Stock photo from Google images
Why use Clearjel instead of cornstarch?
I did a little research online and found a few different reasons amongst regular cooks & canners.
Here are a few reasons people say they use Clearjel instead:
"It is the same reason that all dairy products and oils are prohibited. Just like flour, pasta, rice, and any other so-called "thickeners" corn starch is prohibited in home canning because it both retards the heat penetration need to kill bacteria, but it also binds to bacteria and insulates them from the heat so the heat can't kill them. Clearjel is the only approved thickener."
"Cornstarch can impart a rather distinctive flavor, and not in a good way. And it has a tendency to get watery, if that makes any sense."
"Canning pie filling using tapioca or cornstarch as the thickener is an outdated method. Why is this risky? Botulism is not a major risk here because the high acid content of the most fruit pie fillings. However, using cornstarch or tapioca may cause the filling to be too thick for the heat to penetrate and kill spoilage organisms throughout the product—a food safety issue. Cornstarch will break down during the canning process. Your pie filling will be runny—a food quality issue."
I recommend following these USDA-approved guidelines:
Clearjel® is the only thickening agent approved by the USDA for canning. Clearjel® is a modified waxy food starch producing a smooth, heavy-bodied, gel-like product. Canned products retain a smooth texture with no liquid separation or curdling.
Of course another option is to can your delicious fruit pie fillings without any starch and then thicken them with tapioca or cornstarch before putting them in your pie shells.
As my friend Kate McDermott (of Art of the Pie fame) says:
"Be happy. Make Pie."
I agree, and I would like to add:
"In fact, make pie filling now while fresh fruit is in season, and seal it in Mason jars. You'll be even happier knowing you have pretty jars full of perfect pie filling in your pantry all year 'round."
Note: I am not talking about Instant Clearjel. Do not use it for pie fillings; it will break down when baked in a pie.
Regular Clearjel is what you want, and it can be purchased online. I would suggest you do an internet search to find the company that best suits your needs. I bought my last batch online from Barry Farms, but I know that in Washington and other western states it can be purchased at Cash & Carry stores. I think Cash & Carry only sells it in 25 lb bags, however, so you might want to share with a friend!