Every year I make fresh applesauce and apple pie filling from in-season apples from our trees. There are a few varieties of apples that are better than others for this process~Lodi, Transparent, and Gravensteins are all great early processing apples. I tend to pick up the windblown apples and make applesauce and the good non-blemished ones picked from the tree make the apple pie filling.
The recipe I use and have had great results with is the "Apple Pie Filling" recipe from the Fruit Pie Filling pamphlet form the Oregon State University Extension Service. Have I told you how much I LOVE OSU's Extension? The research and support that they provide is outstanding and we are blessed to have this resource in our back yard. But for those that don't live close enough, they have handouts and publications to help the home canner, gardener, farmer, etc.!
Back to the filling! The recipe and method is pretty straight forward needing the basics -- apples, sugar, juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon juice. But it also calls for the harder to find ClearJel for the thickening agent. A couple things to remember about ClearJel is that it comes in two forms....regular (or ClearJel A) and Instant ClearJel. Regular ClearJel is used for canning and the instant ClearJel is used as a substitute thickener to cornstarch, flour, tapioca, etc. in gravies, uncooked pie fillings or any other time you need to thicken something. There are many places to purchase ClearJel online, but I get my supply from the Decorette in Tigard.
Note: Regular Clearjel is the only thickener the USDA recommends for use in home-canning of fruit pie fillings. It does not break down and become thin when used in home-canned pie fillings. Instant Clearjel is not recommended in home canning since it tends to break down during processing.
To save time, I used my apple peeler-corer-slicer and just made one cut with a knife to make the half circles. It saved a TON of time and made perfect sized apple slices.
One other important note, when filling the jars follow the directions and fill the jars leaving 1 1/2 inch headspace. I learned the hard way and filled way too much and had a HUGE blow out and had to re-process all seven quarts. I won't be doing that again!
If you've never made Apple Pie filling (or other pie filling), I hope you give this recipe a try. It is quick, delicious and almost fail proof. Happy canning!