Stop! You’re Freezing Your Pie Fillings All Wrong.

updated Jul 2, 2020
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Two slices cut from a strawberry-rhubarb pie.
Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot

It’s a cruel twist of fate that the markets are bursting with fresh fruits when our ovens are on hiatus, while come fall — pie’s busiest season — those fruits are past their peak. That is, until you realize that this is the moment to prepare your holiday pies. There’s no shortage of methods for making pies in advance, from assembling and baking a finished pie to preparing each element individually, and everything in between. Preserve sweet summer fruit pies to brighten dreary winter days by freezing the fruit filling in the shape of the pan.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot

How to Freeze Pie Filling in the Shape of the Pan

If you’ve purchased a peck of peaches or see cherries on sale for pennies on the dollar, you can put them to good use in pie. Prepare the filling for your favorite fruit pie, adding seasonings, starches, and sugar. If the recipe calls for stovetop cooking, let the mixture cool completely before continuing. Line a metal pie pan with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil, then add the filling. Place the pan on a baking sheet to stabilize it, then freeze until the filling is a solid. Only after the filling is frozen, fold the foil over and around it and pop the filling from the pan. Slide the foil-wrapped filling into a freezer-safe bag to protect against freezer burn. Store frozen fillings for three to four months, which conveniently coincides with the holiday baking season.

Plan to freeze the filling in the pan you’ll use for baking. A metal pie pan is best because it quickly conducts the cold (creating smaller ice crystals) and heat later for crispy crusts. Sturdy ceramic can also handle the heat exchange of freezer-chilled fillings and hot oven temps, but most glass pie plates can shatter when exposed to the extreme temperature difference.

Buy: Metal Pie Pans, $19 for 2

How to Bake Frozen Pie Filling

Frozen fillings don’t need to be thawed before baking. Line the same pan used for freezing the filling with a homemade or store-bought crust, then sprinkle with a few teaspoons of flour or cornstarch to thicken excess juice that results from freezing the filling. Place the frozen fruit disk — no need to thaw! — on top of the pastry and bake. Add 20 to 45 minutes to the recipe’s baking time, depending on the size and depth of the pie, to make sure that the filling heats completely and the thickeners activate.

Can I Freeze Pumpkin Pie?

Fruit pies are the best candidates for freezing, but they aren’t the only ones that can be prepared in advance. Custard pies, like pumpkin and sweet potato, can also be frozen. These pies are prone to weeping and cracking, so it is best to assemble and bake these pies from start to finish. Thaw the pies in the refrigerator — not at room temperature — a day in advance to maintain a crispy crust.