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Food Preservation: A Year at a Glance

by | Sep 11, 2020 | Preserve

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.

Planning Ahead

Knowing what crops will be ready to harvest at different times of 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, planning, sourcing 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.

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. 

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.

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.

  • Rhubarb – freeze, jam, pie
  • Strawberries – jam, syrup, pie
  • Peas – can, freeze
  • Baby beets – pickle
  • Greens – dry and make homemade Super Greens Powder
  • Flowers/herbs – dandelion jelly, wine; elder-flower tea, tincture, champagne

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. 

  • Berries – jams, jellies, syrups, and fruit leathers
  • Cherries – jam, syrup, canned pie filling, canned in apple cider 
  • Beets, carrots, early cabbage – summer ferments, pickled beets, ginger carrots 
  • Summer squash – pickles, shredded and frozen or dehydrated for bread, soups
  • Tender herbs – (basil, mint, cilantro, parsley) mince and freeze in ice cube trays covered with olive oil or lemon/lime juice; herb salts   
  • Cucumbers – quick and fermented pickles (kosher dills)
  • Green beans – pickle, pickled pizza beans; pressure can raw pack
  • Early onions, garlic – cure and store, dehydrate for spice powders 
  • Potatoes and corn – enjoy new potatoes and early corn as a special treat!
  • Medicinal herbs – make tinctures, infused oils, salves
  • Fruit – canned, canned pie filling; fruit liqueurs

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 syrup for canning fruit.

  • Early apples – applesauce, apple butter, sweet cider for canning fruit
  • Stone fruit – canned singly, as juice, jam,  syrup, or canned pie filling; dehydrate slices or halves, make fruit leather; fruit wine
  • Pressure can Veggie Stew
  • Tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos – can salsa, salsa verde chicken, marinara sauce, tomato soup, fermented tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, canned tomato soup
  • Corn – pressure canned
  • Early winter squash – cure first to develop sweetness before eating or preserving
  • Cabbage – sauerkraut
  • Root vegetables – store in damp sand in root cellar (real or make-shift)

Fall

October

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

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

November

In season: Meat, gift making.

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

  • Make convenience meals
  • Pressure can broth
  • Cure meat – bacon, ham, sausage
  • Make specialty food gifts pear preserves, crabapple butter, stews and soups for comfort meals

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!

January

In season: Household products and personal care products.

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

  • Finish rendering lard and tallow, make soap and candles
  • Make a year’s worth of household cleaning products, personal and skin care products

February

In season: Eggs, sewing projects.

Tip: Manage your stores and use things up appropriately.

March

In season: Eggs, milk.

Tip:  Just do the next thing! This is also a great time to start gearing up for gardening season. Getting starts started indoors. Spring planning for your garden. Cleaning out the garden 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.

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