Having a plan for canning season is so helpful. There is enough going on with maintaining the garden and the activities of summer that it is all too easy to totally forget something you wanted to preserve. But with a few minutes of planning in the off season, you can make sure you don’t miss your chance when a certain fruit or vegetable in season. Use this canning season calendar with planning pages to help you organzine and prepare for your harvest and preserving.
A few things to keep in mind before you sit down and plan your preserving for the season: Yes, you don’t want to forget anything… like if you wanted to can cherry pie filling and were going to buy cherries at the farmer’s market… you can’t miss them, or you won’t get a chance until next year. But you also have to be flexible! Sometimes the garden doesn’t do as well you thought it might, or you get an unexpected gift from someone else’s garden. Don’t be too attached to your plan… it rarely works out perfectly.
Planning for canning season
With that said, I definitely find it helpful to make a plan for the upcoming year! If you are canning your own garden produce, you will probably want this done in the winter so you can plan your garden accordingly. That doesn’t mean that it’s too late if your garden is already underway.
Plan for a combination of what you want and what you need.
Figuring out what you need is easy. Plan to can what you eat! This sounds easy, but just like with gardening, people plan things that don’t actually make any sense. Jams especially! They all sound delicious. But how many jars of jam can one really eat in a year? Yes, they make nice gifts, but you will also find that many people are nervous about home canned food and won’t actually consume them.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new things or make yummy treats. But the staples you purchase should be the staples you can. When in doubt, plan to can something very simple. (For example, crushed tomatoes instead of pizza sauce. You can always find a way to use an ingredient, but not always a more finished product.)
When you are looking for ideas for new recipes, don’t worry too much about whether you grow the produce needed. You can get it at your farmer’s market. If you like the recipe, work what you need into your plan next year. But don’t waste valuable space on something unproven.
Don’t forget about what worked and didn’t work last year.
2. use your canning calendar to prepare
Once you have your wish list, get ready to make it happen when the time comes. It’s amazing how quickly you will have a pile of produce that needs to be preserved right away. Life will be easier if you are prepared with whatever you need. Besides the obvious things like equipment, jars, lids, and rings, you may need a lot of pantry ingredients like pickling salt, pectin, TONS of sugar, or citric acid. I find it much easier to have them in my house far in advance. Often you will find that when suddenly need citric acid, so does everyone else, and the stores are out. If any of your jars are chipped, you can’t use them for canning that requires a seal. But you can still use them for many other things in your kitchen.
You may want to look over a simple canning season calendar (there is one the printable you can download in this post) to remind you of what will be coming into season when. So when you are excited to get started and are wondering what you can preserve in spring, you will have ideas ready.
Or visit one of these resources:
- The Seasonal Food Guide , enter your zip code and it will give you a seasonal overview.
- Find your local agricultural extension who can give you very detailed information.
- Great source for safe recipes.
Make sure you have a good place to store your canning equipment. A lot of it is bulky, but you can store lids and accessories inside the canner itself.
And finally, make sure you have a good place to store your actual canned goods! They don’t need to be in your kitchen, and a walk in pantry is NOT necessary. Your basement is totally fine, on a simple shelf. I find it easier to have shallow shelves so things don’t get lost behind each other.
3. Preserving and eating
This part of the canning season calendar is fun…but hard. It’s time to actually do the work!
When a recipe is a success, write it down carefully or save it in some way. Canning recipes are mostly similar and it is hard to find the exact one you used by searching online. (The printable has recipe sheets that you can use if you would like.)
As I finish something, I also like to write it down on an inventory sheet for the year. This is mostly just to motivate myself and be able to look back at the end of the season and see all that I’ve done. It is also helpful when you run out of something in January and can see how much you put away and adjust the amount for next year.
Finally, make sure you eat what you’ve preserved! (Does this sound obvious?). But don’t forget about it, which can especially happen with frozen things.
If there is something that no one likes, deal with it right away. Compost it or give it to your livestock, if you have any. And then wash the jars and store them. Letting an unpopular item linger in storage will not improve it, and eventually it will seem gross and scary and you’ll end up throwing away the whole jar. (Can you tell I’ve done this many times?). Make sure you write down that recipe as a NEVER AGAIN.
As your supplies dwindle, gardening season will be coming back. It’s time to do it all again!
A year of canning and planning
So even though the actual canning has a defined season, the planning goes on all year.
If you would like to download the canning season calendar and planner for free, enter your email address below to have it sent directly to you.