What is Clearjel® and How is it Used?
We have an old copy of Putting Food By written by Greene, Hertzberg, and Vaughn nearly 30 years ago. For years, we considered it the bible of food canning and storage. It’s battered and beat though loved. We finally broke down and bought the new edition, a 2010 edition. It’s still a staunch adherent of Clearjel:
“We have advocated its use wholeheartedly. We give it as an ingredient in our fruit pie fillings. We have used it at home as a household staple in gravies, sauces, and casseroles. We believe it is the best thickener we have ever handled.” 1
Clearjel is a modified cornstarch commonly used in pie fillings, jams and jellies though it works equally well in stovetop cooking to thicken sauces, gravies, and soups. Unlike ordinary cornstarch, Clearjel works in acidic foods, tolerates high heat, and reduces weeping. It is very commonly used in commercial bakeries and in frozen foods.
But it is in canning that Clearjel is most often used in homes.
“Clearjel is the only thickener the USDA recommends for home canning.” 2
Because Clearjel thickens as it cools, heat is more evenly distributed through canned foods in processing. In home canning applications, this is an important safety consideration.
Using Clearjel at Home
- In jams and jellies. It is a less expensive substitute for pectin and less sugar can be used. Because less sugar can be used, calories are reduced.
- In pie fillings. Clearjel is a clear thickener, not cloudy, and fruits show through in a glossy, attractive manner. Red color for cherry pies or other food colors can be added. Separation and weeping is reduced. Pie fillings made with Clearjel can be made firmer and thicker.
- In frozen foods. Use it in casseroles, custards, and pudding as you would cornstarch. These foods made with Clearjel may be frozen with excellent results and with less chance of separation.
- In stovetop cooking. Use as you would cornstarch: Mix a little in cold water to make a paste and then gradually add hot liquid, stirring after each addition. Alternatively, you can mix the cold ingredients together with Clearjel. It will thicken the dish once cooked.
Clearjel and Instant Clearjel
Instant Clearjel is similar to regular Clearjel but does not require cooking to thicken. Because it thickens when the liquid is added, it is a convenient to thicken sauces, dressing, and desserts without reheating.
Clearjel can be substituted for starch in nearly any kitchen recipe.
For canning, many university extension services have recipes using Clearjel. We like these recipes published by Washing State University. They provide hints for use and troubleshooting tips.
1 Putting Food By, Greene, Janet; Hertzberg, Ruth; and Vaughn, Beatrice; The Penguin Group, New York, NY; 2010; p42.
2 Food Safety and Research Bulletin, University of Minnesota Extension Service, Dec 20, 2007, and many other sources on the internet.