Cornaby’s Apple Pie Bars and Perfect Pie Crust

When it comes to fruit filled pies there are many opinions about how much pie crust there should be in relationship to how much fruit filling. My sweet husband is a filling man. He wants a thick layer of fruit filling and enough crust to carry it along. I’m more of a middle ground girl. I want enough pie filling to be interesting but I hate it when all my fruit filling spills out of my crust because there’s not enough crust or the pie crust is too weak.

This is where apple pie bars, or other slab pies really, enter in. This recipe takes advantage of the Apple Pie Filling recipe we gave you a bit ago for a wonderful pie filling that bakes up perfectly, and uses Ultra Gel to help give tenderness and hold to a flaky, buttery crust. This recipe cooks very evenly and the resulting pieces keep the apple pie filling in place and are the perfect eat with one hand breakfast! For a lovely compliment try a little caramel ice cream or a poof of Ultra Gel Whipping Cream.

apple pie bars

Cornaby Apple Pie Bars

6 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp salt

2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

1 cup cold butter, cut into cubes

1 cup shortening

3/4 cup water, + a little as needed

2 quarts (4 -4.5 cups) apple pie filling

egg white

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and Ultra Gel, mix well. Add butter and shortening and cut into dry ingredients until the consistency of coarse meal. Add 3/4 cups ice water and toss until water is incorporated. Add additional water if necessary to bring dough together. Turn out and knead 5-10 times. Do not over knead. Split into two pieces and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

When cooled roll out the first piece of pie crust large enough to form to the bottom and sides of an 11×17 inch jelly roll pan. Transfer dough to pan and trim sides. Prepare top pie crust as bottom crust. Fill bottom with prepared apple pie filling, add top crust and crimp edges to seal (use a little water or milk if needed, but generally the dough sticks together really well). Whip egg whites to a froth and brush pastry surface. If desired sprinkle with coarse sugar or cinnamon sugar. Vent top crust by making decorative holes with a sharp knife. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes until top begins to brown. Lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before serving. Refrigerate anything that doesn’t get eaten the first night and serve cold for breakfast!

Brown Sugar Peach Pie Filling

This last weekend I was lucky enough to find some beautiful peaches at one of the local farms up here. I bought a half bushel (abt 22 pounds) and brought it home to a happy household. Naturally we had to do some taste testing so several of the peaches were immediately devoured, they were scrumptious, then I got down to some serious canning.

My first goal was some peach jam as I was all out from last year, but I wanted something a little different. So I made my jam with Jam in a Jiffy, but I added 2 tsp vanilla and 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice to each 2 pound batch. OH MY GOODNESS, so much yum! It’s a perfect fall flavor and delicious on toast, or waffles, or french toast, or crepes, or cake or on a spoon. So if you like peach, make sure you pick up a bag or three of Jam in a Jiffy and get your peaches jammed! (This is a particularly good way to save your fruit if you have peaches that have a little bruising or are a little old.)

Now, the rest of the box I turned into bottled Peach Pie Filling, but again I wanted something a little…richer, because really how can pie filling ever be too much? Don’t answer that question please. But I used our Thick Gel thickened Peach Pie Filling, which is approved for canning, and swapped out part of the regular sugar for brown sugar. Oh my holy pie! This stuff is gonna make me very very popular come Thanksgiving! For one bottle I was a little short on fruit, so I added some thawed blueberries and adjusted my thickness a little. So I’m thinking a peach blueberry tart is on the schedule too.

I use Thick Gel in my pie fillings, even though both Thick Gel and Ultra Gel WILL work. Thick Gel has a little bit smoother final set, which I prefer for pies and by the pound it’s a little cheaper. Since my pie filling is done in large batches and must be cooked anyway this means it’s a little more economical to use Thick Gel as well. Just remember that the two are not always interchangeable. Thick Gel MUST be cooked and Ultra Gel CAN be cooked, but will also thicken cold liquids.

So what’s your peachy delight?

Brown Sugar Peach Pie Filling

For seven quarts:

6 qts. (24-26 cups) peeled sliced fresh peaches/apricots or nectarines

1 c. lemon juice (Do not use fresh lemons. Bottled lemon juice has a consistent pH which is what we are looking for here)

water as needed

3 cups brown sugar

3 cups white sugar

1 1/2 c. Thick Gel (2-2 1/2 c Ultra Gel)

2 t. nutmeg (opt)

Combine peaches and lemon juice in large bowl. Sprinkle 3 cups sugar over peaches and let stand for 30 minutes. Drain accumulated juice, reserving peaches, and add water to equal 5 cups. Combine remaining sugar with Thick Gel. Add to juice and stir well. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Stir in nutmeg and gelatin. Fold in reserved peach slices and continue to cook until thick and bubbly. Immediately fill jars with mixture, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Adjust lids and process immediately in water bath canner for 35 minutes (sea level).

Canning with Ultra Gel and Thick Gel

I love this time of year when so many fruits and vegetables are ready for harvest! My kitchen is quickly filling up with things that need processing: tomatoes, squash, peaches, beans, apples. It just keeps coming! Not that I’m complaining, mind you. :)

So one of the big questions we get this time of year is how Ultra Gel and Thick Gel can be used in canning, and, even more specifically how they compare to products such as Clear Jel.

Clear Jel, like Ultra Gel and Thick Gel is a modified food starch. It has been on the market for many years and is often available through online resources and at Amish stores. However, many people find Clear Jel difficult to locate and hard to use, as well there is concerns about whether or not Clear Jel contains GMO products.

Now, backing up a bit, the first question when it comes to any of these products is: Why do I need to use modified food starch anyway? Can’t I use flour or cornstarch?

The problem you get with some traditional thickeners and methods is that they do not thicken canned goods evenly or consistently. Relying on only natural pectin, for example, means a different result with each batch of fruit, so you often end up cooking a canned product for a lot longer than you really want to, ending up with mushy fruit and loss of flavor and health benefits, in order to get your product to set. As well, pectin breaks down over time and products begin to weep and break apart so you’ll have some sections which are very juicy and some that are over thick.

When dealing with flour and cornstarch they do not thicken evenly, so the processing heat does not move through the bottle evenly and may or may not be able to kill all bacteria, yeasts and molds. As well you can see the same weeping and spotty thickness problems that you see with pectin.

Thick Gel and Ultra Gel are unique in the canning world because of how evenly they thicken products and because if their very high stability under acidic conditions, high heat, and their freeze/thaw stability. This allows for safe canning of items such as soups, sauce, pie fillings, jams and just about anything else which traditionally calls for Clear Jel, flour or cornstarch. These starches have been tested in commercial laboratories and are canning approved by the Utah State Extension service.

Thick Gel and Ultra Gel can be purchased through the Cornaby’s Website, or through Amazon. Locally they can be found at your local Associated Food Stores, Bosch Kitchen Centers and Harmons Food Stores.

Recipe Conversions: If recipes are given by weight instead of volume use the same weight of Thick Gel or Ultra Gel to Clear Jel.

1 Tablespoon Clear Jel=3/4 Tablespoon Thick Gel=2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

1 Tablespoon Thick Gel=2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

Thick Gel apple pie filling

Canned Apple Pie Filling

Yield: 8 servings per quart

For one quart or one pie:

3 ½ cup blanched peeled and cored cooking apples sliced ¼” thick

¾ cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (opt.)

½ cup cold water

¾ cup apple juice

2 Tablespoon bottled lemon juice

1 drop yellow food coloring (opt.)

3 Tablespoons Thick Gel OR 6 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

For seven quarts:

6 qts. blanched peeled and cored cooking apples sliced ¼” thick

5 ½ cup sugar

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg (opt.)

2 ½ cups cold water

5 cups apple juice

¾ cup bottled lemon juice

7 drops yellow food coloring (opt.)

1 cup Thick Gel OR 2 ½ cup Ultra Gel


Peel, core and slice apples; place in water containing ascorbic acid. Blanch no more than 2 quarts at a time for 1 minute in boiling water and keep warm.

Combine sugar, spices, water, apple juice, lemon juice and coloring in heavy 10-12 quart pan. Bring to a boil and gradually stir in Ultra Gel with a wire whisk – If using Thick Gel, combine listed Thick Gel with enough additional apple juice to form a thin slurry and whisk into boiling liquid. Cook until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Fold in drained apple slices. Fill jars, leaving ½” headspace. Adjust lids and process immediately in water bath canner for 35 minutes (sea level). Add five minutes processing time for elevations of 1,000 to 3,000 feet and ten minutes for elevations from 3,000 to 5,000 feet.

Nutrition info/serving: 128 calories, 0 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat 33 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 30 g sugar, 0 g protein, 2 mg sodium

Pie Contest!

disney2012 064

Okay, so we’ve only received 3 entries into our pie contest.  This makes us sad because we have a ton of cool stuff we want to give away!  Soo…as a reminder…send in your recipes between now and November 20, 2013, which is Wednesday and you’ll be entered for prizes and accolades and sheer awesomeness!

Recipes should use some Cornaby’s product and be sent to info (at) cornabys (d0t) com, which we’re spelling that way because some stupid spambot got me the last time I put it out here normally and I hates the spam.

See the pie.  Love the pie.  Make the pie!!!  Email us the pie!!!


Storing Ultra Gel and Thick Gel – And a contest

First things first…we’ll talk about the contest!  Starting now we want your pie recipes!  We love pies and tis the season for some of our favorites and yours.  So we want to see your recipes for pies using any Cornaby’s product.  We’ll be gathering recipes from now until November 20th, that’s next Wednesday and then put them up for a vote.  The author of the recipe(s) with the most votes on the blog, twitter or Facebook will receive a Cornaby’s gift pack just in time for the holidays including our brand new Raspberry Habenero jelly!  Send your recipes to and put ‘pie contest’ in the subject line!

Now…moving on.  A couple days ago I was shopping with my husband and I saw a card by the spices which was interesting and kind of fun.

Aging SpicesAs you can see this is a good guide for those of us who might have older spices in our cupboards which really need to be dumped.  I remember the square tins from when I was growing up and I have seen them in a few places, though I didn’t find any when I cleaned out my cupboard!

This leads me to a question we are often asked which is regarding the shelf life of Ultra Gel and Thick Gel.  When it comes to food storage there are a few things which can cause issues: bacteria and molds, physical contamination, moisture and critters.  With Ultra Gel and Thick Gel as long as they are properly stored most of these issues can be avoided and the starches are good for many years.  We package Ultra Gel and Thick Gel in thick resealable pouches.  They should be kept in these pouches, or moved to other containers which have a tight lid.  When this is done then moisture and physical contaminates can’t get in and these starches do not naturally have enough oils or moisture to encourage growth of bacteria, molds or to attract mice or bugs.

So the answer in a nutshell is to keep your starches in cool, dry locations in an air tight container and they’ll be good for years.  It is suggested to rotate every 5-7 years, but in my own kitchen I find I go through the product much faster than that!


Thick Gel versus Clear Gel

For today’s blog we’ve gone back to the mail pile and some of the questions we’ve received lately.  With it being canning season this is one that I’ve received often.

‘I have a recipe which calls for Clear Gel.  Is that the same as your products?’

It’s a good question and one which can be the source of a lot of confusion.   There are a lot of starches out there in the food business – literally hundreds of them – and each starch is good for different things.  There are some starches which are so specialized that the only thing you can do with them is make fudgepops and others, like general corn starch, which can be used in a wide variety of applications.  When we first got into the starch business Clear Gel was the starch we started working with and we found that it works pretty well, but there were still some things we weren’t happy with.  We wanted a non-GMO, gluten-free cooked starch which would have a great consistency, no flavor and would hold up to being frozen, fridged or canned with.  Clear Gel can do some of these, but it’s inconsistent when it comes to flavors, colors and lumping.  So we went back to the drawing board and developed Thick Gel.

Thick Gel

Thick Gel is a type of cornstarch, but unlike traditional thickeners it has all those qualities we were looking for.  It’s non-GMO and gluten free, safe to use when making preserves which will be fridged, frozen or bottled and disperses very easily either mixed with a little bit of water or the dry goods in a recipe.  The consistency and sheen is lovely and all in all we’re really happy with the results.  Unlike its sister product, Ultra Gel, Thick Gel needs to be cooked with the thickening power of the starch kicking in at about 180 degrees.  So it does NOT have to be boiled hard, just brought upto temperature.  In any recipe calling for Clear Gel, Thick Gel can be substituted in a one to one ratio.  Give it a try.  We think you’ll love the results!


Thick Gel can be found in local Utah Grocery stores, or online at Amazon or the Cornaby’s Shop.

Blast from the Past: Homecanned Thick Gel Salsa

Continuing our Canning blasts from the past.  Since it’s tomato and pepper season here in Utah it seemed like a great time to hit our post on Salsa!  If you have been using Clear Gel or have a recipe which calls for Clear Gel you can replace it straight across for Thick Gel at a one to one ratio.


When it comes to salsa you have to be careful to keep a balanced level of acidity.  Most approved recipes will call for between one to four cups of vinegar per ten cups of tomatoes, depending on your area.  Do NOT omit the vinegar, though for flavor you can swap out part of it for lemon juice, or use flavored vinegars.  The reason for the vinegar is to keep the acid level low enough that botulism and other critters can’t exist in your salsa.  Canning is fun, but you want to keep it safe.

As well you’ll work with a variety of peppers, depending on how hot you want your salsa.  Again, the proportion of veggies to tomatoes is important, but the type not so much.  However, please please work with gloves on whenever you’re dealing with a pepper hotter than a bell.   Especially when you’re working a lot of peppers the capsicum builds up on your skin and can leave you with painful burns for days.  If you do start to get burning wash your hands with soap and water first, then rinse with milk or cream.  Further burning can be treated with crushed antacids or ice baths.

Now, traditionally to get thickened salsa the spices, veggies (fruit in the case of the tomatoes) and vinegar are mixed in a large pot and boiled down to a proper consistency.  this means boiling for a looong time and often by the time the liquid has been evaporated out there isn’t much left of the vegetables either.  They’re mostly mush instead of chunks, or they’re chunks but the salsa is thin and watery.  Some people use corn starch to add thickness, but this is not advised by the USDA because cornstarch can thicken inconsistently and change the flavor of the product.  In contrast both Ultra Gel and Thick Gel are approved because they thicken very consistently without changing colors or flavors and remain stable under pressure and in both low and high acid environments.

To use Ultra Gel or Thick Gel in salsa combine all ingredients except for the vinegar and the starch and bring to heat until the onions and peppers are soft but not mushy.

To use Ultra Gel combine Ultra Gel with the vinegar and add to the mix, stirring thoroughly to mix through.  Allow to sit for 3-5 minutes to obtain full thickness.  If you want it thicker sprinkle in additional Ultra Gel and mix well.  Again allow to sit before putting into pint or quart bottles and processing in a bubble bath  (use the Ball Blue book or the US Extension service guidelines for your altitude to determine time).

To use Thick Gel combine the Thick Gel with the vinegar and bring the vegetable mix to a boil.  Add starch and vinegar mix and stir thoroughly to disperse starch through the pot.  Allow 3-5 minutes to come to full thickness, pour into pint or quart bottles and process in a bubble bath as above.

This year I split my batch in half and made two batches of salsa, one with Ultra Gel and one with Thick Gel.  For the Ultra Gel batch I further roasted all of my vegetables and the garlic before chopping it and adding to the pot.

When all was said and done I ended up with a similar number of jars from each batch and both were beautifully thick with a nice medium heat and chunkiness. If I had to choose a favorite between the starches, just for this use, I’d say they were both good, but the Thick Gel saved me a little cash and thickened more smoothly without adding any additional starch after the first.  So I think if I HAD to choose I’d use Thick Gel, but both were very effective.

I did love roasting the vegetables as it took a lot of the chopping out.  I cut my veg in half tossed it all on a cookie sheet and baked it for 20 minutes at 425 degrees, then used tongs to move it into my food processor, pulse and pour.  The flavor is really nice, particularly the roasted garlic.

And it’s gluten free, fat free, vegetarian and highly yummy!

I think we’re set for the year…and my salsa sticks to the chip and not the floor.  How cool is that?

pretty salsa jars
Can you tell which is which?

Cornaby’s Salsa – Using Ultra Gel or Thick Gel

10 c. peeled, cored, chopped tomatoes (about 15 – romas will give you a meatier product, other garden tomatoes will give more juice – Use tomatoes from a farmer’s market or garden for best quality)

6 c. seeded, chopped chili peppers* (2 lb.) Choose varieties for desired spiciness OR 4 6½ oz. cans green chilies)

4 c. chopped onions (about 4)

1 6-oz. can tomato paste

3 t. salt

½ t. black pepper

1 c. vinegar (5%)

1/3 c. Thick Gel (2/3-1 c Ultra Gel)

Combine vegetables in large heavy saucepan.  Add seasonings and tomato paste.  Combine vinegar with Thick Gel and add to vegetables and stir until blended.  Bring ingredients to a boil; simmer 10 minutes.  Season to taste.  Fill jars, leaving ½” headspace.  Adjust lids and process in water bath canner for 30 minutes (sea level).

Yield:  6-8 pints

*Wear plastic gloves while preparing fresh peppers