11 Ways to Use Home Canned Foods

By Kate McCarty, Food Systems Professional, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Now that the calendar has turned to 2022, it’s time to make sure you’re on track to use up last year’s canned goods. Whether you’re a novice or veteran canner, it’s important to use your home canned goods within one year for best quality. Foods older than one year are still edible, but may lose color, texture, and nutritional value over time.

Some food you preserved last year might have obvious uses like pickles, tomato sauce, and salsa, but there are also plenty of creative ways to use these homemade canned goods. So if you’re stumped on how to use all that relish or are just looking for some fresh ways to use your favorite canned foods, here are our ideas for some delicious ways to use homemade canned foods.

Safety First

Before you dig into your jars, be sure to check that there are no signs of spoilage. How do you know that your canned food is safe to eat after months in storage? 

Give your jars a good once over before you open them to ensure nothing has spoiled in storage. Some fading of the food’s natural color is normal, but the food should not be dramatically discolored. Other signs of spoilage in canned goods include liquid seeping from the jar, bubbling, foaming, fizzing, mold, and a swollen lid due to gasses produced by unwanted microbial growth. 

If you see any of these signs of spoilage, discard the food without tasting it. Review UMaine Extension bulletin Can Home-Canned Food Spoil? for more information about how to spot spoiled canned goods.

11 Ways to Use Home Canned Foods

  1. Use canned beans and tomatoes to make chili or soup.
  2. Mix chutney or hot pepper jelly with sour cream or cream cheese to serve as an appetizer.
  3. Use marmalade or jam in salad dressings, marinades, or as a glaze for meats.
  4. Dehydrate canned applesauce or pears blended with berries into fruit leather.
  5. Blend canned or frozen fruits into smoothies or add to yogurt and oatmeal.
  6. Use leftover pickle brine in marinades and salad dressings to boost flavor.
  7. Add peach preserves or apple chutney to pork roast in a crockpot for pulled pork.
  8. Bake salsa with enchiladas, chicken, or Mexican lasagna.
  9. Serve pickles, jellies, jams, and chutneys with Maine-made cheese and meats on a charcuterie board.
  10. Use jams and jellies in baked goods like thumbprint cookies, layer cake filling, and cake and quick bread glazes.
  11. Mix relish into mayonnaise as a sandwich spread or dip for fish cakes or other fritters.

If you find yourself with large amounts of a particular canned food left over, be sure to take note and use that to inform your canning decisions this year. Perhaps a recipe wasn’t as tasty as you anticipated or your family doesn’t eat as many beans as you thought they would. That way, every year you can refine your selection of recipes and make sure you have the right amount of your favorite home-preserved products on hand for delicious home cooked meals and treats through the winter.