Home Canned Cherry pie filling is easy to make at home, and a few jars of it in the pantry means homemade cherry turnovers (one of my favorite desserts) are always fresh at hand.
Up here in the north country, we can’t really grow those big sweet bing cherries that were a staple of my childhood in California. They’re not hardy here, but no matter, the best pie cherries grow in cold climates instead!
Sour cherries, tart cherries, or pie cherries, as they’re better known are hardy to zone 4 and they’re packed with cherry flavor. They don’t have much sweetness, but once you’ve added sugar as you do in cherry pie filling, they’re hard to beat.
Sweet cherries, on the other hand, don’t make particularly good pies. They have lots of flavor for fresh eating, but it all melts away when you try to bake them into a pie.
The problem with cherries, tart or otherwise, is that they don’t last long. Pie cherries have at best a week before they spoil, and we can only eat so many fresh cherry pies.
Canning cherry pie filling solves that problem neatly and ensures I can always have one of my very favorite desserts…cherry turnovers.
Canning Cherry Pie Filling
Start by pitting all the cherries.
We have a small hand pitter that works wonderfully, and my 4-year-old daughter loves this job. There’s something satisfying about popping the little seed out that really brings a smile to her face, and I’m happy for an hour of quiet while she goes to work.
It also works wonders on our wild plums, which aren’t that much bigger than cherries anyway.
The next step is to freeze the cherries. I know, that sounds strange. Why freeze fresh cherries when you’re just going to can them?
Freezing pops their cells and allows the cherries to release their juices without completely falling apart. If you cook the tart cherries fresh, they’ll dissolve quickly and turn into jam.
Freezing them first is an important step, which means you can actually just harvest all the cherries, pit them and freeze them for later canning when the weather is cooler.
All that juice doesn’t go to waste, half of it (4 cups) gets thickened up into the finished cherry pie filling and the other half can be saved for summer drinks or homemade cherry pancake syrup.
Extra cherry juice will keep in the fridge for several weeks, or in the freezer for a full year.
This recipe comes from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and is a tested canning recipe for use with a water bath canner.
Canning Cherry Pie Filling
Tart cherry pie filling makes the perfect hand pies, and it's a lovely topping for homemade coffee cake. Canning cherry pie filling means you have it on hand whenever you need a quick dessert.
- 10 lbs frozen tart red cherries, thawed, juice reserved
- 3 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup Clear Gel (Cook Type For Canning)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- Place the thawed tart cherries in a colander over a large bowl and allow them to drain, collecting the juice. It should take 1-2 hours to collect the required 8 cups of juice.
- Prepare a water bath canner and canning jars while the juice is straining.
- In a large saucepan, whisk together 4 cups cherry liquid, sugar, clear gel and cinnamon. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Cook until it begins to thicken. (Important: Note that only 4 cups of cherry liquid is used here)
- Add lemon juice, and return the mixture to a boil for 1 minute.
- Add the cherries to the pot, and return the mixture to a boil. Stir thoroughly, and be sure the whole pot is heated at this step because any cool spots will cause trouble during the canning process.
- Remove from heat and ladle into prepared canning jars, leaving 1 inch headspace.
- Screw on 2 part lids to finger tight and process in a water bath canner for 35 minutes. Turn off heat and allow the jars to sit in the canner for another 5 minutes before removing them to cool.
Note that only 4 cups of juice are used in the filling, but a total of 8 cups is collected. Removing this extra juice helps to make a more cherry chunk filled pie filling and is required for this recipe. Save that extra juice for summer drinks, or use it to make cherry pancake syrup by cooking it with equal parts sugar.
Sweet Black Cherry Pie Filling Variation: To make canned pie filling with sweet black cherries, drain the cherries until you've collected about 7 cups of juice (they're less juicy by a bit), decrease the sugar to 2 or 2 1/2 cups and increase the lemon juice to 1/3 or 1/2 cup. Still only use 4 cups of juice in the filling, and reserve the remaining juice for drinks or other cooking.
More Home Canned Pie Filling Recipes
Looking for more fun canning recipes? Try any of these pie filling canning recipes:
Just found this wonderful recipe and wondered if the clear jel is jel or powder form when you buy it?
It’s a powder. This is the one I use:
I’m looking forward to making this recipe with the sour cherries I got from the farmers market this weekend, but I have a couple of (newbie) questions. This is the first year I’ve tried canning anything other than pickles, so I don’t have a lot of experience to work from.
How many, and what size jars should I prepare for this recipe? From your pictures it looks like I will need two quart-sized jars, but I wanted to double check before I got myself into trouble, lol.
Also, how much of this pre-made filling does it take to make a 9 inch pie later? Would it require both quart-sized jars?
This recipe makes 4 jars (one quart each). Usually, a 9-inch pie pan is 6 cups filling, so you’d actually want a quart and a pint for that, and you can do them in either quarts or pints. Most often I turn this filling into hand pies, and a single quart makes a good sized batch of hand pies.
If we were to do pint jars, how long do they need to be in the canning bath? Still 35 mins and 5 mins cool?
Yes, the pint jars would be the same processing time as the quart jars.
Is 10 pounds of cherries before or after putting them?
You want to pit the cherries before freezing them and you want 10 pounds of frozen cherries, so that would be 10 pounds after pitting them.
The recipe says 10 pounds of frozen, you freeze and then pit the thawed cherries?
No, you want to pit and then freeze.
Hey thanks for sharing!
I just made this recipe this week and I think everything turned out after a few hiccups.
My husband and I moved into a new home with an amazing cherry tree out back. Last year, we had no idea what to do with all of them so we froze them. We froze 5 gallons, but I never weighed them before freezing so I have no idea how many lbs we had. When I thawed them, I got 12 cups of juice!!! But the thawed cherries were only 5 lbs, so I cut your recipe In half, but I had to end up making a second half batch of clear jel/cherry juice/sugar and that did the trick.
My question is, are the 10 lbs of cherries your recipe calls for what the weight should be pre frozen? Pre or post pitted?
I believe the 10 pounds would be before they are pitted and frozen.
I just made a batch of Cherry Pie Filling and oh my I could roll around in the stuff! Soooo good!!! I have 6 cups of juice left over and wondered if you have a recipe to make syrup from it? I also ordered the canning book you suggested. I used to grow can every thing when I lived on the farm, but have gotten away from it for 30 years and am now ready for the change back to the good ol’ days. It’s very rewarding!!
Hey, Ruthie! I bet you could follow my recipe for boiled cider syrup: https://practicalselfreliance.com/boiled-cider/
Is this ten pounds of cherries before or after the juice has been seperated?
Hi Lauren! It’s 10# of thawed cherries, juice included.
I picked a little more than 5 lbs of cherries from my little sour cherry tree, pitted and froze them on trays and am now hoping to make some gorgeous and yummy canned pie filling. Problem: my cherries are defrosted in a colander and have yielded about 3 Tbsp of juice. What happened?
I am having the same issue I’ve thawed my cherries for a little over 2 hrs not much juice? Any suggestions
I wanted to comment in case anyone has the same situation as me.
We had our cherries picked fresh from my in-laws tree, and I wasn’t sure what type of tree it was, but I was pretty sure they were sweet. I loved this recipe because I was able to freeze my cherries, as I did not have time to bottle them when they were picked.
My 1 hiccup, was after 12 hours of draining my juice, I only got a total of 4 cups and was pretty worried that the recipe would be very juicy (if there was still juice in the cherries), but decided I wasn’t out anything if I tried it.
I used the instructions with less sugar for my sweet cherries and added the 4 cups of juice in that I had gotten out, which meant I didn’t have extra juice, but that was fine with me. It still turned out perfectly! My cans look much darker, likely due to the different type of cherries I had, but the filling was delicious! I made mini tarts with it this week and my very picky father LOVED it! That is a win!
I’ll definitely make this again next year!
So glad you enjoyed the recipe. Thank you so much for sharing.
iF YOU DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO REAL CHERRIES CAN YOU BUY THEM FROZEN ALREADY AND USE THEM?
This recipe uses frozen cherries so buying them frozen would be fine.
Can I use this recipe if my cherries were sitting in water in the fridge? So I have the juice i need but want to can it now.
Did you add water to them or are they in their own juice?
I have canned cherries in water. It is 6 pounds and 8 oz red tart cherries in water. How would I figure out the right amount if sugar etc? I so appreciate your help.
So you have a little over half the amount of cherries, maybe try 2 cups of sugar and see how that works.
OK, so you said weigh before pitting – I have 40 lbs of pitted, frozen sour cherries – how many do I use? Did you have a recipe for the turnovers?
I’m sorry Marilyn. You want to pit and then freeze and you want 10 pounds frozen after pitting.
How long can this be stored for?
It is recommended that you use canned foods within a year for the best quality. After that, they are typically still safe for quite a while but the quality does tend to deteriorate.
Is there anything you can use to replace clear gel? I live I. Casper Wyoming and can’t find it at any local store.
Clear Jel is needed in order to safely can the filling. If it is not available to you locally, you can order it online or can the cherries and then make them into filling when you’re ready. https://practicalselfreliance.com/canning-cherries/
Hello, I have a beautiful sour cherry tree in my back yard that is ready to pick. I was wondering about how many cups 10lbs of cherries is.
Three pounds of cherries will give you about 5 cups of fruit so 10 pounds will be a little over 15 cups.
My cherries aren’t completely thawed after 24 hrs, can I start draining them partly thawed? Or do they need completely thawed?
You can go ahead and start draining them as long as you have something to catch the juice as they continue to thaw.
What temp to bring the cherries and sauce to before putting in jars
You want it to be boiling.
Oops it burnt🥲🥲
Oh no. You might want to lower your temperature a bit.