Preserving season is already upon us!! What?! Wait?! you might be saying, but it is. I've harvested willow bark and stinging nettles, both for tinctures, thus far and it's time for me to harvest more stinging nettle for teas and infusions. Asparagus is already here, rhubarb is just around the corner, someone out there is likely picking radishes and it just rolls on and picks up from there!
Last week I pulled strawberries and rhubarb out of the freezer to make jam - delicious abundance. This week I'll roast the last butternut squash. You never regret taking the time to preserve.
So, how can you get ready for the coming season, or seasons, of preserving? Here are a few ways...
1. Clean out your freezer!
This is a big goal for me right now. (That I'm totally behind on...we need to eat more tomatoes!) I like to get my large chest freezer kinda tidied up and cleaned out for the beginning of the season. It's no good to stack new items on top of old items - things get lost. Sometimes that's good when you come across a surprise package of asparagus (or bacon), but when you find a bag of strawberries from 2014...
Don't have a freezer? Get one!! (We have three. Two mainly for meat.) Soooo handy. I like to can, so things are energy dependent and perishable, but there are many things that are simply easier to stick in the freezer - fruit, rhubarb, peppers, celery, greens, corn, bone broth, peas...
2. Tidy your pantry.
Whether you have a whole pantry room in your basement, a closet, or a cupboard in your kitchen, give it a look-see. Clean it up. Get familiar with what left to help you prioritize for the seasons ahead.
This helps me see what I'm not using. Haven't gone through a ton of green beans, so not a huge priority - tend to eat them mostly fresh.
2. What have you run out of?
Just to organize your brain for preserving season, and plan your shopping/gardening. Clearly you use these items the most and want to preserve more this season. Spend your time preserving what you really use - this is where it will save you money and bring more enjoyment!
For the first time in years I actually froze enough celery! Yay! I dried celery leaf as back up when I run out. We're out of jam, and salsa...more of those this year.
3. What's high priority? What do you spend the most money on?
Kinda what we talked about above. Know where you are going to source these important items (market, specific farmer, maybe this takes precedence in your garden). Again, this is what's going to save you money and bring more enjoyment.
We go through a lot of tomatoes, so this always is high on the list. Now, with a little one in tow, freezing and canning fruit (to round out our apple diet) is high on my list. What fruit we don't grow I buy in bulk from a local co-op, or other small farms.
5. Get your tools sorted.
Handy tools include a pressure canner and a water bath canner, along with canning funnels and tongs, etc., as well as a dehydrator (or two). Make sure to get your own lined up and ready, or perhaps go in on items with a friend, family member or neighbor - make it a social event!
If you don't have any of these items, perhaps pick one as a place to start. Dehydrators are great for many, many items; we primarily use them for herbs, apple rings and mushrooms, as well as extra onions in the winter sometimes. Water bath canning is for high acid items - applesauce, tomato stuff, jams, pickled items - and can be less time consuming than pressure canning. But, I think a pressure canner is essential - broth, meats, veggies.
The Living Earth Center
in Mankato has all of these items to loan out as well!
6. Get your sources sorted.
As the season rolls on think about where you're going to purchase or trade for your high priority, and other, items. Thinking you are going to need a 5 gallon bucket of peas, instead of the quarts at the market tables? Talk to your farmers ahead of time about large quantities, or to find out who has your favorite tomatoes, etc. Are you growing these items? Buying them at market? Ordering through a co-op? When it comes to meat (I consider sticking a whole hog in the freezer part of my preserving plan.) you need to think ahead for bulk quantities (best bang for your buck).
Don't know where to find something? Ask your friendly local farmers! The Mankato Farmers Market has already opened and New Ulm's market begins at the end of June.
Okay, go get started!
During this rain day I'm going to put a pound or two of asparagus in the freezer and dry some nettles!
What are you excited to preserve this season?
Will this be your first year preserving? What questions do you have?