Canning Overload: What to Do With Your Canning Surplus

Canning vegetables, jam, and fruit is a practical way to extend the growing season. (And as many people have discovered, it's also a lot of fun!) But sometimes we go a little overboard and can more than we can possibly eat in the year or so ahead. What do you do with your canning surplus?It wasn't that long ago that successful canning literally made the difference between life and death when winter set in. But today? I'd guess that isn't the case for most people. Of course, by definition preserved goods are going to last a long time, but sometimes we let the joy of canning get the best of us. (No matter what we do, we can't consume those 50 jars of strawberry-balsamic jam all by ourselves.)

Most soup kitchens and charitable organizations cannot accept home-canned items due to Heath Department regulations. So what to do? Here are a few ideas to spread the love and use up some of your delicious surplus.

Gifts! This is an obvious choice. Giving away your beautiful, jewel-like jars of jam is a wonderful thing... until it isn't. Be careful not to overload friends and family. Try keeping track of your giving so you don't show up at your next dinner party with a jar of your amazing applesauce — for the fifth time.

Swap! Emily has written quite a bit about food swaps for The Kitchn. Look for a swap in your area or consider starting one of your own. Emily is also the co-founder of the Food Swap Network which helps you find or create a swap in your area.

Party! Have a party that will use up several jars of pickles. Give away your jams as party gifts, but with caution (see Gifts! above.) Or leave a pile by the door with a free sign and a few bags for toting. Use your jam as a filling for a layer cake. Or make thumbprint cookies, like these from Marisa of Food in Jars:

Get the recipe: Preserves in Action: Thumbprint Cookies from The Cookiepedia at Food In Jars

Barter! See if there's a win-win situation among your friends: use your canning project surplus as currency to get a few projects done around the house.

Innovate! Think outside the box when it comes to your canned goods. Jam, for instance, can do more than provide flavor on your morning toast. Fill a cake or use it as a sweet counternote in a spicy barbecue sauce. Applesauce makes a fine cake or gingerbread. Sauerkraut is great raw but it works when heated, expanding its recipe potential.

Free Shelf! Take some of your canned goods to work and leave them sitting out with a free sign. Or if you have a free area in your apartment building, leave a few jars there. Having a list of ingredients will really help and, if you're comfortable with this, putting your name on it will help, too. People are more apt to pick up something when they know who made it.

What have you done to use up a surplus of canned goods?

Related: For High Volume Canning, Use This!

(Image: Marisa McClellan of Food in Jars via Flickr)

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