Pie making used to be a chore, but once I learned how to preserve pie fillings, it became a breeze. Simply fill a frozen pie crust (from scratch or store-bought) with filling you’ve preserved with your own hands.
The smell of a fresh-baked fruit or spicy pumpkin pie cooking in the oven is amazing. Fillings aren’t just for pies. Homemade pie fillings can be used for tarts, cobblers, crisps, dumplings, crepes, toppings for cheesecake, pancakes, waffles, ice cream ...
Apples that keep their shape and texture, such as Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Jonagold and McIntosh, are some of the best for making pie filling. Use apples of different varieties to create a tart and sweet filling.
The only thickener suitable for home canning pie filling is Clear-Jel, which produces the correct thickening even after the fillings are canned and baked. Other thickeners break down and result in a runny filling. Fruit pie fillings can be safely frozen.
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It’s also squash and pumpkin season — a good time to make your own pumpkin pie fillings before the holidays. Combining butternut, acorn or kabocha squash with sugar or pie pumpkin makes a delicious “pumpkin” pie.
Avoid the big carving pumpkins; they are watery and stringy.
A note of caution: The National Center for Home Food Preservation does not recommend home canning pumpkin puree, pumpkin butter or preserves. That’s because the viscosity — or thickness of pumpkin puree — varies among all the types of pumpkins and squashes and it’s impossible to determine how long to process them safely, even in a pressure canner.
All squash and pumpkin must be cubed, then processed in a pressure canner. Squash and pumpkin pie fillings can be safely frozen.
To learn more about how to safely make and preserve apple and pumpkin pie fillings, attend a demonstration from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 14, at the UCCE Auditorium, 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. Master Food Preservers of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties will conduct the session.
Registration: http://ucanr.edu/pieperfection. Fee is $5.
Rosemary Orr is a UCCE master food preserver.
Got a gardening question?
In San Luis Obispo call 781-5939, Arroyo Grande, 473-7190 and Templeton, 434-4105. Visit us at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo/ or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Instagram at slo_mgs and like us on Facebook. Informative garden workshops are held the third Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. to noon at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. Garden docents are available after the workshop until 1 p.m. To request a tour of the garden, call 781-5939.