Need a recipe that saves you a lot of grief? Easy. It’s called ‘Plan Ahead for Canning Season’!
With this being the first of May, we aren’t far off from the first of the garden harvest. If you are like me, the first fruits are eaten fresh. There is nothing quite like eating a vine-ripened tomato while still in the garden!
But eventually, there will be so much produce, you just can’t eat them fresh fast enough. You begin to look towards canning and preserving as much as you can, in order to feed your family through the winter.
Long before you get to that point, you need to plan ahead for canning season. This is one of the busiest seasons for homemakers and homesteaders. There are so many little things that need to be done first, that waiting until the last minute may just end up spoiling the batch of salsa you are working on.
The trick is to plan ahead for canning season. That way, you may be busy, hot, and in desperate need of a nap, but at least you won’t have to worry that you forgot something!
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Steps to Plan Ahead for Canning Season
There are several things you need to think about before pulling out the water batch or pressure canner. Most are normal considerations, but canning season has a few ‘hidden’ aspects that we don’t think about until the last minute.
Step One – Make a Plan
More than likely, we all have our favorite things we like to put up for winter. In my case, there are a few things I need to make more of, as they are the most popular. There are other times when I see a recipe or a product I want to try.
When I plan ahead for canning season, the first thing I do is make a list of all the produce I will have available. Based on what I have, I make a list of I want to make. The next thing I do is gather all the recipes.
By looking at any recipe, you can quickly see what ingredients is going to be needed. Whether it be produce, canning salt, pectin, or seasonings, you will have a better idea of whether or not it is a viable choice.
For instance, I once found a recipe that called for Champagne Vinegar. The recipe sounded good, but my quandary was whether or not we would actually like the finished product. Considering it only called for 1 Tablespoon of the vinegar, I had to weigh the price of the vinegar compared to how much I would use compared to how much would be wasted if we didn’t like that particular product. I also had to consider the ‘waste’ of the other ingredients that could better be used in something we did enjoy.
With all the other ingredients I needed to buy for my regular canning, plus purchasing more jars, that recipe went into my ‘Wait Awhile’ pile. Instead, I focused on the items I knew we would use, or could give as gifts.
You also need to consider ‘quantity’ when you plan ahead for canning season. If you know your plan is to use your Plum Jelly as part of a Christmas Gift Basket, and it is also a favorite of your family’s, then you want to have an estimate of how many jars of it you are going to need to hold you until the next canning season.
Step Two – Take Inventory
Now that you have all of your recipes gathered together, it is time to see what you have on hand. Some items, like canning salt can be purchased I bulk, and can be stored from canning season to canning season. Others, such as pickling spices, will either need to be kept in the freezer, or purchased fresh each year (spices will lose their flavors after a period of time).
While taking inventory, keep paper and pen handy to jot down anything you know you will need. But don’t stop your inventory with the pantry and freezer. Here are a few things you are going to need when you start canning:
- Flats & Lids
- Bleach or Vinegar (for cleaning the kitchen and canning tools)
- Food Safe Rubber Gloves (to protect your hands when chopping hot peppers, for one thing)
- Canning Tools
- Clean Towels (hand & dish towels)
- Cooling racks or large towels to set hot jars on (if this is what you use)
- Labels / Marking Pen
These are just some of the supplies that you need to have on hand when you plan ahead for canning season. If you have decided this is the year to start using a pressure canner, start now looking for the best price and availability.
Lately, in the aftermath of the pandemic, shipping issues, and more people wanting to learn how to can, supplies and equipment have been scarce. When you plan ahead for canning season, this gives you the opportunity to purchase available supplies during the off-season, scout garage sales, or start asking friends and neighbors to check their cabinets for any spare jars.
Step Three – Brush Up on your Skills
Canning your own food isn’t difficult, but it does require quite a bit of safety precautions. Improper canning procedures can lead to Botulism, which can cause serious illness or death.
If you are new to canning, learn the Basics of Canning before you begin. If you are an old pro, it still benefits you to brush up on your skills – especially if you are working with a new recipe that calls for ingredients you have never used before.
Step Four – Look for the ‘Hidden’ Things
The last thing you probably think about during canning season is that you still have to feed your family – even if your stove is overloaded with canners, the counters are filled with supplies and the table is loaded with cooling jars.
While you plan ahead for canning season and are working on the first three steps, create a separate meal plan for canning season ahead of time. Start preparing frozen meals and put them in the freezer. This is going to free up a lot of time – especially when you are in the heat of the battle with timers and filling hot jars!
Step Five – Plan Ahead for Canning Season by Planning a Party!
Don’t think I have finally fallen off my rocker and did a nosedive off the porch! But in reality, planning a Canning Party may be just the ticket!
Canning can be a lonely sport, and many times you feel as if you need at least four hands – if not a clone – to help you get it all done. Hosting a canning party is a great way to not only get the help you need, but to make canning even more enjoyable. It’s also a perfect way to catch up with friends and enjoy some good food at a point in the season when you need it most!
Plan Ahead for Canning Season
Canning season can be one of the busiest times of the year. You don’t need or want distractions, and the idea of having to stop in the middle of everything to run to the grocery store is a nightmare.
Make your canning season easier by following these five easy steps. You will reduce your stress level and enjoy knowing you are providing your family with the best food possible in the process!
Want to Read More about Canning?
Here are a few posts you might enjoy. And be sure to visit often, as May is Canning Month at The Farm Wife, and there are more posts to come in the series!