Spring has arrived, which means summer is coming up! In just a few months, it will be time to preserve and can food. Now is the time to begin preparing for preserving season. Here are some things to start thinking about now, before the growing season really gets started:
1) What are your preserving needs?
I love this article on calculating your preserving needs – it provides a very simple, straightforward formula that you can use to figure out how much you should be canning and preserving.
If you are just starting out with preserving, think about normal foods that you would have in your cupboard. Start a little smaller; there’s no need to go all-out. Last year, Mr Science and I preserved tomatoes, corn, and pickled cucumbers / green beans. We did four cans of corn (which were gone in a snap!), and I believe about a dozen jars of tomatoes.
It’s best to start out small your first year if you’re just testing things out – and also because stocking up on piles of canned items can take up a lot of space! But this year, I’m planning for us to have about 20 jars of most items (such as corn, tomatoes, and leafy greens). We’ll probably preserve twice that amount of dill pickled cucumbers and green beans (because they are great for bringing out when company comes over, or to gift during the holidays!). This year we also want to try canning soup stock, potatoes, and beets, among other vegetables. Think about what you use regularly and go from there.
2) What tools do you need?
This is extremely important to take into consideration! Canning and preserving isn’t really that difficult, but you need the right equipment. Another necessary tool is time. It takes a lot of time to chop things up and boil the cans and everything!
Consider the size of jars you want (500 ml jars are generally a good one to go for) – you don’t want anything so small that you need to use three jars for a meal, or so big that you can’t figure out what to do with the item once you open it. Bernardin has the best jars, in addition to other tools (their starter kit is great!).
Also think about what you’ll be preserving: a water bath canner works great for pickles, but you need a pressure canner for canning dark leafy greens. Canning equipment isn’t super expensive, but it can add up, and you want to make sure you have the right equipment for the type of preserving you want to do.
3) What ingredients do you need?
Some foods are only in season for a short amount of time (such as garlic scapes). Be very aware of when they are in season, and keep your eyes open at the farmers’ market! It would be a shame to miss out on something you wanted to preserve just because the season was short.
Also think about other ingredients you might need, like special salt for pickling. Stock up at the beginning of the season so that you don’t find yourself in a pickle (heehee!) and without key ingredients in the middle of a canning session.
4) What recipes will you use?
When it comes to preserving, follow recipes. This is crucial for food safety! You need the right amount of acidity for proper pickling, for example.
There are a lot of great books out there with awesome recipes. My current top two favourites are Canning & Preserving by Ashley English and Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine. Choose your recipes now to determine what ingredients you should stock up on and the type of equipment you will need.