09/17/2013 05:18 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

DIY Cherry Pie Filling Is So Much Better Than Canned

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week at Food52, we spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: Erin McDowell (a.k.a. apartmentcooker) redeems cherry pie filling from its gloopy, canned past. Grab your pitters, everyone.

I just spent a blissful 10 days visiting family in Kansas -- it was the first time in nearly five years that I have visited my home during the summer months. Most Midwesterners would probably shake their heads at the glee I felt driving up to my parents' home in the sweltering heat and unbearable humidity, but all I could see was my mama’s garden. Big, beautiful, and overflowing -- it’s a home cook’s playground. Every summer, my mama preserves the garden's excess, canning it for the months when we’ve forgotten what summer cucumbers taste like. This is where I grew up, and this is why I can.

Growing up in a household that values fresh food fosters a deep love of all things homemade. I also think it instills a very particular kind of impatience -- a desire to outsmart mother nature. I make my own cherry pies, and I simply will not resign myself to just eating that one, glorious cherry pie a year. As long as my shelf space holds out, I’m going to find room for a few more jars. 

This recipe for cherry pie filling is best with sour cherries, but sweet cherries will work just fine. It can easily be halved for making an even smaller batch, but when it comes time to pitting cherries, I prefer to spend one day getting the worst out of the way, so later I can focus on the really important stuff, like eating pie. 

Cherry Pie Filling 

Makes 4 quarts

Adapted from the Ball Blue Book of Canning

4 quarts sour or sweet cherries

3 cups sugar

3/4 cup cornstarch

1 cup water

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Wash and dry the cherries. Pit them over a bowl, reserving all flesh and juices. If you really like cooking and baking with cherries, it really is worth it to buy a cherry pitter. I’m not one for single use kitchen gadgets, but it really does the job. If not, just halve the cherries and remove the pit.

Whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a bowl. In a large pot, whisk together the water and lemon juice, then add the sugar and cornstarch in, whisking well to combine and remove any lumps. Bring the mixture to a boil.


Add the cherries and bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cherries have softened and the juice has thickened. 

Ladle the mixture into sanitized canning jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Fasten the lids to each jar, and transfer to a boiling water canner. Process for 30 minutes, then remove and let cool completely at room temperature. Check the seals, then store in a cool, dark place. 

Note: One quart of filling makes one 9-inch pie. If you open a jar and don’t use all of the filling, be sure to refrigerate it until you finish it up. 

See the full recipe (and save and print it) at Food52.

Photos by James Ransom

This article originally appeared on DIY Cherry Pie Filling