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In honor of Christmas and all things pie - because who doesn't love a good pie over the holidays - I recently made a batch of Grape Hull Pie using muscadines. I'd been wanting to can some muscadine pie filling for awhile, but couldn't find ANYTHING anywhere about how to do that! I could find plenty of muscadine pie recipes, but apparently canning pie filling is trickier. When making fresh fruit pie filling (of any kind), most recipes call for flour or cornstarch or a similar thickener to give the pie that nice thick consistency. However, the water bath canning process doesn't work well with these thickeners, so many canners recommend simply canning the fruit in syrup and then thickening the filling on the stove just before baking the pie. Even our local Alabama Cooperative Extension System (basically, the state experts on home food preservation, among other things) couldn't answer my question. They were very nice and helpful, but just suggested I make some more jelly or jam!

Luckily, I finally stumbled across this recipe on a blog called "Foodie With Family." The recipe was intended for Concord grapes - another (sweeter) wild grape - but since muscadines have such a high acid content, it can be safely adapted for use with this wild Southern fruit. The only change I made was to increase the sugar from 4 cups to 7, since muscadines have a much more tart flavor than Concord grapes. The recipe calls for ClearJel starch, which is a white, powdery thickener that can withstand the high heat of water bath canning. ClearJel is available on Amazon.com. (Be sure to buy the "cook type," not "instant.")

I was able to can 3 full quart jars of pie filling from two gallons of frozen muscadines, plus an additional 3/4 jar that I refrigerated and baked in a pie over Thanksgiving weekend. Yum! This muscadine grape hull pie is similar in flavor to a sour cherry pie, and is especially tasty served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.