How to Can Your Own Recipes

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you'll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

Canning recipes are great to have but they aren’t absolutely necessary.  Now, the GMO Food and Drug Pushers Administration might disagree, but I firmly believe that if you have a grasp on food safety principals and canning basics, that you can preserve your own recipes.

You need to follow the basics of canning.  If you are using a meal-time recipe, you’ll most likely be pressure canning.  (You can find instructions for pressure canning right HERE. )

When I’m canning my own recipes, I always search for instructions on how to can the separate ingredients.  I come up with the processing time by using the time for the ingredient that requires the longest  time to be preserved safely.  So, for example, if I’m canning a roast with carrots, onions and beef, the carrots require 20 minutes, the onions require 30 minutes and the beef requires 90 minutes.  Thus, 90 minutes of pressure canning is required to safely can this recipe. I also note whether or not the individual ingredients have an special requirements when they are canned. Always use the longest time and the most stringent requirements to make sure your food is safe.

The USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning has a lot of great information on safely canning many different separate ingredients. (And it’s a free download!)  NOTE from Daisy: This link was updated on April 6, 2013, as the former link was incomplete.  The new link requires that each chapter be downloaded separately – a big thank you to the reader who pointed this out!  🙂 

Some recipes will do very well canned, some need a tweak and others simply won’t work at all.

I have never had luck with anything  that had a creamy sauce.  I’ve seen recipes for canning scalloped potatoes and cream soups, but for me, they’ve separated terribly and when I tried to mix them when reheating, the result was very unappetizing.  Therefore, I don’t can anything that contains milk.

Some ingredients have flavors that “turn” when you can them.  Sage, for example, tastes terrible when canned.  I’ve always used it as an ingredient in my chicken soup, so I didn’t think twice about adding the herb to some soup that I canned.  When I opened and heated up the soup, it was absolutely foul!  I had no idea what it was initially but upon researching it, I learned that sage has a propensity for “turning.”  Spinach as an ingredient, I have also learned from unpleasant experience, gives a terrible flavor to the entire dish.

While we’re talking about flavors, keep in mind that the spices and seasonings that you use will intensify as the jar sits there in your cupboard.  For some foods, this is a great bonus – like spaghetti sauce!  For others, it can be overwhelming.  If you heat something up, like a soup or stew, and find the flavor overpowering, often you can rectify it by adding a few cups of broth.  Ham in particular gets incredibly strong.  I only use ham that I have canned as an ingredient in something else – it works well in a pot of beans or in scalloped potatoes.

Just because it looks unpleasant doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad.  Meat often looks rather unappetizing in the jar – the fat separates and floats to the top or the sides of the jar.  Simply stir it back in or dispose of it.

Fat brings me to another tip – it can be risky to can foods that are extremely high in fat – they become rancid far more easily than leaner meats.

If your recipe calls for the addition of flour or sour cream as a thickener, omit those ingredients during the canning process.  It is far tastier and safer to add those ingredients during the reheating process.  When I make beef stew, for example, I can the stew ingredients and herbs in a broth or water, then when reheating, I dip out a small ladle-full of liquid and stir in flour to make a hearty gravy.

Once you have the hang of canning using recipes, it’s really simple to modify your own recipes.  Please feel free to drop me a line with any questions you might have and I’ll do my best to answer them for you!

Have any of you learned the hard way about other foods that have flavors that become unpleasant when canned?  Please share in the comments section!

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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34 Responses

  1. For recipes like the ones with spinach or sage, if you have dehydrated those ingredients, you could add them at the time of reheating, along with the milk and other stuff that do not can well. By the time the meal is ready, they have reconstituted and no nasty smell. I have not canned anything with spinach or sage, so this is good to know. I won’t be trying that!

    I have been dehydrating potatoes as I always end up with left over potatoes that I don’t use and then ultimately toss. I make creamy loaded potato soup, and it really doesn’t can well. So just make the stock, can it and then when reheating, throw the dehydated potatoes, milk powder and cheese powder and by the time it is ready, the potatoes are actually perfect for the soup, not mushy and falling apart, just little firm cooked potatoes.

    The dehydrator is my prized possession. I will never waste cheese or veggies again. Just take left over cheese, shredded or blocked (sliced thinly), and throw it on the dehyrator. it is done when the cheese breaks when bending. Use wax paper or paper towels to remove the grease from the cheese and then put it in the food processor to make into a powder.

    Dehydrating is a nice addition to canning for the items that just don’t can well.

    1. What a fantastic idea – I never thought about dehydrating cheese – next time I have some near the bitter end I will try that (although cheese is a treat and rare lasts more than a day or two at our house!) 😉

      I love the dehydrator too – I save so much money with it!

  2. I learned the spinach thing the hard way 🙁 ruined lots of pinto beans because of it. We add spinach to everything around here. It was our bumper crop. Dehydrated into a power now we just sprinkle it over our cooked meal. The chickens had no problem eating up those beans, made some nice looking eggs from my mistake 🙂

    1. We add spinach to everything here too! I’m like you – it all gets dehydrated now. I actually crumble it instead of powdering it – then it looks like parsley when I add it to foods (and makes me feel fancy – haha!)

  3. Kale is a great addition to your canned meals. I haven’t noticed any off odor or taste and have been adding it to all soups and stews I pressure can. Kale has more nutrients than broccoli and here in AZ it grows year round, even reseeding itself if I let it. Dries very well, too.

  4. Thanks so much for posting this. I once had someone tell me the exact information you posted about canning to the longest time for each ingredient. I get this when making a recipe from commercially canned products, like if I make spaghetti sauce with ground meat but I use commercially canned tomatoes to do it. My question is regarding foods with acids. Like if I’m canning with fresh tomatoes and peppers, heirloom varieties have different acidic levels than newer varieties. Can you expand on this thought? I’d love to make my own salsa and spaghetti sauce from garden produce, but am afraid due to the acid levels. Sorry if this sounds dumb, I don’t think I’m explaining myself very well:)

    1. That’s actually a very good question, Charlene, and something I hadn’t even considered. I think your best bet, if you aren’t sure of the tomatoes, would be to pressure can instead of water bath can – is that a possibility for you? If you don’t use a pressure canner, let me know and I will try to find out some more information about water bath canning the lower acid tomatoes. My rule of thumb: when in doubt, use a pressure canner!

      Daisy

    2. I always use my homegrown tomatoes, the new guidlines for canning tomato it you always add acid. Its not always what kind of tomato you grow but the ground you grow it in. Our soil no longer has all the great stuff in it that it once had, hence tomatoes have less acid. Plus the newer tomatoes were made to have less natural acid, so people would not get as much heartburn.

    3. Charlene, I am wondering the same things! I want to can my mother-in-laws salsa recipe…and I would love to can my own spaghetti sauce too.

  5. I use a tsp of commercially jarred lemonjuice added per pint jar of tomato or salsa. It ensures the ph is higher and provides the right amount of acid.

  6. I have never had a problem with tomatoes. I peel the skins off, then puree and add some sea salt. I have always used a waterbath method with them. I usually grow the black brandywine and black krim tomatoes and the taste and color is out of this world! `

  7. Thanks so much for answering my question, and my apologies for not getting back to you. Just now saw that you answered me. I’m dumb as a box of rocks when it comes to technology:)
    Anyway, I do have a pressure canner, so if I make spaghetti sauce with ground beef, fresh tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, as long as I pressure can to the allotted time for the beef, I should be ok? Even though I don’t know the acidity of the fresh veggies?
    Or, I can add a teaspoon of lemon juice to each pint, right? That way I’m covered? Thanks again.

  8. Charlene:

    Yes, that is right, can it to the amount of time allotted to beef. You don’t have to make any additions to the sauce or worry about acidity because a low acid food, like green beans, even, can be safely canned in a pressure canner without any additions at all.

    Canning time for veggies is always far less than meats, so if you can it long enough to make the meat safe, then your veggies will be covered! 🙂

    Daisy

    1. I see this is more than a year old but hoping someone will see it. :0)

      I’m new to canning myself. I love the tip about using the item that needs the most time as a guideline.

      I plan on canning pasta sauce, marinara, pizza sauce all of my own recipes and 90% from my garden. I add more veg (of all variety) than tomatoes usually. I also use ground turkey. Can that be water bath canned if I had the lemon juice? I thought, due to all of the comments, that I can always add some of the herbs later when using it.

      Is pressure canning preferable. I don’t have a pressure cooker yet and am trying to determine how much it’s needed and how much to spend on it since I see everything from $70-$400.

      Eat Well!

      1. Hi Debbie! I see nearly all of the comments, no worries!

        You must never, ever water bath can meat. It puts your family at risk for botulism. THere’s no margin for compromise here – it absolutely MUST be pressure-canned. Botulism is horrible. It can lead to permanent paralysis or death. Please don’t take that risk.

        If you intend to can vegetables or meat you absolutely must have a pressure canner. I have this one:

        Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker

        I’ve used this for years and have never had an issue with it – it is one of the lower priced ones but still very reputable. For a little less money there is a smaller 16 qt, but I recommend the larger one – for the same amount of processing time you can process more food. I got this less expensive one because it was all I could afford, but I have had no reason to upgrade – it’s awesome!

        Very best wishes and ask all of the questions you want! 🙂

  9. i went into the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning and all i could type out were the table of contents, nothing more. Why?

    1. Bev – thank you for bringing this to my attention. The entire book was there at the time of the writing of this article. I’m updating the article with a new link, which I’ll also share here. Unfortunately, the only issue with this link is that you have to download each chapter individual. However, it’s still free and great information. 🙂

      http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html

      Best wishes and happy canning!

      Daisy

      1. Just read this post, we just started canning a couple years ago. Followed the link above and, if you have the means, I suggest getting the print version of their guide. Wound up costing me 24.00 but, it’s spiral bound so it lays flat. I prefer books in print if I can afford them.

  10. Can I safely pressure can this recipe (I would be increasing the amounts of each item…but to make it easier to understand, I am just typing the initial recipe here)

    Blend:
    3 Tomatoes
    3 garlic cloves
    1 or 2 Jalapeno peppers
    salt to taste

    Chop half of an onion, and then saute in a small amount of olive oil(the onion flavors the oil)…

    …then you add in your blended ingredients to the hot oil and boil for a little while.

    Could I successfully do this recipe if I used a pressure canner?
    Could I also chop up the ingredients, rather than pureeing? Then it would be chunkier.
    If necessary I can definitely add in a bit of lemon juice to increase the acidity.

    Thanks for this post!

    1. You can pressure can that. You don’t need to worry about leaving it chunky – pureeing is fine. With pressure canning, you don’t have to worry about acidity, either. 🙂 So only add the lemon juice if you want it in there.

      1. Thanks! I will be busy today working on salsa and spaghetti sauce today! Yesterday I canned our first bushel of tomatoes this year…today I am working on the second!

  11. I want to can this wonderful chili I make. I looked a county extension web site and they made it sound like you should always go exactly by a scientifically-tested recipe (like out of the Ball Canning books) and never even increase things like onions. Scared me out of doing anything not in a book. But I make a chili that is:

    Butternut squash
    ground beef
    tomatoes
    kidney beans
    fresh parsley
    dried oregano
    cumin
    chili powder

    Does that sound fine? I use a pressure canner. Would I just hot pack it and process it like I would plain beef? Will that cause the butternut squash to disintegrate?

    1. You can put this in a pressure canner. The issue is that the squash will basically become a squash puree. It can’t stand up to 90 minutes at 10-15 pounds of pressure (depending on your altitude.) If it’s just in there for the flavor, and not the texture, that should be okay. If you want it for texture, it’s not going to work, unfortunately.

      You can hot pack or raw pack this recipe and safely pressure can it.

  12. S0 delighted to have found your site and your statements that you CAN can (pun intended) your own recipes. It has always seemed ridiculous that ‘experts’ say you must follow only certified recipes. There must be some reasons recipes work or don’t work – I’m thinking it’s about the density in the jar more than particular ingredients. Realizing that squash won’t hold up without becoming puree I can understand. But why not pressure can a vegetable puree? The ‘experts’ say it isn’t safe! But surely if you can it under pressure long enough (what is long enough?) it should be okay?

    Just read your response to Shannon last August – hope you see this question:

    What did you mean about cold pack pressure canning her chili recipe? I’ve only heard cold pack referred to with raw meat and some vegetables. Are you suggesting she put all her ingredients in the jar raw?

    Thanks so much.

    1. Dear Miriam:

      I can nearly everything raw, including chili. The only thing you need to do is soak the beans overnight before putting them in the jar. 🙂

      Welcome!

      Daisy

  13. Hi there,

    I’m also delighted to find this post – I’ve had misgivings about making up my own recipes but I am the sort of cook that just doesn’t follow recipes well… I like to do my own thing. I have a few questions, though.

    The USDA doesn’t recommend canning celery or onions – just wondering if you know anything about why? It would seem to me that if you’re pressure canning a soup then neither of them would be likely to be the ingredients needing the longest processing times….

    And does anyone know why they recommend adding lemon juice to tomatoes even if you’re pressure canning?

    Lastly, does anyone know if there is a list somewhere of average acidity levels of fruit? I’m just goofing around with jam recipes, and I want to make sure that whatever I make turns out safe and I think that information would help.

    Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Jessica!

      I was unable to find anything about not canning celery or onions. Could you provide a link to that? Without the information you’re referencing, I’ll guess that the issue could be one of poor results. First, the texture of these items canned all on their own would be absolutely terrible. Far too mushy by the time you pressure can them. However, there are many tested recipes that do include these as ingredients, like marinara sauce or soup. The ingredient in those that requires the longest processing would always be the meat or one of the other veggies. I do also have a pickled onion recipe that I use frequently, but because it is vinegar-based, can be processed in a water bath canner, which means they hold up better.

      You can omit lemon juice if you’re pressure canning.

      Here is a good acidity list for reference. This is a great website for canning info, by the way.

      http://www.pickyourown.org/ph_of_fruits_and_vegetables_list.htm

      Happy canning!

      1. Hi Daisy,

        Thanks for responding so quickly. For the onions and celery, I first came across it here: http://www.healthycanning.com/usdas-your-choice-soup-recipe/ It the same thing in my Joy of Cooking, but that’s from 1976 or so – not exactly current information. The explanation you gave makes sense though.

        Thank you very much for the other information as well. This is my first year canning myself (I’ve done tomatoes with my mom for a few years) and I’m getting really excited about the possibilities. I’m so glad to be finding some good resources. Thanks for putting your stuff out there 🙂

  14. How disappointing. I was looking for real information and the first thing I saw was a snotty anti-science blurb about how evil the FDA is, and bullshit pseudoscience about GMOs. Right there in the first paragraph. I was looking for food safety information, and this obviously isn’t the right place for that if you refuse to believe peer-reviewed scientific studies. Good luck Food Babe II. I’m going to find some real facts elsewhere. Enjoy avoiding vaccines and getting botulism.

  15. Hi. I just bought my first pressure canner, and am interested in canning my own soup recipes. My question is about how well canned beans and also coconut milk hold up in the canning process. Do you have any experience with these? Most of my soups are vegetarian, so they won’t need the extra long processing times required for meats. Thanks!

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