I did it, I conquered my fear of canning and was able to preserve 9 pints of delicious cherry pie filling that I made from the wonderful fresh sour cherries from my neighbor’s tree! I actually accomplished this a week ago, but am just now getting around to posting.
I also have another basket full of cherries that I picked just before the weekend. They need to be pitted and I plan to make some cherry jam from some and hopefully another sour cherry almond cake. However this time I was thinking of making individual cakes, maybe in ramekins? Yum. :)
UPDATE: below is a list of recipes I have made so far with this batch of cherry pie filling (or with the fresh sour cherries before making the filling) END UPDATE
Here’s a recap of the cherry pie filling recipes I’ve tested so far:
Cherry Cake with Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting
Cherry Pie Squares
Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
Black Forest Brownie Bites
These use fresh sour cherries:
Cherry Almond Cake
Sour Cherry Financiers
PROCESSING THE CHERRIES
So this cherry pie filling recipe is pretty much everywhere on the internet. I didn’t want to get complicated, especially since I was canning this, so I stuck to the recipe that I got from the Utah State University Extension Office, however, the step by step photos are much better on the website PickYourOwn.org. However, FAIR WARNING, I discovered a few typos on the pick your own website, typos that conflicted with the recipe, so I stuck strictly with the recipe in the Utah University PDF and used Pick Your Own’s photos as a guide only.
First off, if you are lucky enough to pick fresh sour cherries, always try to keep the stems intact until you are actually ready to use them. Once the stem is removed, the flesh of the cherry is exposed to the air and will begin to brown. Store your picked cherries in the refrigerator until you are ready to remove stems and pits, not more than a few days if possible.
See? Here’s the tree down the street from me! It’s pretty much picked clean now, between me, my neighbor’s father, and the birds, we didn’t let any go to waste. :)
When you are ready to pit your cherries, place them in a colander and give them a quick rinse under cold water. Remove the stem and pit the cherry.
I have this totally cool cherry pitter that removes 4 pits at once. I got it from a good friend of mine over at Kid Smart Living, but they are gone now – I also found it on Amazon and it rocks! It has a little tray with 8 slots, 4 large for cherries like bing, and 4 small for sour cherries. As you can see from the picture above, I hadn’t figured that out yet and had the sour cherries in the big slots. :-/
You place the 4 cherries into the little slots, then just press down on the top of the pitter and lift it back up.
That’s it, pitted!
There’s a little collection tray underneath that catches the pits for you. It even came with a nifty little collapsable colander. After I pitted the cherries, I tossed them into the colander.
When the colander was full I gave them another quick rinse then dumped them into a large glass bowl.
When I was finished, it looked like a murder scene… Haha!
I wasn’t quite ready to can, so I placed all of the cherries into a large plastic container with a lid and covered them with water. I cut a lemon in half and squeezed some juice into the water and let them sit until the next day.
The first thing to do was to drain the cherries. However, I did not just drain the cherries and lose all of that glorious red water they had been soaking in! I reserved the water and used that in place of the water in the pie filling recipe.
Next, I blanched them for one minute, though I definitely had to do several batches with the number of cherries that I had. After each batch, I needed to put them in a bowl or pot with a lid to keep the heat from escaping, so I just used the ceramic insert and lid from my Crockpot.
The next step is to combine the sugar and Clear Jel in a pot, then add the water. Clear Jel is a thickening agent, basically like cornstarch, but apparently it’s modified specifically for things like pie filling. You can’t find t at regular grocery stores, so I had to order mine online. So anyhoo, I combined the Clear Jel and sugar in a large pot, then I added the red water I had reserved earlier. After attempting to whisk it all together, I then added the cinnamon and almond extract. There was no need for me to add the red food coloring since I used the very red water the cherries had been soaking in.
As you can see, the Clear Jel did not want to combine with the water well, and I should have known better! I know that cornstarch should be mixed with a small amount of liquid first then added as a thick liquid, but I didn’t do that. So instead, I fought with it, smashed it against the side of the pan with my wooden spoon, etc, until it was all dissolved.
The warmer and thicker the mixture became, the more the Clear Jel melted in, so all was well.
Lastly, I added in the lemon juice and boiled for another minute, and then folded the drained cherries into the thickened mixture. I then followed the directions from Utah University for processing the pie filling and it was successful! I won’t tell you how to do it here but will tell you this was way easier than I thought and now I wish I hadn’t put it off for so long! Can’t wait to can some more stuff as fall approaches. :)
Below is the recipe for cherry pie filling, please download the PDF for processing instructions.
Homemade Cherry Pie Filling
IMPORTANT - There are often Frequently Asked Questions within the blog post that you may find helpful. Simply scroll back up to read them!Print It Rate It
- 3 1/3 cups fresh or thawed sour cherries
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon Clear Jel
- 1 1/3 cups cold water I used the water the cherries were soaking in
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon bottled lemon juice
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 6 drops red food coloring optional, I didn't use this
- Rinse and pit fresh cherries, and hold in cold water. For fresh fruit, blanch up to 6 cups of cherries at a time in one gallon of boiling water. After water returns to a boil, boil for one minute. Drain, but keep heated in a covered bowl or pot. Combine Clear Jel and sugar in a large pot and add water. Add cinnamon, almond extract and food coloring. Stir mixture and cook over medium high heat until mixture thickens and bubbles. Add lemon juice and boil one minute, stirring constantly. Fold in drained cherries immediately. Fill your jars with mixture without delay, leaving one inch headspace. Adjust lids and process immediately.
- Instructions for 1 quart, adjust quantities based on the measurement of cherries you have.
Expert Tips & FAQs
I will be sharing with you my cherry version of the blackberry pie squares that were such a big hit around here.
More from Amanda you might like:
Vanilla Bean Mulberry Cake
Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
More from the web:
Cherry Pie Cups – from Recipe Girl
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rosetta richards says
Do you have recpie for duch apple spread my daughter love it thought I’d ask so I could make it for het
Angie | Big Bear's Wife says
Mmmmm 9 pints of cherry pie filling! I would be in heaven! I need to get my hands on a cherry pitter too!
Amanda Formaro says
My pitter only does a few at a time, there are pitters for the more serious cherry growers that do a bunch at once! Kind of wish I had one of those that day LOL
Joyce Bathke says
I live in WI in the county next to Door County which is known for growing cherries and I have never heard of blanching cherries. In fact, I have never heard of blanching fruit. Why would it be necessary?
Amanda Formaro says
Hi Joyce. To be completely honest I am not sure. I just followed the recipe as this was my first time canning anything. I know that blanching partially cooks food to prepare it for freezing, so why they need to be blanched for canning is a good question.
My cherry tree is ready again for picking, and is it loaded this year.
Hope you still live near by , I miss the cherry chocolate chip cookies you made me.
My son’s father-in-law got a little mad you called him my dad,it was very funny.
Amanda Formaro says
Ha ha, that’s awesome Tom! Funny about your son’s father in-law, no insults on age intended! LOL I am still in Twin Lakes and would love to come by! It’s amazing that it’s still ready, I figured they were long gone by now. But I guess with the late spring we had that make sense. Yes, thank you, would love to come by and pick some! How long do you think I have? We are down to one car again, so it may have to happen on the weekend. Thanks!
Anyone used sweet cherries?
Amanda Formaro says
I wouldn’t use sweet cherries with this exact recipe simply because of the sugar measurements. I would google a recipe using sweet cherries instead. using this recipe would probably result in an overly sweet pie filling.
YAY!! The only pie filling I can find in the store is sweetened with splenda, and I absolutely cannot stand the taste of it. I am thrilled to find this! Pinning it to use next cherry season!
Where did you get your Clear Jel at? I am having a heck of a time finding it. I have already pitted my cherries thinking that my husband could just pick it up from the store but haven’t had much luck finding it anywhere.
Hi Sidney. I’ve bought mine at WalMart and my local grocery store. You may need to ask where they keep it :)
Hi Sidney, typing up a correction here! I realized after I responded that it’s not Clear Jel that I bought from WalMart, what’s there is Surejel. The Clear Jel I actually bought online at Kind Arthur’s Flour http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/instant-clearjel-8-oz#1034#
Do you have to use the Clear Jel? I am allergic corn and that is made from modified food starch which is corn. Do you think arrowroot would work? That is what I use in replace of cornstarch.
Amanda Formaro says
Hi Laura. I am no expert canner by any means, I wouldn’t be qualified to answer that question. Before trying it, I would suggest checking with an expert canning site or a university extension.
This looks great. I have a pile of cherries that I am wanting to can, but the link to the directions for processing isn’t working. Thanks!
Hi Charree! Sorry for the delay and thanks for pointing that out. I have fixed the link, it should be http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/FN_2005_Harvest-03.pdf
Thank you so much!
Made 4- 24 oz “canned pies” using the Mrs Wages. Added almond extract. looks good & tastes good.
Norpro Deluxe Cherry Pitter/Stoner With Automatic Feed – this is what I use to pit cherries very fast. Got at Bi-Mart but similar ones at Walmart. Around $20
I found a clear jel type product at Bi-Mart around $2.50 pack – under label Mrs. Wages. Going to get it now. Will let you know how it works.
I pitted mine and was not ready to can that day either. I wanted to wait until the next day. I covered with water and lemon juice but the spots where stem was and pitter pushed out seed turned brown anyway. Since I pitted 6 quarts to make 7 quarts canned, I canned them anyway. I used the food coloring to help. They aren’t as pretty as yours. I will never do that again. I will pick, pit and can all the same day. More work but cherries will look perfect.
Aww sorry about that Darby! I’m sure they’ll still taste amazing though :)
Wow yours are gorgeous! Mine didn’t turn out that red, never thought to save the juice!
Here in Utah you can buy the clear gel at the usu extension offices. I’m going to try this tomorrow. Our tree is loaded with cherries.
You make this look so easy to do,and I know it’s not,so can I just get a jar from you?mmmmmmmm looks so yummy.
What is the clear jel and where can i get it? I would love to make the cherry hand pies for a bbq we are having this sunday.
Amanda Formaro says
Clear Jel is available at WalMart and many grocery stores. Call your local grocer and see if they carry it. It’s getting a little late in the year though, so it might be a little tougher to find. It’s a white powder that comes in a little box. :)
Thanks Sharon, that is so awesome!!
I appreciated your help so much! I like to make deep dish pies, so each pie takes 8 cups, so I canned 26 quarts and 26 pints of cherry pie filling using your cherry pie canning recipe! Lots of work and I made it one batch at a time to prevent the cherries from browning. My shelves are beautiful and I will never go back to eating store bought cherry pie filling. My family and friends are telling me this is the best cherry pie they have ever tasted.Thanks Amanda, from Sharon in Vancouver, WA
Thanks for letting me know! I have corrected the link :)
Hi! The link for the PDF on processing doesn't work.