How to Can Your Own Recipes

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!

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Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor.  Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at

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24 Comments  to  How to Can Your Own Recipes

  1. JenB says:

    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.

    • Daisy says:

      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. Terri says:

    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 :)

    • Daisy says:

      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. GoatLady says:

    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. Charlene says:

    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:)

    • Daisy says:

      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!


    • Barb says:

      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.

    • Tanya says:

      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. carey says:

    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. Doris says:

    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. Charlene says:

    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. Daisy says:


    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! :)


    • Debbie says:

      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!

      • Daisy Luther says:

        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. Bev Roehrborn says:

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

    • Daisy says:

      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. :)

      Best wishes and happy canning!


  10. Tanya says:

    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)

    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!

  11. Shannon says:

    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
    kidney beans
    fresh parsley
    dried oregano
    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?

    • Daisy Luther says:

      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. Shannon says:

    and I forgot onions. There are onions in the chili.

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