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Food Preservation: A Year at a Glance

Knowing how much food you’ll put up in a year is wonderful, but life can often throw us curve balls. It’s a smart idea to have your food preservation for the year laid out ahead of time to plan for the unexpected and be prepared for anything the weather or the seasons throw at us.

Woman reaching for a jar of food from a shelf up high.

Planning Ahead

Knowing what crops will be ready to harvest at different times of the year can really help you get ahead when it comes to being prepared for canning. You can’t simply plant a garden, know the common canning mistakes to avoid, and then be ready to preserve food all year round.

It takes careful thought, taking inventory of supplies, scheduling your calendar wisely, keeping your pantry organized, and knowing how to properly store and build up your long-term food storage supply.

In this post I’ll be breaking down a typical calendar year, sharing the foods I’m preserving. This may look slightly different depending on which region you live in.

We’re in the far north of Idaho, so if you’re not sure when asparagus is typically ready for harvest in your area, then ask around to neighbors and friends who garden.

Three jars of canned tomato soup sitting on the counter with a jar lifter setting one jar down.

Preserving Tips

  • Your harvest windows may be very different than mine, so refer to the season rather than the month to get the most from this blog post.
  • Most people are happy to share the bounty of an apple tree in exchange for a few jars of applesauce. Offer preserved foods in exchange for raw materials (unsprayed).
  • Save beans (dry beans) for canning in the off-season when you’re less busy with garden produce.
  • Wait to preserve meals in jars until the garden is finished for the season. 

Canned food arranged on pantry shelves.

Early Spring

April

Prepare for the upcoming canning season!  You can never prepare too far ahead of time when it comes to canning season.

Tip: If you have a dial gauge canner, get the gauge calibrated before canning season starts at your local University Extension office. Be sure to know these other common canning mistakes to be sure you avoid making them.

A man leaning over planting a tomato plant into the garden.

May-June

In season: Rhubarb, strawberries, peas, greens, baby beets, spring flowers/herbs.

Tip: Use up stored produce…winter squash, potatoes, onions, and garlic. If you started plants indoors, be sure you know when and how to transplant them into the garden for the best success.

Multi-colored echinacea flowers.

Early Summer

July-August

In season: Berries and cherries of all kinds, beets, carrots, cabbage, summer squash, tender herbs, cucumbers, green beans, early onions, garlic, potatoes, medicinal herbs, corn, and some fruit.

Tip: Ferment just enough early cabbage into sauerkraut to get you by until fall cabbages are ready. 

A finished hoop house or bean tunnel with crops growing up the sides and on the ground inside the tunnel.

Late Summer

September

In season: Early apples, stone fruit (plums, apricots, peaches, nectarines), tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, corn, early winter squash, main crop cabbage, and root vegetables.

Tips: Prepare for root veggie storage if your area has hard winter freezes. Can sweet cider to use as a syrup for canning fruit.

A woman standing behind a counter full of produce waiting to be preserved.

Fall

October

In season: Main crop apples, meat, vegetables, and herbs.

Tip: Harvest the last of the garden veggies and herbs.

Six jars of raw packed canned stew with a canning tool sliding into one jar to remove air bubbles.

November

In season: Meat, gift making.

Tips: Manage your stores to use things up before they spoil.

A large garden under snow with trees and mountains in the background.

Winter

December

Tip:  Manage your stores to catch problems before they cause spoilage and loss.

In season: Gift-giving, time with family, and time off from preserving food. Enjoy your well-earned break!

Woman holding a jar of garlic salve in her kitchen.

January

In season: Household products and personal care products.

Tip: Manage your stores and use up odd bits of food from the pantry and freezer to make space for next season.

February

In season: Eggs, sewing projects.

Tip: Manage your stores and use things up appropriately.

A plate of homemade butter.

March

In season: Eggs, milk.

Tip: Just do the next thing! This is also a great time to start gearing up for the gardening season. Getting starts started indoors. Spring planning for your garden. Cleaning out the garden, maybe supercharging your garden beds and amending your soil (if you can get to it yet!).

And that wraps up your preserving year! This list just barely scratches the surface of what a gardening year might look like, but we did try to sprinkle in the main steps.

We hope this list is helpful in planning out your preserving year so you can stock those shelves and be more self-sufficient in the years to come.

A man and wife smiling.

Welcome to Homesteading Family!

Josh and Carolyn bring you practical knowledge on how to Grow, Cook, Preserve and Thrive on your homestead, whether you are in a city apartment or on 40 acres in the country. If you want to increase your self-sufficiency and health be sure to subscribe for helpful videos on gardening, preserving, herbal medicine, traditional cooking and more.

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