This blackberry pie filling is a canning recipe courtesy of the Washington State University Extension Service.
This would be great used as well as cheesecake topping, or a layer in a sponge cake, or over ice cream.
We’ve given the original version, with sugar, 950 calories per litre / quart jar, and a sugar-free version with two-thirds fewer calories: 294.
Jar size choices: Either half-litre (1 US pint / 500 ml/ 16 oz) OR 1 litre (US quart / 32 oz).
Processing method: Either water-bath or steam canning
Yield: 1 litre (US quart) jar
Headspace: 3 cm (1 ¼ inch)
Processing time: Either size jar 30 minutes
You may also wish to make a few quarter-litre (½ US pint / 8 oz / 250 ml) jar sizes for use as topping for ice cream, etc.
This recipe is for a 1 litre (1 US quart) jar. You can multiply it if you wish, up to 7 (that is the usual suggested max, just because the standard canner will take a max of 7 x litre / quart jars at once.)
Blackberry Pie Filling
- 500 g blackberries (fresh. 1 lb / 3 ½ cups whole. Measured after prep with stems removed)
- 5 tablespoons Clearjel (35 g / 1 ¼ oz)
- 175 g sugar (white. 6 oz / ¾ cup plus 2 tbsp)
- 250 ml water (cold. Or juice. 1 cup / 8 oz)
- 3 drops red food colouring (optional)
- 1 drop blue food colouring (optional)
- 3 ½ teaspoons lemon juice (bottled)
Wash the blackberries.
Place the fruit a batch or two at a time in boiling water. Let water return to the boil, then boil 1 minute. Get fruit out right away, and put in a covered bowl or pot to keep warm. Repeat until all fruit has been blanched.
Put the Clearjel in a very large pot along with the sugar, if using sugar. Mix. Add water (or juice) and food colouring if using, and liquid stevia if using instead of sugar. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture gets quite thick and begins to bubble.
Add lemon juice, cook one additional minute. Fold in the berries carefully all at once just until evenly mixed.
Fill piping hot mixture into hot jars.
Ladle into half-litre (1 US pint / 16 oz) jars or 1 litre (1 US quart / 32 oz) jars.
Leave 3 cm (1 ¼ inch) headspace.
Debubble well, adjust headspace.
Wipe jar rims.
Put lids on.
Process in a water bath or steam canner.
Process either size jar for 30 minutes; increase time as needed for your altitude.
How to water bath process.
How to steam can.
When water-bath canning or steam canning, you must adjust the processing time for your altitude.
More about the Clearjel Pie Fillings, including tips and tricks.
For stevia, Better Stevia liquid stevia was the stevia used.
More information about Sugar and Salt-Free Canning in general.
- They want that little bit extra headspace in this recipe because the filling does expand a bit during processing.
- If you want to lighten up the calories, and save time when using to cook, try making your pie crust (or tart shells) with 3 or 4 sheets of filo pastry instead of short-crust pastry. Delicious!
- Don’t skip the blanching step with the fresh blackberries (see frozen exception below), it’s needed to both heat them and get some air out of them to help prevent the pie mixture bubbling up too much in the jars.
- For a better tasting pie, you can use some kind of berry or grape juice instead of the cold water.
- Bottled lemon juice is called for to get the assured acidity.
- Instead of the sugar, you could use the same volume amount of Splenda®, or OR 1 teaspoon liquid stevia. If you are using liquid stevia, depending on how sweet your berries are and aren’t, and the taste buds of your crowd, you may want an extra half-teaspoon of liquid stevia per batch being made (won’t affect calories.)
No substitute for Clearjel
You can’t use flour or cornstarch etc, in this recipe, only Clearjel.
Pamela Schmutz at Clemson University explains:
The recipes for fruit pie fillings all use a modified food starch called Clear Jel®. This starch produces the correct thickening, even after the fillings are canned and baked. Other starches, such as cornstarch, break down and result in a runny filling. Clear Jel® must be used as the thickener in these recipes; there is no substitution. Do not use any other form of Clear Jel®, such as Instant Clear Jel®.”  Schmutz, Pamela. Pie Fillings. Georgia: Clemson University Extension. HGIC 3160. August 2010. Accessed August 2015.
Using frozen blackberries
If you have home-frozen blackberries, they won’t survive being thawed and then simmered in water. Commercially-frozen ones might, but with home-frozen ones, you are more likely to end up with a syrup if you try. For a pie filling, you really need to end up with some chunky texture to give the pie filling some body, otherwise you might just as well tip a jar of jam into a pie shell. The purpose of the blanching in the blueberry original version is to to release air from the berries to reduce headspace and venting issues in the jar, as well as to create a hot pack out of the berries for canning to give a better storage life.
After being thawed, though, blackberries’ flesh walls will have collapsed a great deal, causing the release of air and juice the same as boiling would have. That leaves the second part — heating– to be addressed in a manner that doesn’t destroy the fragile, thawed fruit.
Consequently, we proceeded as follows, which we felt still meets the requirements of the developers of the recipe to both get rid of air and heat, while avoiding berry flavour and nutrition loss.
- Berries should be frozen in unsweetened dry packs.
- MEASURE BEFORE THAWING by volume or weight, your choice.
- Thaw the blackberries completely in fridge, either overnight, or allow 8 to 10 hours (unsweetened fruit takes longer to thaw than sweetened fruit, according to the NCHFP.)
- Separate the thawed fruit and its juice. To do this, put a sieve over a large jug such as a batter jug, or a large bowl. Empty thawed fruit and juice into the sieve, in batches if need be. Let most of the juice drain off.
- Heat the fruit up in microwave in batches. Zap for three minutes on high, stir gently with a spatula, zap for another three minutes. If not piping hot, zap for a few more minutes. Cover while successive batches are heated.
- Reduce Clearjel to 4 tablespoons per batch So Easy to Preserve, 2014 edition, page 106 advises to reduce Clearjel to 4 tablespoons per batch when using frozen fruit.. Put Clearjel and sugar (if using sugar) in the pot. Measure the juice, and use ALL of it. If there wasn’t as much juice as the recipe required for liquid in the form of water, then just use plain water to make up that amount.
- Cook until partly-thickened.
- Add the lemon juice (and liquid stevia if using instead of sugar.)
- Add all the blackberries, including any further juice that has come off them.
- Fold the fruit in carefully, and cook for another minute or two.
- Proceed with canning.
- Washington State University Extension Service’s directions for adaptation of the USDA’s Blueberry Pie Filling into blackberry Washington State University Chelan / Douglas / Okanogan County Extension. Let’s Preserve Fruit Pie Fillings. September 2010. Page 5.
- Their source was: Blueberry Pie Filling. In: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Complete guide to home canning. Agriculture information bulletin No. 539. 2015. Page 2 – 27.
- Add information on how to handle frozen.
Per 1 x litre (US quart /32 oz) jar
- 950 calories, 16 mg sodium
Per 1 litre (US quart / 32 oz ) jar:
- 294 calories, 16 mg sodium
* Nutrition info provided by https://caloriecount.about.com
* Better Stevia ® is a registered trademark of the NOW Foods Company.
|↑1||Schmutz, Pamela. Pie Fillings. Georgia: Clemson University Extension. HGIC 3160. August 2010. Accessed August 2015.|
|↑2||So Easy to Preserve, 2014 edition, page 106 advises to reduce Clearjel to 4 tablespoons per batch when using frozen fruit.|
|↑3||Washington State University Chelan / Douglas / Okanogan County Extension. Let’s Preserve Fruit Pie Fillings. September 2010. Page 5.|