DIY Cherry Pie Filling

August 20, 2013

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll 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.

Cherry Pie Filling from Food52

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I just spent a blissful ten 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.

Cherry Pie Filling from Food52

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. 

Cherry Pie Filling

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

Cherry Pie Filling from Food52

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.

Cherry Pie Filling from Food52

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.

Cherry Pie Filling from Food52  Cherry Pie Filling from Food52

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. 

Cherry Pie Filling from Food52

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. 

Cherry Pie Filling from Food52

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. 

Cherry Pie Filling from Food52

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Karen Ducker
    Karen Ducker
  • Lindsay Arthur Volpe
    Lindsay Arthur Volpe
  • zellanna
  • stresscake
  • Chocolate Be
    Chocolate Be
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!


Karen D. August 1, 2014
Got a great deal on sweet cherries and went searching for things to make with them. This recipe turned out fabulous! My daughter is begging me to open one of the (still hot from the canner) jars now so she can eat it lol.
Lindsay A. August 26, 2013
could you freeze this instead?
zellanna August 25, 2013
Stresscake, for the amount of liquid 3/4 cup of cornstarch sounds like way too much. I would start with 1/4 cup and see how it is before adding more.
stresscake August 24, 2013
hmmm ... made a 1/2 batch to use up the very last cherries from the market and it turned out really thick & gloppy. Once processed there were air pockets, which isn't good. Stashed them in the fridge to be used soon but it was a bummer. Don't think my cherries gave off enough juice and I should have compensated for that.
Chocolate B. August 20, 2013
Sour cherries! So delicious, often so hard to find, even at farmers markets. Our local f.m. has had a variety called "Balaton," an Hungarian variety, which you can either eat out of hand or sweeten a bit and make into pies, sauces, etc. North Star is also a wonderful sour cherry. I've been making pie filling and sauce for years, and it freezes very well, if you don't want to can. When you haul a bag of cherry sauce out of the freezer in the middle of winter and pour it on a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream, well, summer returns, if only for a few delicious moments. Thanks for the recipe.
Melanie M. August 20, 2013
I approve! :)
HalfPint August 20, 2013
This looks like gorgeous. I would actually use these for cherry cheesecake cookies which are insanely good.