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Home food preservation- how to create a preserving plan for a year's worth of food to help keep you same, manage your time, and get the harvest put up!
We plan out our garden, start seeds, plant, lovingly tend to it, get a little sad over thinning out our darlings, water it, and then when it comes to harvest time we're drowning (if we're lucky) in bushels of produce and suddenly, we're not quite sure what to do with it or how to keep up with it all. Can I get an amen?
In years past, that might have meant you let it go to waste (sad but true, because my goal is to show the reality of homesteading with you, even when it's not pretty or ideal). Having raised all of our own meat for an entire year and close to 75% of our vegetables and fruit, while working a day job, running a website and podcast, I've learned a few things on how to preserve a years worth of food without wasting a ton of food or feeling totally overwhelmed.
Create your preserving plan. Yes, you need a plan in place, it truly does make things easier and it doesn't take that much work, but makes all the difference.
Listen below to, Home Food Preservation- Creating a Customized Preserving Plan for a Year's Worth of Food Episode #147 of the Pioneering Today Podcast, where we teach families how to grow, preserve and cook their own food using old-fashioned skill sets and wisdom to create a natural self-sufficient home, with, or without, the homestead.
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If you followed my How to Plan Your Best Garden & Harvest for a Years Worth of Food then you're familiar with going through your pantry, both your home canned/preserved items from last year and store bought, to create a customized plan for the foods your family eats.
1.Decide what your mainstays are first. For us, that means tomato sauce, green beans, pickled asparagus, pickled green beans, cucumber pickles, salsa, jams and jellies, sage, mint, and dill. These are the items I never purchase from the store and make sure we raise and preserve enough of to take us through an entire year.
Go by the items your family is eating on a regular basis and focus on those items first. I'll often do other smaller batches of other foods, especially if it's a new item or new recipe, but those only get done when our main stays have been taken care of.
2.Pick your methods of preservation. Each preservation method has pros and cons, but what's most important is you pick the method, or methods, that work the best for you, regardless of the method make sure you're following updated safety guidelines and food preservation safety, especially for canning.
*you're following up to date canning procedures
*you understand the science to avoid the dangers of botulism
*know the safety measures to use your pressure canner confidently
The main home food preservation methods we use are:
**home canning (I put up over 400+ jars a year if not more) water bath and pressure canning
3.Decide which methods you'll be using for each crop. This is important for a few different reasons, one, know how you're going to preserve and how much of each type.
Example: I know I need at least 35 jars of tomato sauce to take us through a year and that's the most important form for me because I can add it to chili, soup, turn it into pasta sauce, pizza sauce, BBQ sauce, etc. I make sure I've allotted enough tomatoes to make those jars before I go about canning tomatoes whole and dehydrating the rest.
I know I need at least 50 jars of canned green beans, that gets done first, then I'll let the rest of the crop mature into seed/dry beans, and can vegetable soup.
Blueberries, I know I want at least 4 quarts of blueberry pie filling, 6 jars of blueberry syrup, and about 10 jars of blueberry jam. When I have enough berries either frozen or canned for these items, then I dehydrate the rest of the crop to add to quick breads, muffins, granola, etc.
Don't forget your herbs, I mainly dehydrate most of mine but I plan on using some fresh herbs to turn into pesto and compound butters. I'll dehydrate the minimum to keep my spice cabinet full for the year, then use the extra for pesto and butters. Dehydrated herbs will later get turned into infused oils.As you can see, you'll often use several different preserving methods for the same food.
4.Pick what produce needs to be preserved fresh. Hello, all of it… I know, I know, but here's the thing, not all of it has to be processed in it's finished form right now. You ready for this?
All of your berries and cherries can be tossed in the freezer to deal with later. Especially fruit that you plan on making into jam, jelly, syrup pie filling, or even dehydrating. For reals. It frees up your time and kitchen for the things that must be processed as they come on.
Tomatoes that will be made into sauce or canned can be frozen. This works especially well if you don't have enough for a full run on sauce, time, or need to wait until it's cooler temps outside. It actually saves time because those skins slip off when they thaw without a dunk in boiling water, score!
5.Make sure all your supplies are in stock. When it's time to preserve you don't want to have everything prepped and ready only to realize you're out of wide mouthed canning lids, you don't have enough salt to make your brine for fermenting, you ran out of canning salt, or you're short on vinegar…. yes, all of the above have happened to me one time or another.
Go through your supplies and stock up for the season.I keep a minimum of 50 wide mouth lids and 50 regular sized canning lids in stock at all time, not counting my reusable tattler lids, a full package of canning salt in reserve, and I now stock a 10 pound bucket of Redmond's Real Salt for cooking and fermenting brine.
6.Put your plan down on paper. I've created a FREE chart you can use to plug in the crops you're harvesting, the methods of preservation, and how much of each method you need for the year for each food. This helps you know which crops need to be down first, and which ones you can plop in the freezer to be dealt with later.
7.Be strategic with your harvest and your time. Here's what I mean with this, if you know making pickles is one of your top priority foods, then when the cucumbers are on, you know picking them in the cool of the morning is important for crisp pickles.
You may not have time to make the pickles that morning, hello day job, homeschooling, or other life tasks, but if you pick in the morning and prep the cucumbers (cold ice water bath with salt), then in the evening when you get home, you can drain and process the pickles.
You can also pick in the morning and put everything in the fridge to stay cool until you can process it later that day (sometimes a few days) rather than leave it on the vine, especially if item is close to becoming overripe. This helps you do things in small batches when you're short on time.
8.Have your recipes ready. Have your preserving recipes ready to go so when the time comes, you can easily access it.
Make sure you've read through the recipe in its entirety so you don't miss a critical step or procedure.Of course, if you're a Pioneering Today Academy member you have all those recipes in one place, along with charts for times and pounds per pressure when canning, dehydrating times and temps,and brine fermenting ratios, so you don't have to spend time searching, it's all right there along with all our recipes! If you want to be notified when we open the Pioneering Today Academy again, make sure you pop your name and email in here.
There you have it, your home food preservation plan to preserve a year's worth of food.
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.