Cooking with food you canned yourself is a real joy to experience.Not everyone has experience or are intimidated by cooking home canned food. When it is cold and snowy in the middle of February, is there anything better than opening a jar of jam you made yourself? The sweet taste of summer teases your senses and makes your heart yearn for the warmth of the sun and digging in the garden!
Most food that is water bath canned is pretty straightforward when it comes to consumption. Pickles, jam, sauerkraut, applesauce…all are open-and-eat foods but what about the stuff you pressure canned? Meats, veggies, sauces…it can be a challenge for some to know what to make with all of it. Sure, you could also open-and-eat these but I don’t know many people that pop open a jar of carrots and eat them for a snack. It’s easy to look at those beautiful jars and see the carrots, the canned pork, and beans but still be stumped on what to make. It happens even if you are looking at a cupboard full of boxed and processed foods so it’s pretty understandable that cooking with home canned foods may be a bigger challenge.
The idea that people may have some problems figuring out what to make with food they preserved is well known to me. When I first began this journey, I had no idea how to eat very healthy (other than salads, etc.) or how to cook a lot of different things with whole foods. I was 100% a typical overweight American who lived off all things frozen, pre-packaged, and preserved with chemicals. I used to joke that I would starve if I was locked in a health food store because I had no idea what to do with 75% of the food there. Thankfully, I kept at it and learned.
Not all of my experiments were successful (my poor husband haha!) and resulted in a meal that, while edible, was anything but tasty. A fine example would be pressure canned beans and rice with canned pork. What a gloopy, gobby mess that turned out to be! Too much salt, then too much pepper, then rice added (dry) to help take some of the salt out that ended up soaking all the liquid up and making the whole mess form into some high school science experiment gone very, very wrong. I kept at it though and have come up with some really great ways to use up all that food you worked so hard to grow and preserve.
A real eye opener for me was how fast meals were ready when I used jarred food I processed. Some of you may be saying, “There’s no difference between cooking with your jar of carrots versus an aluminum can of carrots bought at the store. You cook the same with both!”
They would be both right and wrong.
There is a difference in taste, color, and chemical content. Canned green beans from the store taste and cook differently. I can cook jarred green beans in a crock pot, on high, for 10 hours and it keeps its shape and flavor whereas with store bought cans of green beans, after a few hours, any stirring will cause it to break apart and turn to mush. I admit the bragging rights are a nice bonus. 😉 There is also the difference that comes with the knowledge that what you are eating is much healthier, tastes better, and you just took a shot at big food companies by making your own ‘convenience’ foods!
*Please note that I cook for only 2-3 people. Adjust amounts as needed and desired. Recipes below are suggestions.
- 1 pint Carrots
- 1 pint Green Beans
- ½ pint Peas
- 1 quart Tomato Juice (V-8 is a fantastic substitute!)
- Any other veggies you want to add
- Any spices you want to add
Directions: Pop the jars open and drain water. Combine all ingredients in a crock pot or a pot on the stove. Add spices and bring the whole thing to heat. Allow it to simmer for at least 20 minutes.
HD Notes: I will combine the above ingredients into my crock pot in the morning and set it on low to cook all day long but I have also dumped it all into a pot on the stove, heated it up and let it simmer about 30 minutes before serving. There is so much you can do with this!
Meat and Gravy Over….
- 1 pint Beef (Pork also works well for this!)
- 1 pint Vegetable (your choice)
- 1 quart Potato cubes
- Corn Starch
- Spices to taste
- Optional: Instead of potatoes, you can use pasta or rice
Pop open your jar of canned meat and pour the whole thing into a saucepan or pot (I don’t use spiced when I make batches of canned meat). Assuming you use a pint jar, measure a heaping half teaspoon of cornstarch and mix into 2 teaspoons of water. Add it to the meat. Turn the heat to medium and let it get to a good simmer. The cornstarch will thicken the broth into a lovely gravy. Once you see it start to thicken, turn the heat back and make sure to stir. Total simmer time should be around 5 minutes or so. Let stand to thicken.
Pop open your jar of vegetables and heat them up as preferred. The potatoes can be heated and left as is in cube form or you can mash them up (drain the water first!) after heating them. You can also fry them up in a little olive oil though it tends to get messy. If you are going for jarred potatoes, mashing them after heating them up tends to be easier.
HD Notes: I use the juices from the meat to mix the starch into. I will also add in some granulated garlic, chopped onion/garlic, chives, pepper…whatever I have on hand and feel like. This is truly one of our favorite ‘fast food’ meals as it only takes about 20 minutes to make the whole thing. It’s perfect for those nights when you just don’t want to ‘cook’ but have to make something. The best part is you know how the food was processed because you did it yourself and also know there aren’t a bunch of preservatives and other chemicals in there.
- Take a jar of pinto beans to make refried beans for burritos or a great bean dip.
- A quart of homemade vegetable stock is perfect for more than just making soup! Use it to make your stuffing instead of water (a huge hit at our house) or you could use the stock to soak dry beans in versus water. The beans will soak up the flavor and nutrients!
- A pint of jarred meat can be quickly turned into an open faced sandwich just by draining the juice (or save it for later) and mixing the meat with mayo or whatever you prefer to make a tasty (and fast!) meal.
- We have also taken a pint jar of pork, drained it and shredded the meat. Layering shredded pork and cheese, we made fantastic quesadillas!
There are so many ideas out there that would honestly fill volumes of pages. I hope this gets the creativity and inspiration flowing on different things you can do and make with your home canned food!