Homemade Cherry Pie Filling

Ta da! I did it, I conquered my fear of canning and was able to preserve 9 pints of delicious cherry pie filling that I made from the wonderful fresh sour cherries from my neighbor’s tree! I actually accomplished this a week ago, but am just now getting around to posting. I also have another basket full of cherries that I picked just before the weekend. They need to be pitted and I plan to make some cherry jam from some and hopefully another sour cherry almond cake. However this time I was thinking of making individual cakes, maybe in ramekins? Yum. :)

UPDATE: below is a list of recipes I have made so far with this batch of cherry pie filling (or with the fresh sour cherries before making the filling) END UPDATE 

Here’s a recap of the cherry pie filling recipes I’ve tested so far:
Cherry Cake with Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting
Cherry Pie Squares
Cherry Cheesecake
Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
Black Forest Brownie Bites

These use fresh sour cherries:
Cherry Almond Cake
Sour Cherry Financiers
Chocolate Almond Topped Cherry Pie

So this cherry pie filling recipe is pretty much everywhere on the internet. I didn’t want to get complicated, especially since I was canning this, so I stuck to the recipe that I got from the Utah State University Extension Office, however the step by step photos are much better on the website PickYourOwn.org. However, FAIR WARNING, I discovered a few typos on the pick your own website, typos that conflicted with the recipe, so I stuck strictly with the recipe in the Utah University PDF and used Pick Your Own’s photos as a guide only.

First off, if you are lucky enough to pick fresh sour cherries, always try to keep the stems in tact until you are actually ready to use them. Once the stem is removed, the flesh of the cherry is exposed to the air and will begin to brown. Store your picked cherries in the refrigerator until you are ready to remove stems and pits, not more than a few days if possible.

See? Here’s the tree down the street from me! It’s pretty much picked clean now, between me, my neighbor’s father, and the birds, we didn’t let any go to waste. :)

When you are ready to pit your cherries, place them in a colander and give them a quick rinse under cold water. Remove the stem and pit the cherry.

I have this totally cool cherry pitter that removes 4 pits at once. I got it from a good friend of mine over at Kid Smart Living and it rocks! It has a little tray with 8 slots, 4 large for cherries like bing, and 4 small for sour cherries. As you can see from the picture above, I hadn’t figured that out yet and had the sour cherries in the big slots. :-/

You place the 4 cherries into the little slots, then just press down on the top of the pitter and lift it back up.

That’s it, pitted!

There’s a little collection tray underneath that catches the pits for you. It even came with a nifty little collapsable colander. After I pitted the cherries, I tossed them into the colander.

When the colander was full I gave them another quick rinse then dumped them into a large glass bowl.

When I was finished, it looked like a murder scene… Ha ha!

I wasn’t quite ready to can, so I placed all of the cherries into a large plastic container with a lid and covered them with water. I cut a lemon in half and squeezed some juice into the water and let them sit until the next day.

The first thing to do was to drain the cherries. However, I did not just drain the cherries and lose all of that glorious red water they had been soaking in! I reserved the water and used that in place of the water in the pie filling recipe.

Next I blanched them for one minute, though I definitely had to do several batches with the amount of cherries that I had. After each batch I needed to put them in a bowl or pot with a lid to keep the heat from escaping, so I just used the ceramic insert and lid from my Crockpot.

The next step is to combine the sugar and Clear Jel in a pot, then add the water. Clear Jel is a thickening agent, basically like cornstarch, but apparently it’s modified specifically for things like pie filling. You can’t find t at regular grocery stores, so I had to order mine online. So anyhoo, I combined the Clear Jel and sugar in a large pot, then I added the red water I had reserved earlier. After attempting to whisk it all together, I then added the cinnamon and almond extract. There was no need for me to add the red food coloring since I used the very red water the cherries had been soaking in.

As you can see, the Clear Jel did not want to combine with the water well, and I should have known better! I know that cornstarch should be mixed with a small amount of liquid first then added as a thick liquid, but I didn’t do that. So instead, I fought with it, smashed it against the side of the pan with my wooden spoon, etc, until it was all dissolved.

The warmer and thicker the mixture became, the more the Clear Jel melted in, so all was well.

Lastly, I added in the lemon juice and boiled for another minute, and then folded the drained cherries into the thickened mixture. I then followed the directions from Utah University for processing the pie filling and all was successful! I won’t tell you how to do it here, but will tell you this was way easier than I thought and now I wish I hadn’t put it off for so long! Can’t wait to can some more stuff as fall approaches. :)

Below is the recipe for cherry pie filling, please download the PDF for processing instructions.

Homemade Cherry Pie Filling

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 1 quart


  • 3 1/3 cups fresh or thawed sour cherries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon Clear Jel
  • 1 1/3 cups cold water (I used the water the cherries were soaking in)
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon bottled lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 6 drops red food coloring (optional, I didn't use this)


  1. Rinse and pit fresh cherries, and hold in cold water. For fresh fruit, blanch up to 6 cups of cherries at a time in one gallon of boiling water. After water returns to a boil, boil for one minute. Drain, but keep heated in a covered bowl or pot. Combine Clear Jel and sugar in a large pot and add water. Add cinnamon, almond extract and food coloring. Stir mixture and cook over medium high heat until mixture thickens and bubbles. Add lemon juice and boil one minute, stirring constantly. Fold in drained cherries immediately. Fill your jars with mixture without delay, leaving one inch headspace. Adjust lids and process immediately.
  2. Instructions for 1 quart, adjust quantities based on the measurement of cherries you have.

Notes from Amanda

If you are not canning, you can make this filling and keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Download processing instructions here


I will be sharing with you my cherry version of the blackberry pie squares that were such a big hit around here. That post will come in the next day or so, stay tuned! :)

More from Amanda you might like:
Vanilla Bean Mulberry Cake
Sour Cherry Financiers
Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
Cherry Cheesecake

More from the interwebs:
Cherry Pie Cups – from Recipe Girl
German Chocolate Cherry Brownies – from Tami’s Kitchen Table Talk
Cherry Pie Filling Bread – from Tasty Kitchen

(If you enjoyed this post, I’d truly appreciate a stumble, Digg, facebook share, whatever you like! :) )

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  1. Leslie says

    You rock! I have never had the nerve to can, even when I've had a jillion tomatoes. I am awed by the sheer volume of cherries you processed and the lovely pie filling you made. And that cherry pitter…MUST. HAVE.

  2. Gail @ Faithfulness Farm says

    Great job! I LOVE canning pie fillings and working with Clear Jel is so much better than cornstarch. Congratulations on your beautiful cherry pie filling :)


  3. allison lemons says

    Oh wow!! Canning cherry pie filling, what a great, great idea! I haven't seen sour cherries for a while – we have tons of Rainier, but not many sour. I really want to can something with nectarines this year. Not sure exactly what yet. Great post!

  4. Heather Davis says

    Love seeing & reading all about the process Amanda. I have always been nervous about canning but you make it look really easy. Thanks for sharing all of this with us!

  5. Joyce says

    I have never canned a thing but this looks wonderful. Now what is the name of the cherry pitter and where did your friend buy it? I would love one of those little gizmos.

  6. Tasty Eats At Home says

    Gah, Amanda, that makes me HUNGRY! Congrats on your first cherry pie filling adventure. I actually went looking for a cherry pitter a few weeks back, and the guy at Sur La Table tried to talk me into that kind! I opted for the single version (takes up less room), but if I was doing what you did, I'd definitely appreciate that one!

  7. Katrina says

    Awesome, Amanda! I bought that same cherry pitter a couple months ago at Bed, Bath & Beyond. It's GREAT! Your photos are fantastic.

  8. Tiffiny Felix says

    You are a *goddess*!! Store-bought cherry pie filling is so awful, I bet your filling was to die for! If I can find some sour cherries at our farmer's market I'm going to try this :) Yum!

  9. Deeba PAB says

    What an absolutely cool pitter, and GREAT job on the canning Amanda! LOVE IT!! Those pictures are totally cool too! SU'd

  10. biz319 says

    Amanda – great job on getting over your fear of canning – the cherry pie filling looks amazing!

    Hope you had a great 4th!

  11. Anonymous says

    Your canned cherries are unbelievably gorgeous! Wish we could get sour cherries in Calif. Sigh….
    Thanks for all the useful info, which I will apply to some other fruit!

  12. Barbara @ moderncomfortfood says

    Well done, Amanda, and so pretty! It's really satisfying to go local, gather your own fruit, and then put it up the way you've done here. The fruit always seems to taste better when you've invested yourself that way, and it feels like Christmas months later when you rediscover a jar you've put up in the back of the pantry. I look forward to your future cherry recipes.

  13. Melissa says

    Really cool pictures and what a cool thing to be able to keep in the freezer and just pull out! Awesome!

  14. Lana @ Never Enough Thyme says

    Great job, Amanda! I've been canning for over 30 years so it's second nature to me. Glad you've overcome your fear of it!

  15. marla {family fresh cooking} says

    Thanks so much for sharing all of this valuable info with us! I am loving that pitter. I bet this cherry pie filling is amazing! xo

  16. Barbara Bakes says

    I had the most scrumptious cherry turnover at a Farmer's Market in Corona Del Mar and it was because the cherry filling was so fresh and delicious. And I thought to myself I really need to learn to make my own cherry filling. You are going to have some fabulous desserts with this filling!

  17. Sue Sparks says

    Your jars of pie filling look gorgeous! I really want to make apple pie filling this fall, so I'll have to check out that site:) THANKS!

  18. Robin (Hippo Flambe) says

    So excited to see a sour cherry pie filling blog post that uses clear jel! The bad canning information in the blogosphere can be frightening.

    Thanks as well for the information about leaving the stems on. Next year I will follow your advice and I won't have the cherry soup in the bags problem. They still made fabulous jam and cake though.

  19. mkinthegarden says

    Thank you! I was searching for a "sour cherry" cherry pie filling, as I had spent the morning picking both bings and sour cherries. Most web recipes don't specify and I really wanted the sour one. So, now that my kitchen is a disaster, I'm sitting back looking at my sour cherry cherry pie filling, thanks to you!! Loved all the pictures too.

  20. Miz Helen says

    Hi Amanda,
    Your Cherry Pie Filling looks so good. I am sure going to can this recipe this coming summer. I would like to invite you to bring a dish to Full Plate Thursday, the linky is open all week end. Thank you for sharing and have a nice day!

  21. Miz Helen says

    Hi Amanda,
    I am so excited that you brought your beautiful Cherry Pie Filling over for us to enjoy. Thank you for coming to Full Plate Thursday and please come back!

  22. Martha A. says

    It always does look like a murder scene after canning cherries! One tip on using clear jel, mix it with the sugar and then bring your water to a boil and then add it all at once. Stir, stir, stir and all the lumps will come out. It is that easy! I use it all the time to make pie filling, most of my life! It is readily available if you check around and see if you have any Amish or Mennonite stores in your area as well.
    Another thing to make sure when you pick sour cherries from a neighbors cherry tree is to check for worms. We have canned some before and found alot of little guests in our jars. Not fun! Check before going to all the work!

  23. Amanda says

    great advice on the Clear Jel, thanks! I'm new to canning, so I can certainly appreciate any good veteran advice I can get :)

  24. Amy says

    How wonderful you made your own pie filling. Must be delicious! Good you have the pitting gadget's help! :)

    I'm hosting the Culinary Smackdown Battle for March–the theme is Cookies. Would you like to join in for the fun? It doesn' have to be a new post on your blog. You can pick your favorite cookie from your previous post too. All you have to do is link up your cookie creation. I have some great prizes waiting. Hope to see your entry soon!


  25. Anonymous says

    I appreciated your help so much! I like to make deep dish pies, so each pie takes 8 cups, so I canned 26 quarts and 26 pints of cherry pie filling using your cherry pie canning recipe! Lots of work and I made it one batch at a time to prevent the cherries from browning. My shelves are beautiful and I will never go back to eating store bought cherry pie filling. My family and friends are telling me this is the best cherry pie they have ever tasted.Thanks Amanda, from Sharon in Vancouver, WA

  26. Kim says

    What is the clear jel and where can i get it? I would love to make the cherry hand pies for a bbq we are having this sunday.

    • Amanda Formaro says

      Hi Kim

      Clear Jel is available at WalMart and many grocery stores. Call your local grocer and see if they carry it. It’s getting a little late in the year though, so it might be a little tougher to find. It’s a white powder that comes in a little box. :)

  27. Janet says

    Here in Utah you can buy the clear gel at the usu extension offices. I’m going to try this tomorrow. Our tree is loaded with cherries.

  28. Darby says

    I pitted mine and was not ready to can that day either. I wanted to wait until the next day. I covered with water and lemon juice but the spots where stem was and pitter pushed out seed turned brown anyway. Since I pitted 6 quarts to make 7 quarts canned, I canned them anyway. I used the food coloring to help. They aren’t as pretty as yours. I will never do that again. I will pick, pit and can all the same day. More work but cherries will look perfect.

  29. says

    I found a clear jel type product at Bi-Mart around $2.50 pack – under label Mrs. Wages. Going to get it now. Will let you know how it works.

  30. says

    Norpro Deluxe Cherry Pitter/Stoner With Automatic Feed – this is what I use to pit cherries very fast. Got at Bi-Mart but similar ones at Walmart. Around $20

  31. Charree says

    This looks great. I have a pile of cherries that I am wanting to can, but the link to the directions for processing isn’t working. Thanks!

  32. Sidney says

    Where did you get your Clear Jel at? I am having a heck of a time finding it. I have already pitted my cherries thinking that my husband could just pick it up from the store but haven’t had much luck finding it anywhere.

  33. Becca says

    YAY!! The only pie filling I can find in the store is sweetened with splenda, and I absolutely cannot stand the taste of it. I am thrilled to find this! Pinning it to use next cherry season!

    • says

      I wouldn’t use sweet cherries with this exact recipe simply because of the sugar measurements. I would google a recipe using sweet cherries instead. using this recipe would probably result in an overly sweet pie filling.

  34. Tom says

    Hey Amanda,

    My cherry tree is ready again for picking, and is it loaded this year.
    Hope you still live near by , I miss the cherry chocolate chip cookies you made me.


    My son’s father-in-law got a little mad you called him my dad,it was very funny.

    • says

      Ha ha, that’s awesome Tom! Funny about your son’s father in-law, no insults on age intended! LOL I am still in Twin Lakes and would love to come by! It’s amazing that it’s still ready, I figured they were long gone by now. But I guess with the late spring we had that make sense. Yes, thank you, would love to come by and pick some! How long do you think I have? We are down to one car again, so it may have to happen on the weekend. Thanks!

  35. says

    I live in WI in the county next to Door County which is known for growing cherries and I have never heard of blanching cherries. In fact, I have never heard of blanching fruit. Why would it be necessary?

    • says

      Hi Joyce. To be completely honest I am not sure. I just followed the recipe as this was my first time canning anything. I know that blanching partially cooks food to prepare it for freezing, so why they need to be blanched for canning is a good question.


  1. [...] also very easy because I used the cherries I had picked and had canned the cherry pie filling using Amanda’s Cooking receipe several days before.  I also had frozen blueberries that my friend from Idaho had picked [...]

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