

Prepare your work area and get the jars started boiling. Get the lids and rings ready to go. Peel, core and chop up the apples. In a large kettle, cook them over medium heat in the lemon juice or vinegar and apple juice until they are very soft. Run the apples through a food mill, or you can just use a potato masher to smash the apples up. If you use a potato masher, drain the apples a bit in a colander, then return to the pot. Add in the sugar and spices,  and continue to cook, stirring frequently. You can tell when it’s done if you can put a spoonful of the apple butter on a plate and no liquid will run out of it. Once the apple butter is done cooking, spoon it into the hot, sterilized jars. You only need to leave about ¼ of an inch of headspace. Stir to remove any trapped air bubbles, and wipe the rims of the jars clean. Process according to the chart below:

             0-1,000 ft.    1,001-3,000 ft.    3,001-6,000 ft.    Above 6,000 ft.
Pints        5 min.           10 min.                10 min.               10 min.

Fruit Juices

Last of all, I’ll talk to you a bit about making fruit juices. If you have fruit coming out of your ears from your garden, this can be a good way to use it up. Homemade fruit juice has none of the additives, like food coloring, that is present in store bought juice.

To make fruit juice the old fashioned way, you just cook the fruit in a little water until it is soft. Berries and grapes should be crushed before they are cooked. Once the fruit is done, you can either drain the fruit using a colander, making a juice that has a lot of pulp in it--or you can strain it through some cheesecloth to make a clearer finished product. If you don’t have any cheesecloth handy, you can use an old, clean pillowcase or piece of a cotton bed sheet instead. If you use a piece of an old sheet or pillowcase, you might want to boil it in some water before you use it.

There’s an easy way and a hard way to do everything, and that‘s especially true of fruit juice. For small quantities, you can use one of those little electric juicers. If you know you are going to be making a lot of juice every year, a steam juicer might a good investment.

Here’s a recipe for making apple juice the old fashioned way:

Apple Juice

Makes about 6 or 7 quarts

1/2 bushel of apples

Prepare your work area. Core the apples and remove the stems. You don’t need to peel them. Cut them into slices. Put about a half gallon of water in a very large kettle. Add enough apples to fill the kettle. Cook the apples until they are very soft. Place a large colander over another large kettle. A stockpot works very nicely for this, since they are taller and more narrow, and the colander won’t fit inside it--it will just sit on top. Line the colander with a layer of cheesecloth, and pour the apples into the colander. Let them drain for at least a few hours. Prepare your canning area, and start boiling the jars. Get the lids and rings ready. Taste the juice. If it needs sugar, add enough to suit your own taste. Bring the juice to a boil and then turn it off. Pour the juice into the hot jars, leaving about  ¼ inch of headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars clean, then put on the lids and rings. Process.

             0-1,000 ft.    1,001-6,000 ft.    Above 6,000 ft.
Quarts      5 min.             10 min.           15 min.

There are a number of good books and online resources available for making homemade pie fillings, fruit sauces and butter, and fruit juices--this diary is just an overview. One of my all-time favorite resources is the Ball Blue Book.

In part 3, I’ll talk to you about making your own jams, jellies, and preserves.

Originally posted to Practical Survivalism and Sustainable Living on Thu Nov 24, 2011 at 08:13 AM PST.

Also republished by Urban Homesteading, Toolbox, and Community Spotlight.

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