Clear Jel…try it, you’ll like it!
I used to can apple pie filling and other pie fillings with flour or cornstarch as a thickener. I’d heard of this product, but I had not tried it. It was on my list of things to do for a while.
Well, I finally went and did it. And I was sold.
What is Clear Jel?
Clear Jel is a modified corn starch made to withstand the heat of canning. Use it just like you would flour. The wonderful difference is…it stirs in much easier, without clumping. Be sure you purchase the non-instant Clear Jel or regular type Clear Jel. The regular is made to withstand the high temperatures of canning.
Instant will not hold up. It is good for using in gravies and other non-canning thickening.
If you’ll look at these pictures, you’ll see why. These are both apple pie fillings that I’ve canned. I’ll bet you can tell which one has flour as a thickener. Yep, the one on the left. The right one is much nicer!
Why Use Clear Jel in Canning?
Flour and/or cornstarch, even tapioca, may be a safety risk. All extension websites don’t mention this risk; most only relate the quality issues. However, at least one extension does have this to say:
“Canning apple pie filling using tapioca or cornstarch as the thickener is an outdated and risky method. Botulism is not a major risk with this product because of the high acid content of the apple filling. However, using cornstarch or tapioca may cause the filling to be too thick for the heat to penetrate to the center of the jar and kill spoilage organisms throughout the product, which is a food safety issue. Cornstarch and tapioca will also break down during the canning process and your pie filling will be runny, which is a quality issue.”
Source: University of Minnesota Extension. (Edit update – It appears that the page where I got this quote has been moved or deleted.)
Where to Buy Clear Jel
Clear Jel can be hard to find sometimes. It often be found in old fashioned or Amish-type stores. Or possibly in health food stores. It can also be ordered online at Amazon.
What If I Can’t Find Clear Jel?
If you don’t have access to Clear Jel, your best bet is to just can the fruit and create your filling by thickening it when you want to make your pie.
Questions from My Inbox
Clear Jel Not Available Locally
Question: Hi! I love your website! I’m new to canning and gardening but am having a lot of success this year! I wanted to try your apple pie filling method but am having trouble finding Clear Jel in my grocery store or Walmart. Do you recommend ordering online or do you have any suggestions?
Answer: Clear Jel can often be found in old fashioned or Amish-type stores. Or possibly in health food stores. It can also be ordered online at Amazon.
Be sure you get the non-instant type. It is for canning.
Read Mitchell’s e-mail below to learn more. This is the person who introduced me to Clear Jel.
I just read the question on pie fillings; you did not know what special pie thickener that the person was talking about.
It is called Clear Jel. You would buy the “Cook Type”. It is a specially modified cornstarch that does not break down like regular cornstarch or get watery.
As for buying it, you can find it the cheapest if you live in an area that has Mennonite or Amish Bulk Foods; there it runs about 2.00 per lb. Online you can find it, but they rob you at 6.00 per lb.
Believe me, once you get to using it, you will never go back to reg. cornstarch again. I mean for reg. cooking, homemade custards etc.
I wanted to tell you also that the one nice point on the “Cook Type” (there is an instant type–you don’t want that, you want the “Cook Type”) is that when you use this, when you thicken your pie fillings custards, etc., it gets as thick as it is going to get when it is hot in the pan, so what you see is what you get. So you know that your pie fillings in the jars is going to be as thick when you open and dump them out as they when they went into the jars. You know when you make Cornstarch Custard at home for dinner, and you use cornstarch, how when it went into the bowl looking nice, then when it got cold and you could cut it like jello (what a disappointment)? Well, Clear Jel takes care of that; the way it was in the pan is the way it will be in the bowl out of the fridge.
You will love it. Mix it up as your thickening just like using reg. cornstarch.
Can You Substitute Cornstarch or Sure Gel for Clear Jel?
Question: Can I ask you if it is safe to use cornstarch as a thickener when canning (say apple pie filling)…and do you know if Sure Gel and Clear Gel are interchangeable?
NCHFP standards do not recommend flour or cornstarch, but most state extensions don’t really state that it is for safety. However, there is one extension at least that DOES indicate a safety issue. Clear Jel really is sooo much nicer. I highly recommend it.
Runny Pie Filling with Clear Jel
Question: I am having problems with my pie filling holding it’s jell after I have canned. I canned some blueberry pie filling last year, and it was great when I put it in the jars. But when I used it nine months later, it was runny when I opened it.
When I make a pie I use a gram cracker crust and heat it up at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. It stays runny. I have added Clear Jel to thicken it up when it comes out of the jar and it has helped. But I give away the pie filling to my kids and they don’t use it because it is so runny. HELP!
Answer: Duane, the only thing I can think of is maybe you need to use a bit more. I’ve not had any issues like this so possibly your personal taste is that you like it thicker. Be sure and measure carefully when you make your filling.
I have read reports of setting up issues if it is too old. Is yours out of date?
One last possibility…did you use an instant? Or the regular? Remember, instant won’t hold up as well. That may be the issue.
Only other thing I can suggest is change the label on the jar to…blueberry syrup. 🙂 Great over ice cream or pancakes. 🙂
Have you ever wondered what’s the difference between pectin, gelatin, or Clear Jel thickening products? Let’s discuss how you use these ingredients, which foods they go with, and the proper way to use them in your kitchen.
Pomona’s Pectin is a very low-sugar alternative for canning jams/jellies.
Canning apple pie filling is for more than making pie. Pop open a jar and heat for a delicious treat, or pour over ice cream!
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Page Last Updated: 10/7/2021