SHERIDAN — It may seem early to think about planning for food preservation this fall, but the process starts now.
Whether you plan to preserve fruit from trees in your yard or combine vegetables from your garden to create homemade salsa, timing plays a key role in successful canning.
Here’s a quick look at some pieces of the food preservation puzzle to consider.
Plan your plants
Planning for fruit, of course, is much easier than planning an entire garden. If you have fruit trees or bushes in your yard, fantastic, take good care of them by providing water and sufficient sunshine. You may also consider fencing the fruitful growth to keep nibbling deer and other critters at bay.
If you’re hoping for fresh salsa throughout the winter, now is the time to plan what you’ll grow. If you like spicy salsa, consider jalapeños, habenero, green chile or other veggies with a kick.
Tomatoes are also tricky in this part of the country. You want to plant them soon enough to enjoy a full harvesting season, but not so soon they are ravaged by frost or spring hail storms. Storms will always be a matter of luck, but check publications like the Farmers Almanac for frost tables to ensure you aren’t planting too early.
Tomatoes and peppers, of course, are not the only ingredients for salsa. Consider planting onions, cilantro and garlic, too.
Prep your gear
Beyond buying new jars and/or lids for reusable jars, make sure your canning equipment is safe and ready for another year of use.
When you pull your water bath canner and pressure canners from storage, wash everything well. A little rust and calcium deposits are OK, but check for chips and cracks.
When checking your pressure canner, make sure pressure plugs are clear and have the pressure gauge tested. Many extension offices will offer this service.
Have a storage plan
Of course, not everything in your garden will be ready for canning at the same time. Have a plan for storage if you are waiting on some of your ingredients to ripen. Onions and garlic can be stored in a cool, dry place for several weeks. Peppers can be chopped and frozen. Likely your tomatoes, especially if you’re utilizing larger varieties, will ripen last.
Clean your kitchen
In all likelihood you’ll do this many times between planting and canning, but as harvest season picks up, make sure your kitchen is ready. Give yourself plenty of room and don’t be afraid to get a little messy as needed. Sometimes a rainy day is the perfect time to can as the process heats up your kitchen.
No matter what you intend to preserve, make sure your recipes are ready and you follow them closely to ensure any food you can is safe to eat.
The process of growing from seed, harvesting and canning can be very rewarding, but planning starts now.