How to Make an Absolutely Delicious + Versatile Cherry Pie Filling

Making pie. It sounds overwhelming, but this cherry pie filling is easy to make and my family loves getting to enjoy summer all year long.

This recipe will give you a delicious and flavorful filling that’s perfect for pies, crisps, or even as a topping for ice cream and cheesecake. This recipe uses waterbath canning to safely preserve your filling throughout the year. Remember to stir constantly to ensure your mixture thickens properly.

Three jars of homemade cherry pie filling with fresh cherries around them.

Cherry Pie Filling

This homemade filling is perfect for pies, and crisps, and as a versatile topping for your favorite desserts.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Canning Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Serving Size 7 quarts

Ingredients 

  • 6 quarts cherries
  • 7 cups sugar
  • 1 ⅓ cup clear jel (for thicker pie filling)
  • 9 ⅓ cups water
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • ½ cup tart cherry juice (optional for color)

Instructions 

  • Prep for canning. Prepare your water bath canner by filling it with water and allowing it to simmer on the stovetop. Wash your jars with hot soapy water. Transfer them to the water bath canner and allow them to simmer until the pie filling is ready. Place the lids and rings in a saucepan and allow them to simmer (not boil).
  • Prep cherries. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Destem and remove the pits from the cherries. Working in batches, blanch the cherries in the boiling water for 3 minutes and transfer them to a large bowl. Set aside.
    A bowl filled with fresh, pitted cherries ready for making cherry pie filling.
  • Start syrup. In a large pot add the sugar and clear jel. Stir to combine. Add the water to the pot with sugar and clear jel.
    Two images side by side showing sugar and clear jel being mixed in a large pot.
  • Cook to thicken. Place over medium heat and allow it to thicken, stirring constantly. Continue to allow the mixture to thicken until it becomes bubbly. This process takes about 8 minutes.
    A large pot filled with the thickening syrup mixture for the cherry pie filling.
  • Add juices and flavoring. Add in the lemon juice, vanilla extract, almond extract, and cherry juice (if using). Stir to combine. Allow the mixture to start bubbling again, stirring constantly. This takes about 2-3 minutes.
    Two images side by side showing the addition of lemon juice and other flavorings to the thickened syrup, turning it a red color.
  • Add cherries. Remove the mixture from the heat and fold in the blanched cherries.
    Blanched cherries being added to the thickened syrup mixture in a large pot.
  • Fill jars. Using a canning funnel, ladle the cherry pie filling into the prepared jars leaning a 1 ¼ inch head space.
    Jars being filled with the cherry pie filling using a canning funnel on a wooden board.
  • Clean rims and screw-on lids. Clean the rims of the jars using a moist clean towel. Add the lid and rings, tightening the rings until they’re fingertip-tight.
  • Process jars. Transfer the jars to the water bath canner making sure the jars are fully submerged in water. Bring the water to a boil Once boiling, set the timer and process quart jars for 35 minutes and pint jars for 30 minutes.
    Jar of cherry pie filling being processed in a water bath canner.
  • Rest in canner. Turn off the heat, remove the lid, and allow it to sit in the water for 10 minutes.
    Top view of filled jars of cherry pie filling being processed, ready for canning.
  • Let cool and check the seals. Remove the jars from the water bath canner and transfer them to a cooling rack or heat-resistant spot for 12-24 hours. After 24 hours, check the lids for a proper seal. Once a proper seal has been confirmed, remove the rings and store the jars in a cool dark place for up to 18 months or per your lids manufacturer's recommendations.
    A close-up of a sealed jar of cherry pie filling cooling on a countertop with a kitchen towel.

Notes

For a thicker pie filling increase the clear jel to 1 ¾ cups. For this recipe, 1 ⅓ cups were used. This is best used for crisps and topping for cheesecakes, ice cream, or on cakes.
Sweet or tart cherries can be used at a 1:1 ratio.
If you’re okay with using food coloring you can omit the cherry juice and use red food coloring.
Using cherry juice is completely optional and only adds color to the pie filling. 
Makes 7 quarts.
Calories: 1305kcal | Carbohydrates: 333g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 0.3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.4g | Sodium: 20mg | Potassium: 1857mg | Fiber: 17g | Sugar: 306g | Vitamin A: 520IU | Vitamin C: 64mg | Calcium: 120mg | Iron: 3mg

It’s so comforting to have a stash of homemade cherry goodness ready to go for all our favorite desserts. Every summer when cherries are in season, I make a batch and it’s always a hit. Whether it’s a classic cherry pie, a topping for cheesecake, or just a spoonful straight from the jar, this filling never disappoints.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Tips for the Perfect Cherry Pie Filling

  • Choose the Right Cherries: Use a mix of sweet and tart cherries for a balanced flavor.
  • Prevent Clumping: Mix the clear jel with sugar before adding water to avoid lumps.
  • Uniform Blanching: Blanch cherries in small batches to ensure even cooking.
  • Consistent Stirring: Stir the syrup constantly to prevent scorching and ensure even thickening.
  • Proper Headspace: Leave the correct headspace in jars to avoid overflow during processing.
  • Check Seals: Ensure jars are sealed properly by pressing the center of each lid after cooling; it should not pop back.

Key Ingredients and Tools

To make this recipe, you’ll need a few important and sometimes unusual tools and ingredients. Here are some key items and why they matter:

  • Clear Jel. This thickening agent is different from cornstarch and essential for the right consistency. Find it in the baking aisle or online.
  • Water Bath Canner. This large pot with a rack is crucial for safely processing the jars and ensuring they seal properly.
  • Canning Funnel. This helps you fill jars neatly and without spills, making the process much easier.
  • Almond Extract. Adds a subtle, nutty flavor that enhances the cherry taste beautifully.

All of these items are easy to find in store or online. Remember, the right equipment will make your life easier.

Serving Suggestions

Serve this over old-fashioned vanilla ice cream or with a cream biscuit for a delicious breakfast!

Troubleshooting and Help

Can I use frozen cherries instead of fresh?

Absolutely! Just make sure to thaw and drain them well before using them in the recipe.

What if I don’t have clear jel?

You can use cornstarch as a substitute, but the texture might be a bit different. Clear jel is best for canning because it stays stable when heated.

How do I know if my jars are sealed properly?

After cooling for 12-24 hours, press the center of each lid. If it doesn’t pop back, it’s sealed. If it does, you need to refrigerate and use those jars first.

Can I skip the lemon juice?

The lemon juice is important for preserving the filling and balancing the sweetness. It’s best not to skip it.

How long will the cherry pie filling last?

When properly sealed and stored in a cool, dark place, the filling can last up to 18 months. Always check the lid for a proper seal before using.

Storing Leftovers

Canning:

  • Cool and Store: Once your jars are properly sealed and cooled, store them in a cool, dark place. They will last up to 18 months.
  • Check Seals: Always check the seal before using. If the lid pops back when pressed, refrigerate and use within a few weeks.

Freezing:

  • Prepare for Freezing: If you don’t want to can the filling, you can freeze it. Let the filling cool completely.
  • Pack and Freeze: Transfer the filling to freezer-safe containers or bags, leaving some space at the top for expansion.
  • Label and Store: Label the containers with the date and contents. Freeze for up to 6 months.
  • Thawing: To use, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. The texture might change slightly, but it will still be delicious.

This filling doesn’t freeze as well as it cans, so if possible, try to can it for the best results.

Making homemade cherry pie filling is a delicious way to preserve the taste of summer. With just a few simple steps and some essential tools, you’ll have a filling that enhances a variety of desserts. I hope you enjoy the process and the delicious results!

How to Make an Absolutely Delicious + Versatile Cherry Pie Filling
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