What exactly is Clear Jel? And why do people who can stuff think it is so great? Well, I am here to tell you all about it. Clear Jel is a modified corn starch. I can’t say if it is non-GMO, but it is sugar free, salt free, vegan and gluten free. It has been used commercially for years and is available to the home cook in as small of an amount as a pound. A pound of Clear Jel is about 3 cups, and as you can see by my recipes for mushroom soup here, a little goes a long way.
The amazing thing about Clear Jel that sets it apart from other thickeners is its ability to withstand the high heat of pressure canning. Foods thickened with Clear Jel, as its name implies have a clear, smooth consistency. Some people have experimented using Clear Jel instead of pectin to make jam or jelly. But I have not. I have used it to make canned pie filling, and I have used it to make sauces and gravies, although I prefer to use flour or regular cornstarch for those because they are less expensive.
Expensive, you ask. Is Clear Jel really that expensive? No, not so much since it is a specialty item and there really isn’t a reliable substitute. Oh, I know someone is going to say that their grandmother always made her canned pie filling with flour, or tapioca, or something else. But I can’t recommend those thickeners because they can cause a product that is too thick to be safely canned. Also, often those products will break down is storage to produce an unappetizing result. Clear Jel produces a consistent, appealing product every time it is used correctly.
Ah, but I digress, I was addressing the cost of Clear Jel. This week when I made my mushroom soup base I opened my last bag of Clear Jel which prompted me to seek a new supply. As always, I did an internet search, and lo and behold, the best price was once again at My Spice Sage. I have been buying from this wonderful company for years. They are a dream to deal with. Their prices are very reasonable; the best I could find, and they have free shipping and returns no matter how small your order is. They have generous discounts, sales and giveaways. In fact, this week when I ordered my five pounds of Clear Jel, they sent me an entire pound of Ceylon ground cinnamon free! I have to tell you that this is not any sort of paid endorsement. It is just that when I find a great company that I personally use, I like to give them a recommendation. Here my last box of goodies from them including five pounds of Clear Jel.
If you try Clear Jel for canning it is really important that you use the right type: Clear Jel for COOKING also called regular. Do not try to use Clear Jel instant for any type of goods that will be canned or recooked, like say a pie filling that will be canned then later baked in a pie shell. Use regular Clear Jel for that. It thickens after heating. Instant Clear Jel begins to thicken liquid as soon as it comes into contact with it, making it ideal for fruit glazes.
Here is a photo of some peach pie filling that I canned using Clear Jel last summer. You can see the clearness of the filling between the peach slices. So there you have it: Clear Jel the magical canning thickener.