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15 Smart Ways to Preserve Your Harvest with an Instant Pot

Once the garden gets producing, everything starts coming in at once. Without some initial planning, your countertops will soon become overwhelmed with home-grown bounty.

The good news is there are plenty of ways to bring your harvest down to a manageable scale with one valuable kitchen tool—the Instant Pot. This versatile electric pressure cooker might be best known for its potential for whipping together quick weeknight soups, but that’s only the beginning of what you can achieve with it.

Why Use an Instant Pot?

The Instant Pot—and by extension, most other electric pressure cookers—work as multi-cookers that combine the features of a traditional slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté’ pan, warming pot, and pressure cooker all in one.

This makes them a versatile piece of kitchen equipment that can be used to tackle just about any recipe. The one requirement is that you always include some liquid in the Pot to allow it to build up steam.  

Check out these articles for some Instant Pot inspiration:

Can You Can With An Instant Pot?

Some people claim to use electric pressure cookers like the Instant Pot for regular canning. That’s a bad idea for a few reasons.

Essentially, these cookers have less metal, a smaller interior space, and require less water to get up to pressure. This means that the time it takes the cooker to build up pressure and cool down is less than what’s standard for a pressure canner, which results in different temperatures and total cook times.

This means that it’s possible that the processing time with the Instant Pot won’t be adequate to kill off microorganisms, and you could end up with food that spoils quickly.

Worse, your canned goods could become contaminated with potentially life-threatening pathogens like botulism.

In short, you can use your Instant Pot for prepping canned goods before they get in the jar. But when it comes to processing them, you need to invest in a regular pressure canner or a water bath canner.

15 Ways to Use an Instant Pot To Help with Garden Harvesting

Let’s look at some of the best ways you can use the Instant Pot to get through the peak of the gardening season without stress.

1. Sanitize Your Canning Jars

All home canners know how important sterile equipment is for success. Put your Instant Pot to work sanitizing your canning jars by using it as a steam bath.

Add one cup of water to the bottom of the Pot, place a metal trivet on the bottom, and stack your canning jars and lids inside. Seal the steam valve and turn the Pot onto the ‘pressure cook’ mode for one minute.

Keep everything in the Instant Pot until you’re ready to can, so things stay sterile.

2. Make Caramelized Onion Jam

Transform an onion harvest into a savory jam just waiting to be slathered on your homemade sourdough bread. With Better Home & Garden’s instructions, you can have a jam made from garden-fresh ingredients on the table within 20 minutes.  

3. Hard Boil Fresh Eggs

If your poultry is producing more eggs than you can manage, then it’s a good idea to put your Instant Pot to use hard-boiling them for other uses.

Cooking eggs in the Instant Pot lets you process several dozen at once, and you can set the timer to get the precise level of cooking you prefer. Best of all, I’ve found that steaming farm-fresh eggs makes them a dream to peel.

I get great results by pouring a cup of water into the Pot, adding the trivet to the bottom, filling the Pot with as many eggs as I want hard-boiled (spacing isn’t a concern so long as you don’t go above the Pot’s max fill line). I then set it for five minutes of pressure cooking with five minutes natural release. You can adjust this timing to three minutes for both if you want softer yolks.

At the end of the time, plop the eggs into cold water to slow the cooking process and use them as desired. For long-term preservation, consider making pickled eggs.

4. Turn fresh Goat’s Milk into Yogurt

If you’re lucky enough to have your own dairy animals, you probably know the pain of occasionally having too much fresh milk. Put your Instant Pot to use by transforming it into homemade yogurt. You’ll both increase its shelf life and add a boost of beneficial microbes in the process.

Most Instant Pots come with a yogurt setting, so the process couldn’t be easier. You’ll essentially get fresh milk to a high temperature, let it cool before adding a tablespoon or two of yogurt with live cultures, and keep everything warm for eight to twelve hours so the microbes can colonize the milk and transform it.

Further instructions can be found in this recipe from The Kitchn.   

5. Make Homemade Dog Food

Your pet shouldn’t miss out on the garden bounty, and making homemade dog food is easy with an Instant Pot. Follow this recipe from The Dog People to give your canine the benefits of a meal made with garden-fresh produce like carrots, green beans, sweet potato, blueberries, peas, and parsley—with plenty of meat besides.

Serve it to your pooch immediately, or store in the freezer for later use.

6. Brew Homemade Cough Syrup

You can turn your sage and thyme harvest into a homemade cough syrup with the Instant Pot with this recipe from the Traditional Cooking School. This recipe relies on the Pot’s ‘saute’ feature, which allows you to bring water to a consistent boil with minimal monitoring.

All the better if you have local raw honey to add as well.

7. Turn Fresh Grapes into Juice

I have a bumper crop of concord grapes on my homestead this year, so it’s been a fun challenge to use them. One success has been making grape juice with an Instant Pot. This provides a faster result than using a steam juicer and lets you make smaller batches whenever desired.

Make sure you have a steamer basket for Instant Pot on hand and follow the instructions from the Homestead Lady for a gorgeous drink. 

Ready to level up your grape juice? Better Homes & Gardens shares a recipe for transforming your homemade drink into wine.

8. Pop Home-grown Popcorn

Growing popcorn on the homestead is a fun endeavor, and you can easily pop it with the Instant Pot. The process couldn’t be easier, though you’ll need to have a glass lid for best results.

Learn how at The Typical Mom.

9. Use an Instant Pot for Cooking Tomatoes Fast

Summer is synonymous with home-grown tomatoes and you might want to preserve the harvest as tomato puree for winter meals. However, few people want to keep their stove on for hours during hot afternoons.

The Instant Pot solves this problem, as you can cook down your tomatoes either with the slow cook or pressure cook mode. This gives you the same results without steaming up your kitchen, and you can freeze or can the sauce at the end.

You can follow this same idea to make Graceful Little Honeybee’s recipe for Instant Pot tomato soup, or try this recipe from Detoxinista for Instant Pot spaghetti sauce. Another option is to try out a homemade ketchup recipe from Hip Cooking with the Pot’s pressure cooker feature.

10. Make Applesauce

My homestead’s apple trees went into overdrive this year, and it’s been tricky to put them all to use. Making applesauce with the Instant Pot is an easy solution.

All I do is rough-cut the apples and add them to the Pot until they reach the maximum fill line and then add about a cup or two of water. I put it on slow cook mode for four to eight hours, mashing intermittently with a potato masher to see how the texture is coming along.

At the end, you can process the applesauce in a food mill for a smoother texture and season with cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. I like to can the final product so that it’s shelf-stable and easy to store.

You can go beyond this basic recipe by making a batch of Better Home & Garden’s raspberry chipotle applesauce or by cooking your apples down further to make apple butter with Graceful Little Honeybee’s recipe. Or, keep things simple with these Instant Pot cinnamon apples from Sweet and Savory Meals.

11. Cook Blueberry Compote

Forget maple syrup; nothing tastes better on pancakes than homemade blueberry syrup. Learn how to make your own from fresh berries with the Instant Pot with this recipe from Savoring the Good.

Make sure to can what you don’t consume so you can enjoy the syrup year-round.  

12. Savory Southern Chow Chow Relish

Take your condiment game to a new level with homemade southern-style chow chow straight from the Instant Pot. Though this recipe calls for garden-fresh cabbage, red peppers and banana peppers, tomatoes, and onions, you can make adjustments based on what you’ve grown this year.

Find the full recipe at My Crash Test Life.

13. Cook Bone Broth

If you’ve recently butchered a chicken (or merely had a chicken dinner), you’re wasting food if you threw away the carcass without turning it into bone broth.

It turns out the Instant Pot is the perfect appliance for extracting the maximum nutrient value from the scraps. Plantings and Pairings will walk you through the process of creating your own.

Save all your vegetable scraps as well, and Graceful Little Honey Bee will show you how to transform them into vegetable broth.

And don’t forget to add your veggie scraps from your Ugly Broth Bag!

14. Whip Up Hot Pepper Jelly

You’re missing out if you’ve never tried a spicy jam. Homemade hot pepper jelly is the perfect complement to meat dishes and tastes great on toast with cream cheese as well. Make your own in the Instant Pot to eat fresh or to can soon after for enjoyment all year round.

Here’s some inspiration for a red-hued spicy jam from Zesty South Indian Kitchen.

15. Make “Pasta” from Zucchini Noodles

Enjoy a pasta meal without the carbs and starch by making zucchini noodles in the Instant Pot. Not only does this quick recipe from Instant Pot Eats come together in ten minutes, but it’s a great way to use up a late-season overabundance of zucchini.

Make sure you have a spiralizer on hand for easy noodle making.

Still have too much zucchini? This same site has a recipe for a Thai-inspired zucchini soup. You can also use the Instant Pot to make zucchini-based baby food (Easy Instant Pot Recipes) or even zucchini bread (Ministry of Curry).

Make Your Garden Harvest Less Overwhelming with a Pressure Cooker

There’s no reason to be fearful of every garden tomato ripening at once this year. By putting your Instant Pot to work, you can ensure that you always have a way to turn your fresh produce into a meal for today or preserved product for enjoying in the future.

It’s a stellar resource for helping you enjoy your garden when the changing seasons have made its bounty nothing but a distant memory.

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Lydia Noyes

Lydia Noyes is a content writer and hobby farmer in southwest Michigan. Together with her husband, she manages a diverse 34-acre property with a large garden, fruit trees, hayfields, native plant nurseries, and a myriad of animals including American guinea hogs, Nigerian dwarf goats, and too many chickens to count. Connect on Instagram at @first_roots_farm.