Preserved Home: Fresh-canned strawberry filling is easy as pie


Home-canned strawberries can be enjoyed as pie filling, preserving spring-season flavor. (Photo by Laura Woolfrey Macklem)

Laura Woolfrey Macklem

The start of Carlsbad’s strawberry season yields the biggest, sweetest strawberries I’ve ever had. I remember my then 4-year-old scooting up to the strawberry stand and asking “one basket please” and being gifted a giant, ruby red strawberry as an extra treat. Between our berry acquisition and the Flower Fields, that day was a little slice of heaven.

When strawberries become available, I always preserve them, as I know come fall I’ll be left with an overpriced, tasteless variety.

For most, the usual go-to in strawberry preservation is jam, but there are other ways to store them long- and short-term. Dehydrated strawberries can be used in trail mix, baked goods, and even hot teas. One of the hottest food tips circulating the internet is storing strawberries in a covered mason jar, refrigerated. But preservist beware — the berries should be unwashed and vacuum sealed for this to work, lest you end up with fermented strawberries and an explosive jar.

Preserved Home by Laura Woolfrey MacklemSome adventurous canners have attempted canning halved strawberries. And while canning strawberries works well with jams and syrups, putting them by in simple syrup alone yields droopy, washed out berries — the result isn’t favorable. However, canned strawberry pie filling using the food safe thickener Clear Jel maintains the berries’ integrity and flavor for long-term.

I use pie filling to make traditional pie, tarts, cobblers, hand pies, crepe or cake filling, and pancake topping. It’s a shelf-stable homemade offering for picnics and company when you are short on time. Besides capturing spring in a jar for all year long, this canned fruit filling will be one of the prettiest things on your shelf.

Don’t give in to the temptation to use alternative thickeners in this recipe, such as common cornstarch or flour. Clear Jel is a modified cornstarch, which produces a stable sauce instead of the runny result from canning with other thickeners. I also use Clear Jel when canning meat in gravy. Clear Jel isn’t commonly found in grocery stores, but it can be found on internet storefronts, and I buy in bulk for a pantry staple.

Fresh spring-season strawberries are ready for cutting and cooking. (Photo by Laura Woolfrey Macklem)
Fresh spring-season strawberries are ready for cutting and cooking. (Photo by Laura Woolfrey Macklem)

You can use water instead of juice in this recipe, but the juice does make for a richer flavor. Sometimes, I use homemade apple juice, or strawberry juice extracted from my steam juicer.

It’s almost time to pick strawberries in my area, and I will surely allow my children to fill their buckets too high as they get carried away with “just a few more.” But no berry will go spoiled in my house — they will get stewed into syrup, dehydrated, frozen, and tucked into jars as pie filling for a well-deserved treat on a busy day.

Canned Strawberry Pie Filling

4 pounds of strawberries
1 1/4 cups of Clear Jel
3 cups white sugar
4 cups apple or strawberry juice (water can also be used)
4 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

First wash, hull and slice strawberries. The smaller berries I slice in half, the larger ones I slice three times. In a large pot, combine Clear Jel, sugar and juices. Bring to a boil on medium heat, stirring constantly. Once mixture comes to a boil and thickens, fold in strawberries. Using a wide-mouth funnel, add pie filling to quart jars leaving 1 inch head space. Wipe rims clean, put on your lids and rings, and water bath can for 30 minutes.

For more recipes, tips and details, visit Laura Woolfrey Macklem’s Preserved Home blog at

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