Freezing Pies and Pie Fillings


Posted: July 30, 2012

Freezing pies saves time in meal preparation but does require more energy to bake. Frozen pies take longer to bake than freshly made ones, and they should be baked from the frozen state.

Freezing an unbaked pie yields a better fresh fruit flavor than freezing a baked pie, but the bottom crust tends to get soggy. Therefore, try freezing the filling and crust separately to prevent the fruit juice from penetrating and softening the lower crust during freezing.

Because freezing a pie in a pie pan takes lots of space and ties up the use of that pan, it is more efficient to freeze the pre-measured fruit filling for one pie in a larger freezer bag or foil lined pan. Before adding the cooled filling, plastic wrap can be placed over the foil in the pie pan to avoid filling sticking to the foil. Dot with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg if desired. If freezing the filling in a freezer bag, squeeze out the air and seal. Place the bag into the pie pan shaping it to fit the pan and freeze until solid. When the filling is frozen, remove it from the pan. This way, you can continue to use the pie pan and yet have everything mixed ahead to put into fresh pie dough. When you are ready to use the pie, unwrap and place the frozen filling in an unbaked pie shell, top, and bake. Allow an extra 20-25 minutes baking time.

Pie dough can be rolled into circles and frozen flat on lined cardboard separated with pieces of freezer paper or foil. If freezing unbaked dough in pie pans, stack pie pans with 2 layers of freezer paper between them and place all in a freezer bag. Prick pastry that will be baked unfilled because pricking a frozen pastry will cause it to break. Do not prick a pastry that will be filled before baking. To use frozen sheets of dough, thaw in the refrigerator before shaping to the pan. Pastry shaped in pans before freezing does not need to be thawed before baking as usual.

It is easier to freeze the pies, baked or unbaked, first and then wrap them after they are frozen solid. Do not cut vents in the top crust of an unbaked pie before freezing. Cut vent holes in the upper crust just before baking.

Adding ½ teaspoon ascorbic acid or a commercial color preserver such as Fruit Fresh® with the sugar when preparing light colored fruit pie fillings such as peach, pear, or cherry will help to maintain color. For unbaked fruit pies, add one extra tablespoon flour or tapioca or ½ tablespoon cornstarch or modified food starch to juicy fillings to prevent boiling over when the pies are baking.

Freezing causes liquids thickened with flour or cornstarch to shear or separate during freezing. Therefore baked pies or fillings thickened with tapioca or modified food starch such as Instant ClearJel® or Thermflo® will maintain their consistency better. Do not use regular ClearJel® in frozen pies. Regular ClearJel® is appropriate for canned pie fillings.

Bake frozen pies in the lower third of a preheated oven for 25 minutes at 425°F and then reduce the heat to 350°F and raise the pie to the center of the oven to finish baking. Some people prefer baking at 450°F for 15 to 20 minutes and then reducing heat to 375°F for 20 to 30 minutes or until the top crust is brown. Placing the pie on a cookie sheet or pie drip pan helps catch juices that might overflow.

A baked pie that was frozen can be served without reheating; thaw it in its wrapping in the refrigerator.

The following pie filling recipe is made with modified starch which holds up well to freezer temperatures. Thermflo® is available in the bulk food section of some grocery stores.

Peach Pie Filling for Freezing

6 pounds peaches
2 ¼ cups sugar
¼ cup Thermflo®
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons lemon peel
¼ cup lemon juice

Wash peaches, drain. Peel, pit and slice peaches. (To prevent peaches from turning dark, place peeled fruit in water with vitamin C made by mixing 1 teaspoon ascorbic acid crystals or six finely crushed 500 mg vitamin C tablets in 1 gallon of water.) Combine sugar, Thermflo® and spices. Rinse and drain peaches. Stir into sugar mixture. Let stand until juices begin to flow, about 30 minutes. Stir in lemon peel and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until mixture begins to thicken. Ladle pie filling into freezer jars or plastic freezer boxes, leaving ½-inch headspace. Cool at room temperature, not to exceed 2 hours. Seal, label and freeze. Makes 4 pints. (Pie filling can also be ladled into a foil lined pie pan or placed in a freezer bag and shaped to the pan as described above.)

Be creative in the use of frozen pie fillings. Think of all the uses of canned pie fillings—toppings for cheese cake, fillings for crepes, sides for angel food cake. Simply thaw a frozen pie filling and use in the same manner. With a few changes the frozen filling can also be used for a fruit crisp or a cobbler. If you want to make a cobbler, bake the filling until hot before adding the biscuit topper or the dough will be done before the filling is thickened and tender. To make a crisp, reduce the sugar in the filling by half because the crumb topping will provide the additional sugar needed for sweetness. A simple crisp recipe is to top the frozen filling with 1 cup quick oats, ⅓ cup flour, ½ cup brown sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and ⅓ cup melted butter or oil and bake it at 375°F for 60 minutes.