A few weeks ago, I was introduced to the utterly brilliant concept of individual pies in jars. The idea is that you line canning jars with pie crust, add filling and then freeze the jars until you’re ready to bake them. You can make a whole bunch and cook them all at once, or you can bake one or two at a time as you like.
I was immediately smitten with the idea. I love to bake and I really love fruit pies, but I find that a whole pie is just too much for our family to handle. Either we eat too much pie in a very short time or we show restraint and half a pie goes to waste because it goes bad before it all gets eaten. Having single serve pies in the freezer is the solution to all our pie-related problems!
Then I made them and I discovered a problem that my friend Frank warned me about as soon as I prematurely trumpeted my love for pies in jars to the world: too much crust. I like pie crust all right, but when I made these I felt like I was mostly eating crust with just a little pie.
My solution: ditch the crust, throw on some streusel topping and make fruit crisp instead. Crisp! In a Jar!
And honestly, I’ve always liked crisp better than pie anyway. You get lots and lots of delicious fruit and a nice helping of crunchy yummy-osity to make it even better.
Here’s what you do:
First things first: you’re going to need some canning jars. Canning jars will hold up to both the cold of the freezer and the heat of the oven. I like the wide-mouth half pints because they’re shallow enough to eat out of easily and the large surface area at the top allows for lots of room for the streusel topping. Locally, I’ve been able to find canning jars at hardware stores and some grocery stores. You can find them online too, of course.
The Fruit Filling
For the fruit part of the crisp, you’ll need:
- Fresh or frozen fruit — about 1 cup of fruit per jar
- 1 tablespoon of white or brown sugar per cup of fruit
- 1 tablespoon of flour per cup of fruit — a little more for frozen fruit or extra juicy fruit like berries
- flavorings such as almond extract, nutmeg or cinnamon (optional)
You can use all kinds of different fruits for this. So far, I’ve made these crisps with fresh peaches, cherries, blueberries and the frozen mix of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries I used for this batch. To make it worth your time, you’re probably going to want to start off with a minimum of 4 cups of chopped fruit which will make 4 individual crisps.
If you’re using frozen fruit, give it a rinse to thaw it a bit and let it sit to drain for a few minutes. This will get rid of some of the excess juice.
If you’re using fresh fruit, peel as appropriate and chop it into bite-sized pieces.
Next, add in your flour and sugar. For super juicy fruit I’d use a ratio of 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour for each cup of fruit, rather than 1 tablespoon to 1 cup.
Stir it all up. If you want to add extra flavorings, now is the time to do it. I put 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon in this batch. I’ve made other batches with no extra flavorings and they were equally delicious. Really, the fruit should be the star here.
Fill the jars up to the line just below the screw rings. This will give you plenty of space for the topping.
For the streusel topping you will need:
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup old-fashioned oats
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
This will make a boat-load of topping. If you’re only making a few jars of crisp, you can put the extra in a ziploc bag and save it for another batch or you can just make half as much.
Mix all the dry stuff together.
Cut the butter up into little cubes. The butter should be cold.
Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender. When you get sick of futzing around with it and getting nowhere, you can just use your bare hands to pinch the butter into the mixture.
When it’s ready, it should look like wet sand with oatmeal in it.
Take a hand full of the topping and press it evenly onto the top of the fruit. I measured just for you and discovered that this is about 1/3 cup. I like a nice thick layer so I pack it right up to the top of the jar, but you might prefer a little less, so use your best judgment.
Now, put on the lid and pop it into the freezer. I’m honestly not sure how long these will last because none of the ones I’ve made have stayed in our freezer longer than a week, but I’m guessing you could keep these at least three months — maybe longer.
When you’re ready to bake one (or more) of the crisps, pull it out of the freezer, take off the lid, stick it on a baking sheet and put it in the oven. The canning jars should be able to take the change from cold to hot just fine, but since I’m a little worried about the jars breaking from thermal shock I prefer to put the sheet with the jars on it into the oven before I turn it on and let them heat up gradually as the oven gets hot. I set the oven to 375 degrees and the timer to 40 minutes and they come out perfectly every time.
Once you pull the jars out of the oven, you should probably let them sit for about 10 minutes or until they’re cool enough to handle. I like them piping hot, so I’ve been known to hold one with a potholder while I eat it.
Some good uses for crisps in jars:
- Impress and delight your friends with a delicious dessert when you invite them over for dinner on the spur of the moment.
- Pull one out of the freezer and bake it so you can have something yummy to eat when you’re watching The Biggest Loser.
- Bring one to a friend who’s having a bad day.
- Make one for the kids to split when a friend comes over for a play date. These are just the right size for two kids to share and they get a kick out of eating from the same bowl…er…jar. (This obviously won’t work for germaphobes or best friends who bicker a lot.)
- I’ve heard that pies, cakes and cobblers in jars go over really well at bake sales, so maybe you could give that a shot?