Canning and Bountiful Baskets

I am thrilled that Jeanne Gibbons, who participates with Bountiful Baskets in Arizona, is willing to share her experience with us when it comes to food, and especially, canning. Jeanne is a fount of knowledge when it comes to food preservation, which she often shares on our Facebook page. Without further ado:

One wonderful advantage of participating in Bountiful Basket’s co-op is the availability of flats of produce for canning.  Have you eyed that entry for apples or tomatoes and considered passing on them because you don’t have the freezer space?  There are lots of resources to teach yourself how to can that are safe and easy to follow.

So, where do I go to get safe, thorough instructions for preserving?  My first thought is to buy a book.  I strongly recommend buying a Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, considered to be the bible of home preservation.  You can find them on Amazon for a very reasonable price.  I have used mine so much, the book falls open at the pages covering how to sterilize my jars and several of my favorite jam recipes.  It’s easy to understand and worth the investment.

Maybe I learn better by having a structured environment, and being led step by step with pictures?  There are answers for that type of learning, too.  The National Center for Home Food Preservation, hosted by the University of Georgia offers a free, self-paced online course. This class will give you the latest recommendations and explain the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of canning.

So now, I’m standing in front of a steaming vat of applesauce and I have questions I need answered.  I’d like some hand-holding, please.  How much cinnamon can I add to this?  Will it get bitter if I don’t eat it right now?  There are so many groups that will help you at this stage that I don’t think I can give justice to them all.  If you are on Facebook, SB Canning springs to mind.  There are lots of people there that will answer every question.  There are two of my favorite newsgroups on Yahoo!: Canning2 and Home Canning.  Both groups are very friendly to newbies, and their recipe files alone are worth your time to subscribe.  I will warn you, though, that both groups are very actively posting so if you subscribe, be sure to select the digest form of email notification or your in-box will be flooded!

Preserving your own applesauce or salsa is time-consuming compared to buying a jar from the local grocery, but is very satisfying.  I find that knowing exactly what goes into my food gives me peace of mind.  There are no unpronounceable preservatives or potentially damaging chemicals leaching into my food from plastic containers and I control the quality of the produce I use.  I don’t have to trust a business conglomerate or a government bureaucracy to promise me healthful nutrition.  Canning is a hobby that is both useful and enjoyable to me.  If you decide to take the plunge, I hope that you find it enjoyable, too!

Apple Pie Filling


  • 6 quarts blanched, sliced apples
  • 6 cups granulated sugar (or less, depending on the sweetness of the apples or your taste)
  • 1 ¾ cups ClearJel (see my note at the end)
  • 1 ½ Tb cinnamon, or to taste
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 6 cups bottled clear apple juice (not cider)
  • ¾ cup bottled lemon juice (again see my notes)
  • 1 ½ tsp ground nutmeg or to taste
  • ½ tsp clove


  1. Wash, peel and core apples. Slice ½ inch wide and treat in Fruit Fresh while they wait to be blanched. In a steam basket, dip 2 quarts at a time into the boiling water for 1 minute (in a pinch, you can gently put them in the water and fish them out with a really big slotted spoon). Hold blanched apples in a large covered pot to stay warm until they are all treated. Meanwhile, combine sugar, ClearJel, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove in a large kettle with the water and apple juice; stir and cook on medium-high heat until the mix thickens and begins to bubble. Add the lemon juice and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Watch that it doesn’t scorch. Drain the warm, blanched apple slices and fold them into the sweet mixture, and fill hot jars, leaving 1 ½ inch (yes, that’s a big headspace. (It’s starch people! It expands as it cooks!) Cap with lids and rings and process immediately: 25 minutes for pints, quarts or half-pints. (This is a less than 1000 ft processing time; please adjust to your altitude) Turn off heat, let sit in the hot water for 5 minutes. Remove jars from water and let them cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours. Any jars that do not seal need to be refrigerated and used like fresh apple pie filling.

Notes:  ClearJel is the FDA approved modified food starch that has the unique ability to stay liquid until it cools, which allows the heat of the kettle to thoroughly pasteurize the pie filling.  You *can’t* substitute cornstarch or flour or potato starch or anything else for this ingredient if you plan on holding the filling for *any* length of time on the shelf.  At the risk of picking a fight, I, personally, am non-negotiable on this point.  Yes, your Grandma canned apple pie filling using cornstarch. Yes, we all didn’t die.  But she also water bath canned green beans and sweet corn, which are low acid vegetables and need pressure canning,  for 90 minutes at the risk of causing botulism. Use your own judgment.  /end rant.

You can buy ClearJel online from My Spice Sage or Barry Farms.  Please be sure to purchase the cook type ClearJel, not the instant.

Regarding bottled lemon juice:  Personally, I detest the taste of bottled off –the-shelf lemon juice.  It reminds me of lemon Pledge so I prefer to buy Minute Maid unsweetened lemon juice from the frozen section of our local grocery.  It’s pricey, but it tastes like lemon and it’s standardized for acidity. If you’re really paranoid, add a half teaspoon of citric acid to each quart. There have been tests on fresh lemon juice that show that most, but not all, lemons are safe for this application (see Real Lemon vs RealLemon).  Use your own judgment here as well.


Jeanne has offered some amazing tips both here and on our Facebook page. Be on the lookout for future guest postings from Jeanne!


  1. Great recipe. Definately only clear gel is recommended for pie filling (any fruits). Typically figure only enough for a year. It starts to breakdown after that

  2. Thanks a lot for helping me 🙂 !

  3. I love seeing people who sing the praises of canning! It’s a skill which is often not valued as much as it should be. 🙂 And even though sometimes penny to penny it’s not as cost effective, when you look at the quality of what you’re getting and the satisfaction that comes from the process…or at least the end of the process…it’s totally worth it.

    Clear Jel works really well if you can lay hands on it. If you can’t find it though Thick Gel or Ultra Gel are extension service approved substitutes which can be found in grocery and Bosch stores in Idaho, Utah, Oregon and Kansas or ordered online at Yes, this is a family business I’m involved in, but the reason we started working with both products was for canning and because Clear Jel was getting harder to find.

    Jana Brown

  4. I so want to start canning.. now I might just give it a try.. thanks for this.. I can’t wait to start!

  5. Susan Matney

    How many quarts does this make?

  6. Bulah Clouser

    this is great thanks

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