Food Preservation

"Harvest what you have"

Harvest What You Have

"Harvest what you have" has been a motto I've used for a number of years.  While the definition of harvest refers to gathering crops, I tend to think of it in more general terms of bringing in food for our family to use in the coming year. Thus, in my mind, harvesting what we have means preserving what we have. We have preserved our"harvest" for many years primarily by canning, freezing, and drying, but the way in which we have obtained the meat and produce for this has varied widely.  We have harvested from our own gardens, big and small. We have made purchases at farmer's markets, orchards, and butcher shops. We have helped friends harvest their gardens or orchards and have been paid with a share of the produce. We have been gifted produce from the overabundance of a friend's garden. We have traded work, jam, and other various items with friends for produce. We have harvested wild game in years we had hunting tags. We have foraged for things like serviceberry, elderberry, and huckleberry.  We have even harvested dandelions and lilacs from our spray-free yard. What we have had available to harvest has looked different every year, but every year we strive to use and preserve what we have. I hope this page encourages you to seek creative ways to find and preserve produce (or meat) to fill your larder.

Canning Sauces - Why it is a good idea

When first canning on my own, I stuck to the basics I knew as a kid - peaches, pears, applesauce, and green beans. I still do these, but after a few years I began to seek out ways to expand my canning experience.  As a result, we usually try at least one new canning recipe each year. Over the years, I have added beef, chicken, pie fillings, beans, stew, spiced jams, pickled vegetables (including daylily buds), relish, and more. Recently, my focus has been on canning more sauces and condiments... (see below for more)

"Why sauces?" you might ask.  Our family loves sauces - ketchup, barbecue sauce, Hoisin sauce, Asian plum sauce, hot sauce, you name it, my crew probably likes it.  We put it on hamburgers, in rice dishes, in meat dishes, in noodle dishes, and, of course, pizza sauce on pizza!  We even include different sauces in our meatloaf recipe.  The big drawback for us is the list of ingredients you find in store-bought sauces these days - seed oils, high fructose corn syrup, etc. Finding condiments without these ingredients is possible, but more expensive. Furthermore, we have friends with allergies to some pretty common ingredients. Add that to the plastic packaging most food items come in these days, and I started to think we needed a better option. Thus, we have been looking for, and trying, different recipes for homemade sauces and condiments to make and to can. 

One thing I have realized when it comes to sauces is that you can think outside the box.  For example, you don't have to use tomatoes for barbecue sauce.  Why not use cherries, peaches, or plums? It may have a somewhat fruity flavor, but there are a lot of fabulous recipes out there that use alternative ingredients. Do you have an allergy to nightshades? Skip the peppers for seasoning, and look for a recipe that uses ginger or other spices. Do you have a wheat allergy? Use tamari instead of regular soy sauce for your Asian plum sauce. Alternatively, find a recipe that does not include soy sauce at all.  Do you want to add more variety to your applesauce? Try mixing in plums or pears. Or, add some spices like cinnamon and cloves. With the internet, we have access to so many recipes these days.  Make sure that the recipe you are using meets the proper safety requirements for canning if you plan to can your sauce. Here are a couple of resource links to help you determine if your recipe is safe: UNH article and MSU article.

Here is a short list of sauces that you can can yourself:

Spaghetti Sauce

Marinara Sauce

Pizza Sauce

Asian Plum Sauce

Hoisin Sauce

Barbecue Sauce


Hot Sauce

Taco Sauce/Salsa

Enchilada Sauce

Cranberry Sauce

Apple Sauce

Victoria Sauce

One final reason to can your own sauces and condiments...if you find yourself in a situation where you cannot get to the grocery store to buy your favorite sauce, it will be nice to have an option sitting on your shelf.  This holds true when you don't have time to make a trip to the store as well as when there is an emergency and the stores may be closed. Don't underestimate the comfort access to familiar ingredients can bring when in a difficult situation.