9 Home Canned Convenience Foods From the Garden for any Self-Reliant Homesteader – Part 1

If you’ve begun your journey to self-reliance, you’ve probably noticed you’re relying less on processed convenience foods and are spending more time in the kitchen cooking and preparing foods from scratch you’ve grown from your garden. We think that’s awesome! But there’s some more good news! You can make your own home canned convenience foods for when life gets hectic and time too short to prepare a full meal from scratch. Here’s 9 home canned convenience foods from the garden for any self-reliant homesteader.

Pint Jars of Stewed Tomatoes in Foreground with Quarts of Tomato Soup to the Right

Pint Jars of Stewed Tomatoes in Foreground with Quarts of Tomato Soup to the Right

Home Canned Convenience Foods

The following is a list of convenience foods I can on a regular basis. Granted they take time and work to put by initially, but they sure make for quick meals later on. Because we live at sea level, all processing times and pressures are for this altitude. You’ll need to adjust times and pressures according to your altitude. I also use a dial gauge pressure canner not the weighted gauge type. For more information on processing times and pressures see the website for the National Center for Home Food Preservation

Tomato soup

Stewed tomatoes

Vegetable juice (otherwise known as V6 in our household)

Mixed vegetables

Meatless spaghetti sauce

Soup Stock and Broth

Vegetable stock

Pie Fillings


Tomato soup

I’m not a fan of tomato soup, but I can eat this if I add rice or orzo to it for a quick lunch. When I make vegetable beef soup, I’ll add a quart jar of this to the pot and sometimes I use it to make a quick version of Sloppy Joes. It could also be used in any casserole calling for tomato soup. The recipe comes from “Putting Food By”. It’s not diluted prior to using the way store bought soup is.

1. Wash and cut up 8 quarts of tomatoes. Put in a large kettle and cook until soft. Put through a sieve, food mill or Victorio squeezer to remove skins and seeds.

2. Return puree to kettle. Add 3 large onions and 2 green peppers finely chopped and cook till soft ( you could puree these if you want but I prefer not to).

3. Mix together ¾ cup sugar and 8 tablespoons cornstarch. Blend in 3 tablespoons white vinegar and enough water to make a smooth paste. You can add 2 tablespoons of salt if desired. While stirring, slowly add this to the tomato mixture. Heat to boiling and stir until it clears.

4. Pour boiling soup into hot jars. Leave 1 ¼” headroom for quarts, 3/4” for pints. Process in pressure canner at 11 pounds pressure (adjust for your altitude) 30 minutes for quarts, 20 minutes for pints.

Set Up for Straining Various Tomato Products

Set Up for Straining Various Tomato Products

Stewed Tomatoes

Years ago, when we homesteaded in Maine, we didn’t have a big enough solar array to power a freezer and everything had to be either canned, dried or root cellared. Unfortunately that meant I had no good way to store green peppers long term and even celery storage was problematic. Then I chanced upon this recipe in my “Putting Food By” book. It’s a great way to preserve celery and green peppers and since many soups call for at least celery and often green peppers too, canning stewed tomatoes for use through the winter meant our soups had more flavor than if made with plain tomatoes.

Tomatoes and Peppers for Use in Stewed Tomatoes

Tomatoes and Peppers for Use in Stewed Tomatoes

Because the added onions, celery and peppers are low acid vegetables, the pH of the final mix is not low enough to be safely canned in a boiling water bath like plain tomatoes are so stewed tomatoes must be processed in a pressure canner. The proportion of the various vegetables is important too. The total amount of any added vegetables shouldn’t be more than ¼ that of the tomatoes.

Of course you can make stewed tomatoes with added onion only, celery only, green pepper only, 2 of the 3, or all of them. Regardless a pressure canner is needed for processing.

1. Wash tomatoes, cut out cores, peel if desired ( I don’t bother), cut in quarters or smaller if tomatoes are large. Measure.

2. To every 8 cups of prepared tomatoes I add 1 cup of chopped celery, ½ cup chopped onion and ½ cup chopped green pepper.

3. Put in large kettle and boil gently in their own juice for about 10 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking. Don’t add any water. There’s no need as the tomatoes exude plenty of their own liquid. Ladle the boiling mixture into hot pint jars leaving ½” of headroom.

4. To be sure the product has the proper amount of acid to prevent botulism, add ¼ teaspoon citric acid (available from any pharmacy) or 1 tablespoon white vinegar (this will affect taste) to each jar.

5. Process at 11 pounds pressure (adjust for your altitude) as follows:

With only onion added-25 minutes

With celery added-30 minutes

With green pepper added-35 minutes

This convenience food is very versatile. Some may like it as a side vegetable but I usually use it to make a variety of soups-minestrone, Italian Chicken soup as well as Sausage and Bean soup for example. I add stewed tomatoes to chili along with plain tomatoes and plain sauce. It can also be used in casseroles and one pot meals by browning some hamburger or Italian sausage, adding a jar of stewed tomatoes plus a jar of mixed vegetable (see below) along with some macaroni and homegrown Italian seasoning  and you sort of have a home grown version of Hamburger Helper that not only taste better but is better for you.

Vegetable Juice (V6)

Tomatoes that Will Become V6

Tomatoes that Will Become V6

Finished V6

Finished V6

If you’re a fan of V8 you’ll probably like this beverage. While I don’t like to drink it, Ron loves it and I occasionally use it in cooking. I have a soup recipe that calls for it and if I make cabbage rolls, I use this instead of plain tomato juice or sauce. My “Putting Food By” book refers to this as vegetable juice but in our household we call it V6.

To make about 7 quarts-

1. In a large kettle, put 9 quarts of cut up tomatoes, then add 2 diced medium onions, 1¼ cup diced celery, 1 green pepper chopped fine, 3 bay leaves, 10 fresh basil leaves (or 2 teaspoons dried), ½ teaspoon black pepper, 3 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce.

2. Cook till soft, about 30 minutes. Pick out bay leaves then put the rest through a sieve or strainer to remove skins and seeds. I use my Victorio strainer.

3. To acidify the product to prevent botulism, add 3½ teaspoons citric acid (or 2/3 cup bottled lemon juice which will affect taste) and reheat to boiling.

4. Fill hot quart jars with the boiling juice leaving ½” headroom and process in boiling water canner for 40 minutes. (Adjust time for your altitude)

Kettle of V6 Ready for Straining

Kettle of V6 Ready for Straining

Strained V6 Ready for Canning

Strained V6 Ready for Canning

Mixed Vegetables

This can be used as a side vegetable but I can mixed vegetables for use in soups be it vegetable beef soup, minestrone, Italian chicken soup along with many other kinds. It also lends itself to casseroles and one pot meals- those great dishes for when time is short and the family is hungry.

Any combo of vegetables is okay. I usually do a mixture of peas, beans, corn, carrots and onions assuming all these veggies are ready at the same time as well as a little zucchini just because I generally have so much of it. If one of the above isn’t ready in time, I just leave it out. Usually I’ll put what I have in my largest mixing bowl, mix it up and see what it looks like. I try to get a good balance of everything so if something is lacking, I’ll throw in a little more if I have it.

Once I have a good mix, I put all the veggies in a large pot and add water to cover. Boil 5 minutes. Fill hot pint jars with hot food and liquid leaving 1” headroom. Process pints in a pressure canner at 11 pounds pressure (adjust for your altitude) for 75 minutes.

Meatless Spaghetti Sauce

This is one of my favorite home canned convenience foods. Having it in the pantry ready to go means I can have a pasta meal on the table in no time flat- boil up some tortellini, ravioli, linguine or other noodle, boil the sauce and ring the dinner bell. Preparing lasagna or stuffed shells is a cinch as the sauce is already done. When zucchini are coming out of our ears in summer, I’ll make zucchini Parmesan using this convenient sauce.

Straining Tomatoes

Straining Tomatoes

1. Wash 30 pounds of tomatoes. Cut into chunks, put in large kettle and cook till soft.

2. Put through a strainer or food mill to remove skins and seeds. I use my Victorio strainer for this.

3. Meanwhile, in ¼ cup olive oil saute 1 cup chopped onions, 5 cloves minced garlic and 1 cup celery till tender. Add to strained tomato puree along with 4 teaspoons canning salt, 2 tablespoons oregano, 4 bay leaves, a handful of fresh basil minced, 4 tablespoons fresh parsley minced, 2 teaspoons black pepper and ¼ cup brown sugar. Simmer uncovered till reduced by about half.

4. Pack into hot pint size jars leaving 1” headroom. Process in pressure canner at 11 pounds pressure (adjust for your altitude) for 20 minutes.

Stay tuned for the next installment that includes soup stock and broth, pie fillings and mincemeat.

Until next time, keep the dream alive! We wish you a great day!

Ron and Johanna

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2 Responses to 9 Home Canned Convenience Foods From the Garden for any Self-Reliant Homesteader – Part 1

  1. Roy says:

    Great information, and your careful detailed explanations are much appreciated. Thank you!

    • Ron & Johanna Melchiore says:

      You are more than welcome Roy. We are glad you found the information useful. Thanks so much for the comment. Stay safe!

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