Sour Cherry Pie Filling

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Make sour cherry pie filling using canned, frozen or bottled sour cherries with this recipe - Home in the Finger Lakes

If I had to pick only one kind of pie to eat for the rest of my life I would not even hesitate, sour cherry pie. No, let me be a little more specific, homemade sour cherry pie. Not the kind of pie that has canned cherry pie filling… ummm, EVER!  Pie filling made from real  sour cherries, has brilliant flavor, and shares little similarities with it’s supposed canned counterpart.  I find canned cherry pie filling overly sweet, artificially red with a likewise strangely off-putting consistency. Basically commercially canned pie filling is an insult to the fruit from which it comes.

So, I was thrilled to get my hands of fresh sour cherries last summer. Ok, I harassed a fruit farmer until  he agreed to a produce trade, and I got a big old bucket of sour cherries, and I well, I still owe him corn and tomatoes  Note to self: Fix that before next sour cherry season.

Bucket of Cherries

I sat on the porch and pitted all those cherries. My hand still cramps at just the thought of it. I did not have a cherry pitter so a MacGyver-ed a ball point pen into a passable pitter. Next year, assuming I get caught up in my produce trade, or the fruit farmer forgets I owe him stuff, I am going to get one of these things:

I am going to go out on a limb and am willing to bet this Cherry Pitter  is worth  $13.

All the harassing and pitting was well worth it in the end. Nothing can really compare to sinking your teeth into a slice of  tart-sweet cherry pie, or a piece of rich Almond Cherry Kuchen bars in the dead of winter.

Make sour cherry pie filling using canned, frozen or bottled sour cherries with this recipe - Home in the Finger Lakes

Sour Cherry Pie Filling

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes


  • 5 to 6 cups sour cherries canned or frozen.
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, optional


  1. Defrost frozen cherries reserving 2/3 cup of cherry juice, or drain the cans of cherries, reserving 2/3 cup of water from one of them. Place the cherries and reserved liquid in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Combine the sugar and tapioca. Stir this into the cherries until everything is evenly combined.
  3. Stir in the almond extract and salt. Let the filling sit for 20 minutes before using it to fill the pie shell.


  1. In a saucepan, stir the cherry juice into the combined mixture of the tapioca and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Gently stir in cherries almond extract, salt and optional butter. Remove from heat.


If using canned you will need 2 (14.5 oz.) cans of pitted red tart cherries in water

Recipe Slightly adapted from: King Arthur Flour

Make sour cherry pie filling using canned, frozen or bottled sour cherries with this recipe - Home in the Finger Lakes

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  1. Hi- I’m curious if cornstarch is a good substitute for the tapioca flour? I made some of the filling this evening and it has a chalky, slightly grainy texture to it. Our sour cherry tree is bursting with cherries this year, so I’m looking to make some yummy desserts. Also, is the 1 tsp of almond extract correct? It’s VERY strong in the recipe.

  2. I don’t have a lot of freezer space. Can I mix this pie filling and then bottle it for future use? What length of time should it be in the water bath canner? (I have bee blessed with 9 quarts of fresh cherries that I just cleaned and pitted this afternoon. Please reply promptly. Thanks.

    1. Hi Chris!
      Sorry, this recipe has not been tested for canning, and I don’t advise you to try canning it. I would go ahead and can the pitted cherries, and use the canned cherries to make the pie filling as needed later ( I make it on the fly all the time, it can be done very quickly). The Penn State Extension offers information on raw and hot pack methods of preservation of cherries.

      Cherry Canning Procedure from Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Home Food Preservation

      Wash jars.
      Prepare lids according to manufacturer’s instructions.
      Cherries in jars may be covered with your choice of water, apple or white grape juice, or, more commonly, a very light, light, or medium syrup.
      A medium syrup is suggested for sour cherries, and a very light syrup for sweet cherries.

      To make a very light syrup for a canner load of quarts

      Mix 1¼ cups of sugar in 10½ cups of water and heat to dissolve
      Mix and dissolve 2¼ cups of sugar in 9 cups of water to make a light syrup

      Mix 3¾ cups of sugar in 8¼ cups of water to make a medium syrup.
      To Make a Hot Pack
      Place drained cherries in boiling syrup, juice, or water and bring to a boil.
      Fill clean jars with hot cherries and cooking liquid, leaving ½ inch of headspace.
      To Make a Raw Pack
      Fill jars with drained cherries and cover with your choice of boiling liquid, leaving ½ inch of headspace.

      Remove air bubbles
      Wipe the sealing edge with a clean, damp paper towel
      Add lids and tighten screw bands
      You may process jars in a boiling water or pressure canner
      To Process in a Boiling Water Canner
      Preheat canner filled halfway with water to 180°F for hot packs or 140°F for raw packs.
      Load sealed jars into the canner rack and lower with handles, or load one jar at a time with a jar lifter onto rack in canner.
      Add water, if needed, to 1 inch above jars and cover.
      When water boils vigorously, lower heat to maintain a gentle boil and process for recommended time.
      After processing is complete, set canner off heat and remove canner lid.
      Wait 5 minutes before removing jars and placing on a towel or rack.
      Do not retighten screw bands.
      Air-cool jars for 12 to 24 hours.
      Remove screw bands and check lid seals.
      If the center of the lid is indented, wash, dry, label, and store jar in a clean, cool, dark place.

      If lid is unsealed, examine and replace jar if defective, use new lid, and reprocess as before. Wash bands and store separately.

      Cherries are best if consumed within one year and are safe as long as lids remain vacuum sealed.

  3. Are Tart cherries the same as sour cherries?
    I was asked to make a sour cherry pie and all I can find at the grocery store is California cherry

    1. Hi Jennifer!

      Yes, they are the same thing! Sour Cherries usually don’t show up in grocery stores, they are highly perishable and don’t transport well, but sometimes you can find sour cherries in the frozen foods section. I believe the California Cherries that are available in the grocery stores right now are sweet cherries, but you can find recipes for sweet cherry pies.

  4. Hi,
    i’m wondering if I could use cornstarch instead of tapioca flour. ?

    If made ahead, how long would it keep in the fridge?

  5. I found your recipe yesterday. You are right it is the best sour cherry pie I have ever made. I think the addition of the almond extract is genius. Thank you.

  6. How funny! I have been wanting to make a cherry cobbler and this is perfect! Stopping by from SITS challenge. Just followed you on Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Facebook! Find me under FlChefNicole on Twitter and Pinterest and For the Love of Food on Fb.

  7. I have to make of this. I just started canning this past fall and made my own pickles, jelly, and jams. This would be so great to have homemade pie filling versus store bought. You can’t even compare them to each other in taste.

    1. Oh, I love canning, but these past couple of summers have been so busy I have not been able to get any done. I am hoping this year I will be able to at least get some jams done 🙂