Living Homegrown

- The Blog -

Live farm fresh

without the farm®

Preserve Like a Pro: Get my top sources for canning tools & supplies. (It’s free!)

Clear Jel vs. Sure Jell in Canning

Difference between Clear Jel & Sure Jell - LivingHomegrown.com

Clear Jel® and Sure Jell® are trade names of two products used in canning in two VERY different ways. But because their names are so similar, there is often some confusion between them.

Additionally, Clear Jel is not very easy to find and is unknown to many newbie and even intermediate canners.

So in post I cover…

  • What these two products are
  • How they are used (and not used)
  • Where the heck you can get this elusive Clear Jel that advanced canners talk about.

The difference between Clear Jel and Sure Jell - LivingHomegrown.com

What is Clear Jel?

Clear Jel (spelled with one “L”) is a modified food starch that is used as a thickening agent in canning recipes. It is  most commonly used in canned apple pie filling,  but can also be used in other pie fillings, other preserves, canned soups, etc.

It is actually a modified corn starch (NOT regular corn starch) that is resistant to breaking down under high temperatures and various pH levels. It has no flavor and comes as a white powder.

The advantage of Clear Jel is that it is able to thicken the food evenly (without lumps) even when it is subjected to the sustained temperatures of the canning process. (Water bathed or pressure canned)

When used in canned pie filling, it will bake into a beautiful pie with just the right amount of thickening and you never even know it is there.

Clear Jel has nothing to do with the safety of your canned product.

Note on Instant Clear Jel:

For canning, you want to stick with regular Clear Jel – Not instant. (Instant Clear Jel is clearly marked as such.)

Instant Clear Jel will thicken foods without heat and is good for cooking up a quick, room-temperature sauce, etc. But it does not work as well for canning because it breaks down when heated for long periods of time.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Other Thickeners in Canning:

You don’t want to use a traditional pie thickener like regular cornstarch, tapioca or even flour in your canned pie filling because you would be very unhappy with the results.

Those thickeners tend to gum up and get lumpy during the heating process of sealing the jars. Other times, they gum up while sitting on the shelf.

Either way, when you open the jars later you have a very unappetizing filling with lumps that won’t thicken well when baked.

From a safety standpoint, it would be okay to use them.

But don’t!

What is Clear Jel in Canning - LivingHomegrown.com

Do You HAVE TO Use Clear Jel?

NO – You do not have to use it!

What I tell my canning students is that in most recipes, you can skip the thickener all together and can up your recipe without it. Later, just add a regular thickener when you open the jar to make the pie.

This eliminates the need of tracking down Clear Jel.

Skipping it has no bearing on the safety of the recipe.

But make a note on the jar that you need to add a thickener at baking time. And when you do, be very gentle as you stir it in so you don’t mush up the softened fruit.

Also note: If you are trying to stay 100% organic, Clear Jel is not organic. This means it is probably GM corn (as is most corn in the USA). In fact, any corn product listed on any food package (corn starch, corn syrup, corn flour) is usually genetically modified unless it is organic.

If You Skip The Clear Jel:

How much thickener would you add at baking time?

Just open the jar and add whatever amount of thickener you would normally add for a pie of that size.

For me, this means stirring in about 1-2 Tbsp. of flour at baking time (9-inch pie).

Or…don’t add any thickener at all. You just end up with more juice running on the plate.

But hey, a piece of crust is the perfect thing for slopping that up!

Where to Buy Clear Jel:

I have never found Clear Jel in a regular supermarket or health food market. I just don’t think enough people use it to warrant most stores keeping it on the shelf.

So if you are like me and you don’t have a local, super cool market packed awesome canning supplies, then you can order it online.

Here are some sources:

Sure Jell vs Clear Jel in canning - LivingHomegrown.com

Then What is Sure Jell???

Sure Jell is standard pectin. It comes in a standard and a low-sugar version.

It is used to gel or “set” your preserves such as jam and jelly.

It has been around FOREVER and is one of the most common pectins on the market. You can find it at most grocery stores.

But it would NOT work as a pie filling thickener!

It would turn your filling to JAM.

Personally, I rarely use Regular Sure Jell pectin only because it requires a lot of sugar to get the set. I like to use low sugar varieties of pectin (Pomona is my favorite) or no pectin at all.

But both types of Sure Jell work well, are easy to find and easy to use.

Difference between Clear Jel and Sure Jell - LivingHomegrown.com

At Your Next Cocktail Party of Canners:

So, the next time you are mingling with a group of advanced canners, you can now chime into the conversation with confidence and say something like…

“And that grocery store clerk even suggested that I just substitute regular cornstarch for the Clear Jel®!! Can you imagine? That would be SO jacked up.”

You’re welcome.

Tell me in the comments:

If you could can up ANY pie filling and store it for later, what kind of pie would it be?

* Denotes an affiliate link

Enjoy this post?

Sign up for updates & receive my free Canning Resource Guide

Preserve Like a Pro: Get my top sources for canning tools & supplies. (It’s free!)

About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy® and is the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two teenage boys and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.

62 Comments:

  • Sara says:

    I had trouble finding the low sugar Sure Jell this year. I’ve been using Pomona’s more and more any way, but some of those pink boxes would have come in handy.

    Thank you for noting that Clear Jel isn’t necessary. There’s a recipe my friend and I have looked at a few times and wondered about the Clear Jel since we don’t have it on hand.

    • theresa says:

      Hmmm, I wonder why you had trouble finding the low sugar Sure Jell. But I am so glad to hear you are using Pomona’s more. I like it too.

  • Laura Bell says:

    ANY pie filling? My mother-in-law’s chocolate cream pie! Of course, then my family would just sit around eating jars of the stuff, but I might be okay with that. I’m not a fan of a lot of her efforts in the kitchen (she’s not bad, just not imaginative at all), but her chocolate pie is to die for.

    For fruit pies, my favorite is apple or apple-cranberry. Haven’t made a batch of pie filling in ages though. Maybe I should, now that I know about Clear-Jel.

    • theresa says:

      Yes – Laura, I meant ANY pie. I figured it was a hypothetical question. 😉

      I’m sure most of our dreamed up canned pie filling would not be doable in the real world. {sigh}

      I think you chocolate cream pie is perfect example. How cool would it be to have THAT on a pantry shelf? Bummer it wouldn’t work. But a girl can dream!

    • melodie l mills says:

      Ooh can you share the chocolate pie recipe?

  • Khalil says:

    Instead of all such thickening I like using Agar-Agar, which is a sea plant with high consistency and herbal benefits.

  • Rose L says:

    When your topic mentioned Sure Jell I got really excited but then it didn’t say what I wanted it to. 🙁 I believe people are getting more health conscious everyday and like me, want to be able to avoid all the sugar that goes into so many canning recipes. Can you please post about using the NO PECTIN Sure Jell with Splenda or other sugar alternatives like xylitol, erythritol or plain stevia? Splenda isn’t really healthy in my opinion but it beats sugar by a long shot. The package insert in Sure Jell just isn’t clear enough for me to get my head around it and it doesn’t cover all types of fruits or juices for that matter. The canning industry could really use some new products when it comes to living sugar and grain free etc. Thanks! Love your blog!

  • Janet Finley says:

    My favorite pie fillings to make for later are black raspberry and peach. I like to put them up when the fruit is in season, and enjoy the rest of the year. As for the ClearJel, I buy it at E&S Sales, a bulk food grocery in Shipshewanna, IN. I imagine if anyone lives near an area with a largish Amish population, they could find it in their grocery.

  • Shon Koenig says:

    I have not tasted any of the artificial sweetners in anything that don’t taste horrible. I would never go to all the work to make jam or jelly with wonderful fruit and then put that yukky stuff in it. I made and canned apple pie filling this year for the first time and used Clear Jel, it was wonderul!! I love your blog and info! Keep up the good work!

  • Vickie says:

    Ah – my favorite pie? Cherry!!! I think I could eat cherry pie every day of my life – seriously! Our baby cherry trees should put some fruit on this year (fingers crossed) but we probably won’t get enough to do anything but eat them while standing under the tree – hopefully before the birds do. I would also like to thank you, Theresa, for letting me know about the Master Food Preserver’s program. I applied and have been invited to be interviewed on Feb 7th. Wish me luck, as they only accept 20 into the program each year and they have a lot more than 20 applicants!

    • theresa says:

      Whoot – That is great Vickie. I hope you get into the Preserving Program!! And if for some reason you do not, you might consider taking my Canning Academy course. It covers the same topics but also goes deeper into flavor enhancing. The next round is early Spring.

      As for the cherry pie – we have the same problem! Those pesky birds are so hard to beat to the fruit. Ugh!

  • Jeanetta says:

    After a few years of canning I used the low sugar box of Sure Jell it make an orange marmalade and was very pleased that i didnt have to use as much sugar.

    • theresa says:

      Yes. I agree that less sugar is best. And don’t you find the flavor is better? About 80% of all my preserves are no sugar because I want to avoid it too.

  • JACKIE KRONSTED says:

    Took the University of Illinois Master Preserving (one week) course two years ago and the teachers highly recommended Clear Jel. Love it. Made some blueberry pie filling grandchildren use on their toast.
    Also have recipes for no sugar jam/jelly using frozen white grape juice.

    • theresa says:

      Awesome Jackie – So glad to meet a fellow Master Food Preserver grad. 🙂

      • verdene says:

        so clear gel is good to use for canning raspberry jam.?
        triple berry freezer jam and crandberry apple juice jelly?
        we have a bunch and want to make jams and jellies.
        so can we use it instead of Sure jel???

        • theresa says:

          Clear jel is meant to thicken things like sauces & pie fillings. It does NOT create a “set” or “gel” of a jam. So if you mix it with pureed raspberries, you will get a thick raspberry sauce – not jam. Jam has a firmer “set” – (like jello). Clear jel will not give you that.

          If you want to make jam, you can use sure jell which is a pectin. The regular pectin combines with the sugar and acid to create the set. And low-sugar pectin combines with acid and calcium to get the set.

  • Arche N. says:

    When using cornstarch as an ingredient, it may be salutary (literally–salus, health) to make sure that it’s not derived from genetically modified (GM) corn. Unfortunately, most corn in the USA is *not* organic and non-GM corn, but it is worth it to avoid taking glyphosate residue and Bt (Bacterium thuringensis) into one’s body as can occur with GM corn.

    • theresa says:

      Hi Arche – You are correct. I am sure that it is GM corn. (It is not organic) I have searched and searched and there is not an organic clear jel on the market. Another reason to skip the thickener and add something when you open the jar.

      • Nannette says:

        I know this is an older post, but for future reference, Cornaby’s brand thick gel works just as well as clear jel and is gluten-free and non-gmo.

      • skratazoid says:

        Just searched Amazon and found a non-GMO Clear Jel from SB Canning. Progress!

        I haven’t used clear jel yet, but I’m gearing up to try it in a canned apple pie filling recipe. 🙂

  • Misty says:

    Thank you for this post! We have young fruit trees and have enjoyed a small harvest from them, but not enough for me to preserve. Last year, however, my husband picked cherries from a neighbor’s tree and I made pie filling. I used a recipe that called for corn starch and the end result tastes fine, but isn’t pretty. It turned milky in color during the canning process and isn’t smooth in consistency. Now I know why! I’ve added Clear Jel to my canning list this year. Can’t wait to try it out! -Misty

  • I’m not an apple pie person. When I can pie filling I love strawberry/rhubarb or blackberry. I’ve used Clear Jel in the past and I’ve done it without and added when I go to put the pie together. Clear Jel can be expensive when you do a large load.
    I bought some Pamona last summer but never got to using it. I’m excited to try it.

  • Lindie says:

    Hi! I have a recipe from an Amish cookbook for a raspberry pie filling. It calls for Mira-Clear. Do you happen to know if this is the same as Clear-Jel? Thanks for this blog – it was really helpful!

    • theresa says:

      Hi Lindie-

      No, I have not heard of Mira-Clear. But when I researched it, I found that it is made from corn starch – so it is a thickener. Since we do not know the exact make up, I doubt you can just substitute the same amount of clear-jel in your recipe in place of the Mira-clear. I am betting they are similar, but might take different quantities for the same thickening power.

      I would try making the recipe without the Mira-Clear and then mix in the appropriate amount of clear jel for a standard pie filling (In other words, add the amount called for in a filling recipe that calls out clear jel). Be sure to note in your recipe if the results were thick enough. If not, add a bit more on your next batch.

      I hope that helps.

      I also found a discussion on Mira-clear here:
      http://chickensintheroad.com/forum/the-canning-pot/thickening-canning-recipes/

    • Shannon says:

      As far as I know Mira Cleer is the same. I just bought some at Coyles Country Store in Tillsonburg Ontario. They info me that this is what the Amish population in the area purchases. I’m going home to try it in blueberry pie filling. I’ll try to post how it goes.

    • Shannon says:

      Mira CLEAR is a pool chemical I think. Mira CLEER is the starch. It even squeaks like cornstarch in the bag.

  • Terra Vista says:

    I’m trying to thicken a homemade hot pepper sauce I made and need a gel appearance to it to sustain holding blended pepper pieces in place all through it. Can I use sure gel low sugar to slightly gel – thicken it, given I’d use less of it than what canning calls for?

    • theresa says:

      Hi Terra – I think so. I have only used it in canning. But it is just a thickener. You would have to read the package instructions to see how much. It may take some experimenting.

  • Margaret says:

    Can you elaborate more on Pomona? I had heard such good reviews I tried it last year for honey-sweetened strawberry jam. I was a total flop and never set right. I have 9 jars of jammy liquid, a huge dissapointment. This year I went back to my trusty low sugar sure jel box. Is honey a factor? I have bees so I always sweeten with honey.

  • rusty says:

    I buy Clear Jel from nuts.com for $4.49 per pound. This is the lowest price i’ve found…

  • Pam says:

    Grrr! I finally tracked down some clear-jel, and asked SPECIFICALLY if it was non-instant, and was told it was. Took it home to can some peach pie filling, and as soon as I add the water-instant goop. It was way too thick to cook the peach slices down more. It was too late to track down more, I already had 6 quarts of peaches sliced and ready, so I folded them in and froze the stuff in pie tins. Here’s hoping it works, I saved a pie’s worth for tomorrow’s dessert 😛

  • Ebony Arnold says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I was trying to find some good information about using Clear-Jel. I’m getting ready to get some apples from a friend and I wanted to make and can apple pie filling. I couldn’t find any Clear-Jel locally and I really didn’t want to spend money on ordering it and shipping costs. I’m glad you can make it without the Clear-Jel and then thicken it later when ready to make a pie or cobbler. That’s money I can save. 🙂

  • Cookie B. says:

    I just thought to post … I’ve been researching the clear jel for a week or so after I was given a couple of bushels of apples :)) I live in upstate NY and have quite a few large Amish and Mennonite Communities less than 40 minutes away and there’s a wonderful general store that carries Everything anyone could need for baking (smiles !!!) my Mother and My Aunt (who travels there 1-2 times a month for homemade cheeses) and I made a day trip this week there. It’s a Mennonite based store and I even found them online. I purchased ClearJel and Instant ClearJel at a reasonable price and didn’t have to wait on shipping! I kept walking up and down the aisles planning what spices or sprinkles or sugars or flours or candies to put on my next list… Happy Baking Everyone :)) Cookie

  • Terri says:

    I just wanted to say thank you, I was gifted some apples and I wanted to make apple pie filling. I couldn’t find the answers on clear gel until I stumbled upon your page excavate I just wanted to say thank you, I was gifted some apples and I wanted to make apple pie filling. I couldn’t find the answers on clear gel until I stumbled upon your page! Thank you again

  • Mary Wissmann says:

    I’m making grape pie filling from Irene Bouchard’s Concord Grape Pie Recipe. I want to give it as a gift so I plan to can it and let the recipient make a grape pie (just pour the filling in a pie shell and bake!). The first time I made the filling, I followed the recipe and used Minute Tapioca but it was very soupy. Any recommendations about thickening it? Should I try to make it thicker before I can it? Or is it better to thicken it after it comes out of the can – – just before it is put in a pie shell? Thank you!

    • theresa says:

      I feel that it is always okay to leave out the thickener and just add that in before baking. Tapioca does not do well when processed in the water bath and stored on the shelf. It is too unstable that way and you get mixed results (as you did). So, I would leave out the thickener and attach a note to the jar stating how much to mix in just prior to baking. That should work for you.

  • Terry Duntley says:

    I wonder if Cornaby’s Thick Gel would work in place of the Clearjel? It says it is non-GMO.

  • Terry Adams says:

    Do you add the clear jel before you make the pie if not in your canned filling?

  • Ruth says:

    Before I found your page, I looked up clear jel on Amazon because I saw it in a recipe for homemade pie filling. The Amazon search also brought up arrowroot powder. Is that a viable alternative?

  • Kristin says:

    I would like to know how to can huckleberry pie filling. Huckleberries are like wild blue berries, so would it be similar?
    Very juicy as they are very tart I would think you would need to use clear jel.
    Great post on clear jel, it answered all my questions.

  • Joy says:

    Thank you so much for the informative article! For years my In-laws have been buying bags of Clear Jel and telling me to use it like Sure Jell. I’ve reported that the results for jams made with it are unsatisfactory. Now I know why, they are completely different products for different purposes! I am looking forward to using the Clear Jel for some pepper butter, though.

  • Jerry nordin says:

    Black berrie. My wife used knok gelatin in peach pie filling not knowing now i n
    Know about clear jel but will this hurt the pie filling? Do we need to discard it or h
    Just add thickener when making pies. I just dont want to keep it if it is not safe.

  • Paula Campbell says:

    I’d like to use Clear jel in soups that I’m canning this year. Because that requires pressure canning for longer time than the Apple Pie filling, will Clear Jel hold up? Any suggestion about how much to use?

  • Ann Bitz says:

    Thanks for the information regarding cornstarch, tapioca, flour, & Clear Jel. Learned something new today!! 🙂

  • Heather Andrysczyk says:

    Has anyone ever used Clear Jel when making tomato sauce? Good idea or bad idea? Wondering if it would help thicken the sauce and prevent that separation of water/juice from the sauce that I sometimes get.

  • Susan W says:

    We have started to make Maple syrup, tapping our sugar maples and boiling it down. In our area ther are lots of backyard maple syrup producers. They use plastic bottles for bottling their product. Last year, our second for this, I used Ball jars. Producers told us to just let the hot syrup create the vacuums seal. Do you know if the jars should be water bath processed? I’m concerned because the heat of the water bath may change the maple syrup during processing. Heated syrup can change quickly if it gets too hot, once the syrup is finished in the evaporator. Any suggestions? Ball Fresh preserving and the BBB doesn’t mention anything on maple syrup.

  • Pam says:

    Thanks you SO MUCH for this information!

  • Dan says:

    Can you use clear jel. for pizza sauce

  • Dan says:

    Can i use clear jel to thicken pizza sauce

  • Leann says:

    I have never canned apple pie filling before– having hard time finding clear jel. If I eliminate it – and don’t add any starch/flour when baking– wouldn’t it be just as good? I have never made my fresh apple pies with any type of sauce– just apples, cinn and sugar.

  • Ellen McCarthy says:

    I bought clear jel to use in my apple pie filling that I’ll be canning soon. I knew that it could be used in other jam recipes. Well, I was making this wonderful Apple-Cranberry Jam and for the life of me it wasn’t thickening up the way jam was suppose to do (I’m a newbie to canning and actually took some canning classes to learn how and the safety reasoning’s behind it. So, I added a couple tablespoons to the pot as the jam was cooking and “bam” it was the consistency of what I needed. I filled my jars and then processed them in the water bath canner. Sometimes you’ll get a jar that won’t pop and so I got to use that 1/2 pint jar to try my new recipe. OMG!!! It was the perfect jam consistency. Its the most beautiful and tasteful jam and I’m glad I learned about clear jel… I bought it on Amazon.

  • Cheryl says:

    I am new to canning. I recently canned apples pie filling but forgot to add the clear jel. Can I add this when I go to make a pie or is there a different method I should use?

  • Leave a Comment:

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *