This home-canned sour cherry pie filling’s aroma will have mouths watering for the first bite.
You can make this with regular sweet cherries, but if you can get sour, it makes all the difference in the world. The sour cherries in this are succulent sweet and sour morsels that make you almost unable to stop eating it.
You can can this in a variety of jar sizes: handy for opening just what you need at various times.
This canning recipe is from So Easy to Preserve and the USDA.
We present two versions, the regular version (1505 calories per litre / quart), and the sugar-free version which slashes those calories in half down to 755.
- 1 The recipe
- 2 Sour Cherry Pie Filling
- 3 Reference information
- 4 Recipe notes
- 5 Recipe source
- 6 Cooking with canning
- 7 Nutrition information
Jar size choices: Either ½ litre (1 US pint / 500 ml/ 16 oz) OR 1 litre (US quart / 32 oz)
Processing method: Either water-bath or steam canning
Headspace: 3 cm (1 ¼ inch)
Processing time: Either size jar 30 minutes
This recipe makes enough for a 1 litre (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.)
(You may also wish to make a few ¼ litre (½ US pint / 8 oz / 250 ml) jar sizes for use as topping for ice cream, small cheese cakes, etc.)
The regular version is 1505 calories per litre (US quart / 32 oz) jar versus 755 calories for the sugar-free version.
Sour Cherry Pie Filling
- 600 g sour cherries (pitted. 1.25 lbs. 3 ⅓ cups, measured after pitting)
- 200 g sugar (refined, white. 1 cup / 8 oz) OR 1 teaspoon liquid stevia
- 4 tablespoons Clearjel ( 30 g / ¼ cup)
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
- 300 ml cold water (1 ⅓ cups / 10 oz)
- 6 drops red food colouring (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract (optional)
- 4 teaspoons lemon juice (bottled. 1 ⅓ tablespoons / 20 ml / .7 oz)
- Wash the cherries. Stem and pit them, placing them in acidulated water as you work to prevent browning.
- 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 and mix with sugar OR liquid stevia, and with the cinnamon, if using. Add water (or juice), and if using, food colouring and almond extract. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture gets quite thick and begins to bubble. Add lemon juice, cook one additional minute. Fold in the cherries carefully all at once just until evenly mixed.
- Fill piping hot mixture into hot jars.
- Ladle into ½ 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.
For stevia, Better Stevia liquid stevia was the stevia used.
More information about Sugar and Salt-Free Canning in general.
What is the shelf life of home canned goods?
- The recipe wants that little bit extra headspace in this recipe because the filling does expand a bit during processing.
- If you really want to keep the calories light, try making your pie crust (or tart shells) with 3 or 4 sheets of filo pastry instead of short-crust pastry. Delicious, and if you combine that with the sugar-free version, and cut the pie into eighths, you’ll end up with fewer than 100 calories per slice.
- You may wish to cut the Clearjel back by 1 tablespoon for a less gooey pie. Yes, it’s safe to do so — in fact, it reduces the density — and some authorities such as the University of Wisconsin recommend doing it.
- Don’t skip the blanching step with the fresh cherries (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.
- If you use bought, pre-pitted sour cherries in a tub, check them again anyway for pits. The machines sometimes miss a few, and you’ll get cross looks from your nearest and dearest if they chomp down on one.
- If you don’t have sour cherries, you can use sweet. The flavour will be milder, so definitely consider adding the almond extract. Sweet red cherries lose their flavour intensity when cooked in fillings and spreads.
- In case you are wondering, when you are measuring cherries by volume in cups, both pitted and unpitted will be approximately the same volume. They don’t really change that much in weight, either. You only start to get noticeable cup / weight differences when dealing with larger amounts.
- Have a good sturdy strong spoon for stirring the fruit into the mixture. Flimsier spoons may suffer bend or break.
- Other canning organizations such as Bernardin, etc, also recommend the use of a small amount of cinnamon in cherry preserves to compliment the flavour.
- Cherries are closely related to almonds. That’s why the almond extract is a natural flavour enhancer for cherry. Cherries can go quite pale when cooked, so the red colouring helps them retain the coloration that people are expecting.
Using frozen cherries
So Easy to Preserve says, “Frozen cherries can be used in the above recipe. Follow the same basic recipe, making the following adjustments. Select unsweetened frozen cherries, if possible. If sweetened fruit is used, rinse the fruit while it is still frozen. As the fruit thaws, collect any juice and use it for part of the water specified in the recipe. Use ¼ cup Clearjel for one quart of filling; 1 ¾ cup for seven quarts.” (Page 109.)
Using pre-pitted cherries
You can use tubs of fresh pre-pitted cherries. Look for the no sugar added tubs. A 4.5 kg tub will yield 6 quarts of cherries, drained and 2 cups (500 ml) of juice. Use the juice to replace some of the water in the recipe. Before adding cherries to the mixture, heat them in a microwave as the recipe expects them to be added hot. (Note: There is no need to blanch them in boiling water to drive air out, as whatever preparation done to get them in the tub seems to take care of that.)
Using sweet cherries
The Ball / Bernardin complete suggests considering swapping out the sour cherries and using sweet black cherries instead, in order to create filling for Black Forest cakes. If you do, they suggest using the recipe as is except for decreasing the sweetener by one-third and increasing the lemon juice by one-third.
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.
- Andress, Elizabeth L. and Judy A. Harrison. So Easy to Preserve. University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. Bulletin 989. Sixth Edition. 2014. Page 108-109.
- Also appears in: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Complete guide to home canning. Agriculture information bulletin No. 539. 2015. Page 2 – 27.
- A variation also appears as “Tart Cherry Pie Filling” in: Kingry, Judi and Lauren Devine. Ball / Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving. Toronto, Canada: Robert Rose Inc. 2015. Page 174.
Cooking with canning
Per 1 x litre (US quart /32 oz) jar
- 1505 calories, 121 mg sodium
- Weight Watchers: 42 PointsPlus® per jar; 48 SmartPoints® per jar.
Per 1 litre (US quart / 32 oz ) jar:
- 755 calories, 121 mg sodium
* Nutrition info provided by https://caloriecount.about.com
* Better Stevia ® is a registered trademark of the NOW Foods Company.
My sister brought me a LOT of Rainier cherries. I pitted them and put them in the freezer. This was before I recently started canning. Can I thaw them and can them for pie filling? What is the process?
See above on the page for a paragraph on working with frozen cherries.
Why do you always add the lemon juice when the mixture is bubbling? Can’t you add when you ad the water in the beginning?
Not sure. Maybe they are worried about some of the acidity boiling off (that’s just a guess, but it’s not like the total boiling time is all that long, anyway.)
Thanks for your help!!
I canned up 7 quarts of pie filling using this recipe a while back. I used frozen cherries. Made a pie over the weekend, and while the pie filling was nicely thick when I put it into the crust, after baking and cooling completely, the filling was rather runny. We loved the flavor, and the runny texture won’t prevent me from using up the other quarts, but I was wondering if you knew anything I should do to help avoid this in the future.
I’m thinking of using frozen sour cherries to make pie filling. I’ve only ever used fresh in the past. Do I still need to blanch the frozen cherries once they’ve thawed? Also will the texture be the same in the final product when using frozen cherries?
That is a very good question. I’ve quoted the special handing directions from So Easy to Preserve, but now that you mention it, even those directions don’t say if blanching is still needed, or not. I could see reasons for and against going both ways. (No, because as the cherries thaws, the collapsed cells will release air; yes, because they won’t release enough.)
Ask in one of these Master Food Preserver groups what they would do, and if you don’t mind, let me hear back what you hear: https://www.healthycanning.com/master-food-preserver-help-groups/