Friday, June 19, 2009


When I am baking a pie from fresh fruit, I usually use flour or cornstarch for my thickener. However, when it comes to canning pie filling, these thickeners don't work. Though I have seen sites on the Internet that say to use cornstarch, it doesn't stand up to being heated twice. The pie filling may be thick when the jar is put up on the shelf, but by the time the pie comes out of the oven, it is runny.

Furthermore the USDA says that using cornstarch as a thickener for canning is not safe. Apparently it prevents the food from heating evenly so the center may not get hot enough to kill mold and bacteria.

One solution is to can your fruit without the thickener and add the thickener before you put it in the pie shell. However this doesn't allow for the convenience of just opening the jar and pouring it into the pie shell.

When the USDA approved ClearJel® (modified corn starch) for use in home canning, I confess that I was slow to try it. I was full of questions like, "how do they modify it? Do the modifications make it bad for your health? Isn't one of the advantages of home canned food suppose to be that you don't have funny sounding ingredients in your food?"

Never mind that sugar cane is very highly modified before it ends up on your table on the form of granulated sugar, or that granulated sugar is definitely not a health food. After all, I have been acquainted with sugar all of my life. It is not something new and unfamiliar.

I tried reading up on how corn starch is modified to become ClearJel®, but that was over my head. I did finally end up deciding that I have not found any research yet which says it is bad for your health, and when you consider how much modification goes into something like sugar, maybe my real problem was just that I was afraid to try something new.

I have to say, that ClearJel® works quite well. In addition to thickening pie fillings, it can also be used as a thickener for canning things like creamed corn.

It can also be used in place of pectin in jam recipes, but I have never tried it. Maybe I should. For information about using ClearJel® in jam, refer to this article by Washington State University.


  1. LOL I bought a small bag of this, it sat in my fridge for the LONGEST time and I chickened out on using it. Guess I'll have to revisit this.

  2. I'll have to find some of this. It might work for winter berries pies which are hard to thicken.

  3. Sounds good, I'll have to shop for this next time :)

  4. Hello Charlotte,

    We use ClearJel and have found it to be quite successful for our family. I have not found any "health issues" with it either.
    I did not know that about cornstarch preventing the food from heating evenly.

    Thank you for the info!

    Leslie for both Anna and I

  5. ClearJel is modified food starch. The modification in this case is just cooking. The pre-cooking allows the starch to mix directly into foods without clumping in the same way Wondra (pre-glutenized, read as pre-cooked, flour) can mix into hot gravy without clumping.

    The modification process and the fact that it contains stable starches from foods other than corn, allows it to remain stable during the canning process. If you use just corn starch it can seperate when canned.

    It's great stuff and I use it but in jams the texture is different than pectin; it's more like thick pie filling.

    Using it is not an exact science either. Try cooling it in a small batch before you can it. Unlikle most other setting agents, you can reheat your stuff and add a little water or more clear jell to adjust the final texture before processing.

  6. I don't believe that the modification is simply cooking, because if you read up on it, they go into long explanation about using acids to change chemical bonds.

  7. I bought some of this last year and used it in a peach pie filling. Used according to recipe and was waaay too much. Everything thickened to the point of not being able to stir it. This was before canning. I have heard others have had this trouble with the amt. in recipes. How much did you use in your apple pie filling?

  8. You probably made the mistake of using "instant clearjel". It is not recommended for canning because it thickens too fast and then the material in jar may not heat thoroughly in hot water bath. If canning use the regular Clearjel, not instant clearjel.


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