It’s February. Fog, rain, clouds, and cold are the norm.
Oh, there is that occasional day when the sun shines bright, the temperatures are moderate and you enjoy a day filled with outdoor activities. A little tease of spring. I love those days. I get outside, work in my garden, and begin thinking of all the wonderful food I’ll preserve in the coming year.
Summer may seem far away, but it will be here soon enough. These last months of winter are the perfect time to take stock of your pantry and freezer. In preparation for the upcoming growing season, it’s important to take an inventory of what foods still remain from last year’s preserving. Why? Because it will help you plan for the crops you’ll grow in your own garden, as well as which ones you’ll want to purchase at local farm and u-pick stands.
Every year, when I begin to freeze those first beautiful strawberries, I think I’ll keep a running tally of all the foods I preserve. Then as I use them during the year, I’ll make note of what is gone — two quarts of tomatoes for sauce, a pint of pinto beans for tacos, a bag of strawberries for cobbler. It’s a great idea. The problem is I hardly ever make it happen. Maybe this year will be different.
The advantage to keeping a running record of your preservation efforts is that when a new season arrives, you know exactly how much you’ve used and what you need to replace. How many quarts of beans, tomatoes, and applesauce are left? Do you need more canned tuna, chicken or venison for next year? What about jam, salsa, pickles, and pie filling? Are there any more blackberries in the freezer? Need more salmon, spaghetti sauce, soup stock or roasted peppers? Make notes of what you still have and what you anticipate your family will need for the upcoming year. You get the idea.
Last year I picked nectarines to dry. I also grilled some, along with tomatoes, peppers and onions, for a nectarine salsa. It was delicious, so I decided to freeze a few containers. It froze beautifully and tasted like summer. I have one jar left. When I pick nectarines this summer, I’ll pick an extra 10 pounds for salsa.
With a little planning now, you’re able to make plans to use up the foods you already have, figure out what you want to preserve for the year ahead and not have to worry about having enough space in your pantry and freezer. I think I’ll get started right now.
The Douglas County OSU Master Food Preserver volunteer annual training series begins March 18. This is an intensive, 48-hour course, meeting one day per week, covering all aspects of food safety and safe food preservation. Registration deadline is Feb. 28. For an application and more information, visit the Douglas County OSU Extension Service website, extension.oregonstate.edu/douglas. Or call the OSU Extension office at 541-672-4461.
Diana Pierce is a volunteer master food preserver for OSU Extension Service of Douglas County. For more information, call the OSU Extension Service office at 541-672-4461.