Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Canning pies

 I've been canning cobbler for a while, and we've been enjoying eating it, but this week I got the idea to try canning pie.  I still had a few bags of apples from this fall's harvest that I hadn't gotten canned yet, so I decided to experiment with some of them.

First I peeled and cut up the apples and mixed them with sugar, cinnamon, and flour.  I used about a cup of sugar, a Tablespoon of cinnamon, and half a cup of flour, and stirred that together first, then stirred it into the apple pieces.

I mixed up pie crust.  I used 4 cups of flour, a scant teaspoon of salt, and a teaspoon of sugar, which I stirred together.  Then I put in about half a cup of coconut oil (which is solid like shortening at our room temperature.  You can use shortening or lard if you'd rather) and a quarter cup of butter (you can use margarine, or just use shortening for this too).  I have a pastry blender but I never use it.  I just grabbed a sturdy table fork out of the drawer and mashed the coconut oil and butter into the flour until it was all even.  I had to turn the bowl a few times and stir some of the flour to the center so I could get it mashed in with the oil. 

When it was all evenly crumbled into the flour I poured in one cup of milk and 1/4 cup water.  I stirred it until it was mostly a blob of dough.  Then I used my hands to work the rest of the flour into it, packing it like a snowball instead of kneading it, though I did have to squeeze and work the dough ball some to get it all smooth and even.  They say if you knead or work pie crust dough too much you'll have hard crusts.  I wasn't sure it mattered in canning, but I tried to do it like I would for a regular baked-in-the-oven pie.

Now for the fun part.  I used wide-mouth pints because they have nice straight sides and I figured I could just run a knife around between the jar and the crust, and slide the pie right out.  I measured the diameter and circumference of the jar.  3 1/2" by 8".  I rolled out some of the crust and used a measuring tape and a stick to cut the dough to the that size.  I flattened a disk of dough and put it in the bottom of the jar.  Then I laid the crust in the jar, rolled around against the sides.  It immediately buckled and I had to use my fingers to mash it back against the sides.  I quickly spooned in some of the apple filling, packing it just a bit to work the apple pieces down in against each other, without packing it too tight.

I decided the heck with rolling it out.  I just took pieces of dough and flattened it some in my hands, then pressed it against the jar sides, working up from the bottom.  I mashed the pieces together to make a solid crust all the way around the jar, then put the apple filling in it.  Then I made another disk to put across the tops.

I didn't think to get a picture with the filling in the jars, and no 'top disk' of crust on them.  The three jars to the left are filled and have the crust on top.  The one on the right has the crust mashed against the sides, and I'm about to spoon the apples into it.
When I had all the jars filled I put a dab of butter on the top crust.  You can see that in the center of each jar.  I was already wiping rims and putting the lids on when I thought to take a picture.  The lids are in the pan to the right.  They had been simmering on the stove to soften the seals while I filled the jars.  Next they went into the pressure canner.
Apples by themselves can be canned in a water-bath canner, but I wasn't sure about a flour-based product like pie crust.  So I went ahead and used my pressure canner.  I canned them for 15 minutes (once the weight started jiggling) at 10 lbs. pressure.  We are at 3,500' of elevation, so I always can at higher pressure than people who live at low elevations.  If you're under 1,000' of elevation you could can this at 5 lbs. pressure.

These are the finished pies.  There were seven but we ate one and we gave a jar to our daughter and grandkids.  I didn't take this picture until this morning.  These definitely need to be labeled because I can see myself pulling one off the shelf and thinking "What in the world is THIS?"

Like I said, we ate one.  It had cooled a bit but was still warm.  I slid the knife around between glass and crust and confidently tipped it over the plate on the right.  The filling plopped out onto the plate.  I had to nudge the crust, then it fell out on top of the filling.  Oh well, I shrugged.  I divided part of the crust and part of the filling onto each plate.  My husband made hot cocoa and we sat down to enjoy an evening snack.
The filling was a tad sweeter than necessary, and since it was still warm, it was a bit syrupy.  It had soaked into the crust somewhat, but the crust wasn't really soggy.  It was like all of the crust was "the bottom crust", and not like the flaky top crust would be.  It was delicious.
Next time I try this I'm going to drain the apples better.  As I peel and cut them I drop the pieces into a big bowl of water with a crushed vitamin C tablet in the water to keep the apples from turning brown.  I'm also going to add a bit more flour for thickener. 
I also think if the pies were completely cooled they would thicken more.  Then I could dip the jar in hot water to help loosen the crust from the jar, since I can't get a knife under the bottom 'disk' of crust.  I'd still run a knife around the side to make sure it was loosened.  I had imagined a cylinder of pie sliding out onto the plate, which I could then slice. 
We're not very picky around our house.  Most of our family and friends have thought this would be cool.  Some have turned their noses up and thought I should just can the apples and make the pies 'fresh' as we want them.  But I think this is great because if we've worked hard all day and I'm tired, I have instant pie ready to serve.  If we go to town (60 miles to town) I can take our own healthy food to eat and bring along a pie.  They would be great for camping, or on long trips.
Some people freeze extra pies, but right now we don't have a freezer.  If you've read my other posts you know that our refrigerator died a few weeks ago.  We were using a small 'college' freezer after that, but now it's cold enough outside that we've unplugged it for the winter, as we do every year.  We have solar electric power and the days are too short and cloudy in the winter for running a refrigerator, and nature provides refrigeration for about 6 months up here. 
I have frozen pies in the past and I think that my canned pies are pretty similar to what you get when you thaw a cooked-then-frozen pie.  My mom would make up pies and freeze them without baking them, and the crust and filling were always kind of watery when she'd thaw and cook them.  I'm sure other people have had more success with that, because I see frozen pies for sale at the grocery stores.
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especially this time of year.)
Thank you



  1. What a great idea! I'm a bit confused about the initial list of ingredients..."a cup of flour, a Tbsp of cinnamon, and a 1/4 cup of flour. Is it supposed to be a cup of apples?

    1. "Groan"..... Typo. I will go fix that right now. How did I miss that? Sigh...

      Thank you for pointing it out to me!


  2. Wow, what a great idea and good way to use up my overabundance of apples. Thanks!

  3. I'd be a little leery of canning anything with thickener in it, but it's an interesting idea. Maybe if it used pectin instead of flour for the thickener?

    1. I agree, and that's why I used less flour than I would in a fresh pie, and my canned pies were kind of syrupy. It's important not to can anything too dense, so that the high heat necessary to kill pathogens reaches the center of the jar.

      I'm not sure about pectin though. I used it for canning pie filling (no crust) a few years ago and the filling was too thick. Kind of 'jelled'. If anyone else has experience with this I'd love to know. I've also heard of using tapioca as a thickener for canned pie filling, but I don't know anything about it. I can do a 'google search' but I prefer to either try it myself or hear it from someone I know has actually tried it, rather than just a website.

      Which is funny because...THIS is just a website!

      Thanks, Ellendra. I'll look into it further.


  4. Those pies look great !!!! has anyone made a gluten free version ?

    1. Thank you! No, we haven't made a gluten-free version but I know the perfect person to ask. I'm about to do a post on the best gluten-free baking mixes that I've ever tried. They were developed by a lady in Minnesota using all natural ingredients and they work spectacularly in everything else I've made with them (muffins, etc.) It's called Versa-meal. I may try some of the mix and make gluten-free pie crust, then I could try a batch of canned pies.

      Thanks for the idea. There are so many people nowdays that are eating gluten-free. My husband's hayfever is markedly improved when he avoids gluten at those times of the year.