5 Home Canned Foods That Beat Store Bought


If you've been curious about canning, the process can seem intimidating and even a bit scary (especially when the word "botulism" comes to mind). Consider this: A basic canning set will cost you around $50, but the possibilities of what you can make after learning the basics are endless.

Still hesitant? Don't fret — these beginner canning recipes will introduce you to this art of food preservation and give you some tasty pantry items at a fraction of their store-bought prices. (See also: Preserving In-Season Foods for Off-Season Feasts)

1. Applesauce

We use applesauce for everything from snacking to baking in our kitchen. Making it yourself is super easy. To make a canner load of seven quarts, you'll need around 21 pounds of apples to start. The variety doesn't matter, so feel free to experiment or use leftovers. Wash and quarter apples before placing them in a five to six quart pot to cook with a cup of water until soft. Mash or run through a food mill before adding any additional sugar or spices.

To can: Bring applesauce to a boil. Fill your hot, sanitized canning jars until there's around a half inch of headspace and wipe the rims clean. Then simply process in your hot water bath canner. For pints, you'll need between 15 and 25 minutes. For quarts, that time is more like 20 to 35 minutes.

2. Pickles

My husband spends weeks on his fermented pickles each year. If you don't have all that time to wait, try making some fresh-pack pickles that take only a day or so. You'll want to use smaller, unripe cucumbers for the best results (gherkins, cornichons, or kirby) — about three or four per jar. You'll also need over a cup of pickling salt, vinegar, sugar, pickling spice, mustard seeds, fresh dill, and water.

To can: After you've brined the cucumbers for 12 hours, rinse and cut the bottoms off. Then heat your vinegar, spices, sugar, and remaining salt. Bring everything close to a boil and then fill your cans with the cucumbers and liquid. Leave about a quarter inch of headroom. Process between 10 and 20 minutes for pints, and 15 and 25 minutes for quarts.

3. Basic Jam

This tasty jam canning recipe doesn't involve pectin or refined sugar. You'll boil together six cups of strawberries or blueberries with around four cups of honey, a large grated apple, and a splash of lemon juice. While the jam simmers, sterilize your canning supplies. The longer the jam cooks, the thicker it will be — it should coat the back of a spoon.

To can: Ladle your jam into the prepared jars, leaving about a quarter inch of headroom at the top. Wipe the jars and rims clean and then process in your canner for around 10 minutes. If you don't want to can your jam, it should last in your refrigerator for between three and four weeks.

4. Tomato Sauce

It's always good to have a jar of tomato sauce in a pinch. Making it is easy! To preserve seven pints, you'll need a whopping 20 pounds of tomatoes, so we like to make our sauce later in the summer when tomatoes are literally falling off the vines in our garden. Wash and cut your tomatoes into quarters. Saute some onions and garlic and then add tomatoes to simmer for 20 minutes. Puree this mixture. Add to basil and simmer until the volume is reduced by half.

To can: Add a quarter teaspoon citric acid or a tablespoon of lemon juice to hot, sanitized canning jars. Pour sauce into jars leaving around a half inch of headroom. Remove air bubbles and wipe rims clean before processing for around 35 minutes.

5. Ketchup

Always reaching for one of America's favorite condiments? Try making your own ketchup at home and canning for year-round enjoyment. You'll combine four quarts of tomato puree, chopped onion, and sweet pepper for a basic recipe. Run this mix through a food mill before boiling for an hour or so. Then add vinegar, allspice, cinnamon, and sugar, and cook until you reach your desired consistency. As you get more seasoned, you can tweak the spices to meet your preferences.

To can: Quarts aren't recommended for this recipe, so use sanitized pint jars. Pour hot ketchup into your hot jars leaving a quarter inch of headspace. Then process for between 10 and 30 minutes, depending on your altitude.

Safety Tips

To keep everything safe, follow the CDC's home canning guidelines. Signs foods may have been comprised include:

  • Leaking, bulging, swollen, or otherwise damaged jars
  • Spurts of liquid or foam when jars are opened
  • Foul odor, moldy or discolored foods

In particular, if you're going to can low-acid vegetables (green beans, potatoes, corn), always use a pressure canner versus the hot bath method. Otherwise, most canning mishaps happen when people don't follow canning instructions to a T, so read recipes carefully (and use newer recipes that abide by current regulations).

Do you can foods at home? What are your favorite recipes and methods?

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Guest's picture

We keep a small garden and can about 35 quarts of tomato sauce a year. I love that it's not full of sugar, is chunky, and I can put as much chopped peppers and basil in I like. Another favorite is apple butter. And watermelon rind pickles.

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