Bourbon-Vanilla Bean Apple Pie Filling
Bourbon-Vanilla Bean Apple Pie FillingBourbon-Vanilla Bean Apple Pie Filling

I think handmade gifts are just the absolute best part of the holidays. Sure, I love a new gadget or book or thingamajig as much as the next girl, but I think there is just something so incredibly special about gifts that someone put time into handcrafting for you. And of all those handmade gifts, I love consumable gifts the most.

I’ve been on a kick lately to really simplify my life, and gifts that don’t end up taking up space in a closet or on a shelf are high up on my wish list for this year. I’m not sure what sparked my need for minimalism (maybe having a kid and having my home very quickly fill up with baby toys and gear), but I’ve been purging something fierce lately. I’ve lost count of how many trips to Goodwill we’ve made! It’s crazy how much stuff you collect over the years.

Bourbon-Vanilla Bean Apple Pie Filling

I think most people appreciate food gifts as much as I do. There is just so much stuff related to the holidays, that it’s really nice to get something incredibly thoughtful from a loved one, get to enjoy it, and then it’s gone. No guilt about selling it at a yard sale years down the line or shoving it in the back of the closet because it’s no longer your style or size. Food gifts are the gifts that don’t keep on giving (unless it’s a jelly-of-the-month club subscription). And for exactly that reason, I feel like they are the most special.

Canned foods are particularly awesome for the holidays because they are so beautiful on their own that they really don’t need much wrapping. Just tie a pretty ribbon around it, and, if you’re feeling particularly festive, wrap the lid in some fun fabric. And it’s done! Beautiful jars don’t need wrapping paper!

Bourbon-Vanilla Bean Apple Pie Filling

People who can and preserve foods are a secret society of sorts. We have rules. We share our beautiful canned goods with one another. We pass around tried-and-true recipes without hesitation. We return jars to the original gifter (especially if it’s a wide-mouth jar—those are precious!). And we have the deepest appreciation for how much work goes into crafting each jar of canned food.

When you give a jar of something canned to a non-canner, they are always appreciative, but they don’t have quite have the amount of overwhelming gratitude that’d you’d get from another canner. Canners know about the long, hot, sweaty hours spent over a stove in the middle of August. They know how your kitchen was a disaster area of apple peels and sticky utensils for days straight. They know that every single jar is something made entirely out of love. And for you to be getting one of those precious jars—that must mean you’re just really swell.

Bourbon-Vanilla Bean Apple Pie Filling

Of course, not all canning has to be as involved as some of us like to make it (I have a fantasy of trying to put up 1000 jars next summer—yeah, I’m crazy). In fact, small batch canning has been taking off in recent years, and it’s incredibly easy to tackle! It doesn’t require much special equipment, you don’t need crates and crates of jars, and it doesn’t take much more than an hour or two to produce beautiful handmade canned gifts like this apple pie filling —less time than you’d spend driving to the store and shopping for a gift. It’s the perfect place to start for the hesitant newbie canner! You really can’t mess this up, I promise. And if you do happen to find a way to mess it up, you only have to dump out a few jars worth of food.

I know a lot of folks worry about food safety with canning, and that’s totally a valid concern, but a sugar-y recipe like this pie filling is a great place to start. Sugar is highly effective natural preservative, meaning that you have a nice safety net built into this recipe if you are concerned about your canning techniques (which you shouldn’t be, because it’s a breeze!). You pretty much have to be trying to get people sick to make jams, jellies, and pie fillings that are dangerous. Just as long as you follow the directions, keep your utensils clean, and process for enough time, you’ll be in great shape!

Bourbon-Vanilla Bean Apple Pie Filling

These quart-sized jars of apple pie filling are the perfect size to fill up a standard 9-inch pie crust. It really makes baking a pie as simple as can be. Just pour the jar into your pie crust, cover with another crust (or a streusel topping—which is what I prefer) and then bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly and delicious! I made an apple pie from my canned filing for Thanksgiving, and it was a hit. In fact, my husband said it was the best apple pie he’d ever had!

Of course, this apple pie filling is good for so much for than just sticking in a pie. We’ve been eating it as a topping for pancakes or waffles. A spoonful of this on top of oatmeal is incredible! And, if you’re so inclined, you can heat up some of it and pour it on top of vanilla ice cream. Then invite me over. Because, yum.


Bourbon-Vanilla Bean Apple Pie Filling

Bourbon-Vanilla Bean Apple Pie Filling

Yield: 3 quarts (enough for 3 pies)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Give the gift of pie with this canned bourbon-vanilla bean apple pie filling! Each quart makes one pie, or you can use it as topping on waffles or ice cream.


  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 12 cups peeled, cored, and slice apples—packed down tightly
  • 2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup ClearJel
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/3 cup bourbon


  1. Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together 1/4 cup lemon juice and four cups of water. Add in the apple slices, and stir to submerge. Drain.
  3. In a large stock pot, combine the apple slices, sugar, ClearJel, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and water. Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and scrape out the insides into the pot.
  4. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, and cook until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Add remaining lemon juice and bourbon, return to a boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  5. Ladle hot apple pie filling into hot jars leaving 1 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
  6. Process jars in a boiling water canner for 25 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 96Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 25mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 0gSugar: 23gProtein: 0g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

25 Days of Making and Giving

Win Canning Supplies during Ball Canning’s 25 Days of Making and Giving

This recipe is part of Ball Canning’s 25 Days of Making and Giving—each day throughout December, Ball will be sharing one unique canning recipe that is absolutely perfect for your holiday gifting! Make sure to check back each day throughout the month for a new, fun way to handcraft your holiday gifts. You can also follow Ball Canning on Facebook or Pinterest to keep up with all the new creations!

During  the 25 Days of Making and Giving, Ball is giving away an amazing daily prize to those who enter on the contest website. You can enter every day for a chance to win the daily prize (today’s is a Fresh Preserving Kit). And each daily entry is included in the grand prize drawing for a FreshTech Automatic Canning System (a $299 value!).


  1. Hi! Excited to open a jar and make this pie tomorrow! Do you have a recommendation for what temperature to bake it at? I found 9” pie pan and bake for 45 minutes, but I haven’t found the temperature? Also, just confirming that you don’t need to prebake the crust? Thanks!

    1. Hi Julia! There’s no need to prebake the crust, and 350° for 45 minutes should be good. Let us know how it turns out for you!

  2. Can I replace clear jel with corn starch if I don’t plan on canning? I am going to make three pies at once so no need for canning.

    1. Hi, Lily! We were home with our families on holiday break—so our apologies for the delay in responding! Hopefully you got this sorted, but in case you didn’t and in case anyone else reading has the same question we wanted to be sure we answered.

      Yes, you can replace the clear jel with cornstarch if you’re NOT CANNING the recipe. It will change the look (it will be cloudier with the cornstarch) and it could change the final texture a bit (cornstarch needs to be heated to activate it’s thickening powers, so the apples could break down a bit more) but it will definitely work! If you gave it a go, please let us know how it turned out for you!

  3. Honey, I made 3 batches of this recipe. I confess I didn’t add the vanilla and I substituted apple cider for the water and Apple Crown Royal for the bourbon at the end. I alway use several kinds of apples for my pies and did the same here. The fact that you cook the apples as you are thickening the sauce is a great idea as it eliminates the blanching of the apples step most recipes call for. I mean who needs another step and another kettle to wash. Delish! My canning shelf looks amazing.

      1. Hi Brandie! If you’d still like to can this apple pie filling, you cannot omit the bourbon. Unfortunately, that’s too big a change to be canned safely.

  4. Hi Cassie! Thanks for your awesome recipes and tips! Is there anything I could substitute the bourbon for? Family with lots of food allergies! Thank you

  5. Bourbon question…does the alcohol cook off? Does it leave a bourbon taste? Or is more along the lines of an extract addition?
    I would like to try this recipe but concerns with children and I have one recovering alcoholic in the group. May sound like a silly question, but better safe than sorry 🙂

  6. If I were to use this recipe to make just apple pie filling to use that day, would I just eliminate the clearjel or would I have to adjust other things?

    1. The clearjel helps give it the thicker pie filling texture so that it isn’t runny, so I wouldn’t skip it!

  7. I’ve been doing canning a long time with my grandmother but since she’s passed away this is the first recipe I’ve tried on my own how thick is the liquid supposed to be and is it going to thicken up more as it cools

    1. It will definitely thicken up as it cools, and it should be just slightly thinner than a normal apple pie filling when you’re cooking it.

  8. When adding things to the stock pot it says add water but doesn’t say how much. Am I missing where it says how much water to add?

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