Preserve Your Garden

You've spent several days a week throughout the summer in your garden. Now, your work's paid off. You are surrounded with wonderful fresh vegetables. At first, you're thrilled and ripe tomatoes, beans, and cucumbers are added to everything you can get your hands on. But, as the season continues and more vegetables keep coming, you begin to wonder what to do with them all. If you're like me, it's time to clean up the jars, pull out the rims and lids, and find that heavy pressure cooker again. It's time to start preserving your bounty.

Before we talk recipes, let's cover a few preserving basics. Always make sure you use the freshest ingredients (taking care to remove any dark or spoiled spots) and the cleanest jars, lids, and rings. If you aren't careful about cleanliness, you could end up with unsealed jars or, worse yet, food poisoning. Never use the food in an unsealed jar or a jar containing unusual coloring, foam, or a rancid odor. Use common sense and your canning cellar (or other cool, dry, dark storage place) will be a joy during those long winter months.

This article includes some of my all-time favorite ways to preserve some traditional garden fare: tomatoes, pickles, and beans. They are:

All of the recipes included in this article (with the exception of Dried Tomatoes) have been in my family for generations. A canning cellar is almost as important as a bathroom in our humble opinion! So, if you have several pails of tomatoes just waiting to be used or your pickles are being especially bountiful this year, take heart! Use these recipes and you can look forward to those wonderful garden flavors in the middle of winter. Good luck!

Stewed Tomatoes

This versatile recipe includes some garden favorites like tomatoes, onions, celery and green peppers. Use it as a base for tomato and chili soups, include it as a burst of tomato flavor in your homemade sauces, or puree it in a blender for your own homemade version of V8!
  • 4 quarts tomatoes, washed and quartered
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Wash, rinse and drain vegetables. Puree tomatoes and run through strainer; remove seeds. Chop and measure other vegetables. Mix all ingredients, cover and cook 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Taste and add more salt if needed. Process pints 15 minutes; quarts 20 minutes at 10 pounds pressure (or boiling).

  • Yields: about 4 quarts
  • Preparation Time: 2 hours

Spaghetti Sauce

Do you love a rich, chunky style spaghetti sauce that's got that sun-ripened tomato taste? Here's one that will become a star in any Italian dish calling for tomato sauce. Use it in lasagna, stuffed shells, and -- of course -- spaghetti.
  • 4 onions, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped green pepper
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini squash
  • 16 medium-sized tomatoes, pureed and strained
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 bay leaves (take out after)
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons basil
  • 2 (12 oz.) cans tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Mix all ingredients in a large stock pot. Simmer for 2 hours. Place in clean jars with intact lids. Cook in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

  • Yields: about 4 quarts
  • Preparation Time: 3 hours


I'm a hard one to please when it comes to salsa. I want to have that spicy kick, a great tomato taste, and chucks of my favorite vegetables. This one has it all. For added flair, include 1 cup of cooked black beans or tender-crisp corn.
  • 16 tomatoes -- 10 red and 6 green
  • 2 green chiles
  • 2 red chiles
  • 2 hot peppers
  • 2 green peppers
  • 4 onions
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon cilantro

Chop and combine all ingredients. Cook 1 1/2 hours on stove. Let cool. Add 2 small cans tomato paste. Cook in a hot water bath for 20 minutes.

  • Yields: about 4 quarts
  • Preparation Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Dried Tomatoes

When I make a big kettle of soup or stew, these flavorful treats are always nearby. Add zest to recipes that need to simmer for an hour or more by using a kitchen shears to snip pieces of dried tomatoes into your pot. If you are cooking for shorter periods, try soaking your tomatoes in warm water for 15 minutes before adding them.
  • 8 large tomatoes, sun-ripened
  • Seasonings: garlic, black pepper, red pepper, paprika, basil, oregano (optional)

Wash and slice tomatoes 1/4" thick. Important: keep the thickness of the tomatoes as consistent as possible. Large variations will result in uneven drying. Arrange tomatoes on dehydrator drying trays in a single layer with small spaces between the slices of tomato. Sprinkle with your choice of seasoning, if desired. Eight large tomatoes should fill 4 dehydrator trays. If you have additional trays, include 2 additional tomatoes for each tray. Set the dehydrator temperature to 135 degrees and allow the tomatoes to dry for 8-12 hours. The time required to dry the tomatoes will depend on how juicy your tomatoes are and the density of seeds.

  • Yields: Depends on how many tomatoes you have!
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes, plus drying time

Dill Pickles

My mother always said that the key to making these great pickles is using ones that come right from your garden! If you find that store brands leave you with too much vinegar flavor on your tongue, try this rendition featuring more onion and garlic and less vinegar.
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Garlic
  • Dill
  • Onion
  • Pickles

Pack pickles with dill, garlic, and onion in between. For 1 quart, place on the bottom, middle and top. Add the sugar and salt to the top of the jars. Fill full with water. Put lids and rings on tight. Shake jar until sugar and salt mix up. Cook in pressure cooker until pickles turn color (10 pounds pressure for 5 minutes). Take jars out immediately.

  • Yields: Depends on how many pickles you have!
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Green Beans and Onions

Adding onion to your prize-winning green beans is sure to please your dinner crowd. For a little more pizzazz, add some sliced sweet baby carrots.
  • Green beans, cleaned and cut into 1" pieces
  • White onions, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine beans and onions in a large bowl. Make sure about 1/3 of the mixture consists of onions. Pack into clean 1 pint canning jars. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to each jar. Fill with water and secure with lids and rims. Cook in a pressure cooker at 10 pounds for 20 minutes. If you'd like you can replace the green beans with a 50/50 mixture of green beans and carrots. If you are using quart jars, add 1 teaspoon of salt to each jar.

  • Yields: Depends on how many beans you have!
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes (plus cutting and packing time, which will vary)
Editor's Note: Some people have voiced concerns with making low-acid, homemade foods. While we have never experienced any health or safety problems with the recipes included in this article, we feel it is important to inform our readers of safety concerns voiced by organizations other than our own.