The Proper Way To Freeze Apple Pie Filling For Convenient Baking

In the height of holiday chaos, while baking your fourth pie of the season, it's tempting to give up entirely and vow to serve frozen, store-bought pies from here on out. Kroger doesn't use your great aunt's famous apple pie recipe, though — and your family will definitely know the difference.

But, if you've ever tried freezing your own pies before, you've likely found that they can come out watery and loose — especially if you used cornstarch to thicken the filling. That's because of the way that cornstarch works. Cornstarch molecules trap water, then swell to absorb more water when the mixture is heated. However, these molecules start to break down once frozen, rendering the thickener useless. The solution? Freeze the filling before you bake it. And, if you freeze it in the shape of your pie pan, you'll be able to pop it in the oven in minutes, no defrosting required.

This method works better for some types of pies than others. Chiffon pies will turn out rubbery, gelatin pies turn runny when thawed, and pumpkin pie could crack or weep if you reheat it too quickly. If you need to cook the mixture on the stove beforehand, consider using a different recipe. However, with the right recipe, freezing the filling is an easy way to save time in the kitchen before a big meal, also bringing fresh fruit from the height of the season to your table, even in the dead of winter.

How should you prep pie filling?

First, prep your baking dish. Metal is best, but if you don't have a metal pie pan, opt for ceramic, not glass. You'll be using the same pie pan to cook the pie later, and glass can't handle extreme differences in temperature, like the difference between the frozen filling on the inside and the piping hot oven on the outside.

Line the dish with a doubled-over layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil, molding the foil to the shape of the pan. Then, mix your filling ingredients together, following the recipe as you normally would. Fill the pan and place it in the freezer, using a baking sheet as a base if necessary. When it's frozen solid, pop the pie out of the pan and wrap the excess aluminum foil over it. Then, seal it in a freezer-safe bag and store it for up to four months.

Once you're ready to bake the pie, pre-heat your oven and line the same pan you used as a mold with pie crust. Your pie probably will release some excess liquid when it heats, so sprinkle a bit of cornstarch along the bottom of the crust to keep it from getting soggy.

Don't thaw the pie filling, just pop it in your crust-lined pie pan and place the whole thing in a preheated oven. Cook it, adding 20 to 45 minutes to the recipe's time. Once it's done, wow your guests with your baking skills — and time-management prowess.