Do you have the wintertime blues? You know, those days where you look outside, everything is dormant, the sky is grey, and you long for spring to roll around again?
Well, I’ll admit, I never got those days until I started homesteading. My mother-in-law would get them a lot because she was an avid gardener, and until I began our homesteading way of life I always kind of looked at her like, “What is wrong with you? It’s just winter.”
But now I totally get it. I like to stay busy, be productive, and feel like I’m accomplishing something with my time. I mean, after all, we all only have so much time, right? We should make the most of it.
So I’ve learned that canning helps to push me through the wintertime blues a little easier. What? Didn’t you know there was a bunch of food you could still preserve over winter?
Well, I’m here to tell you that there is plenty to can even when the temperature is cold. Here are the items you can get busy canning to be productive and help pass the days of winter:
What to Can This Winter:
Beets are a really hearty vegetable that can be grown in colder climates. If you have a cold frame greenhouse, you can grow them over the winter to keep a fresh supply. They are handy because, in addition to eating the beets themselves, a lot of people like the tops of the beets too.
But did you ever think about canning them? You can. One of my husband’s favorite ways to enjoy beets is to pickle them. From there you can preserve them in a jar, so the next time you have a fresh salad you can open a jar of pickled beets and enjoy it with the meal too.
2. Brussel Sprouts
Growing up, all the kids used to talk about how they hated their Brussel Sprouts. My mom never fixed them when I was growing up, so I guess I just assumed they weren’t very tasty. Then I tried them as an adult, and I’m not sure what kids have been complaining about all of these years. They are delicious!
So now that I know that you can grow them in colder temperatures or during winter in a greenhouse, it’s exciting because that is one more item to put away in winter too. If you are looking for a delicious way to preserve Brussel Sprouts, then try pickling them as well for a tasty treat.
I’m a huge fan of carrots, and I always have been. I love their crisp taste when they are raw and being dipped in ranch for a delicious snack. I also enjoy them cooked while glazed in cinnamon butter or tossed into a pot roast.
Which is why I am so happy with the idea of canning them throughout the winter. You can grow carrots in an unheated greenhouse, in a container or actually planted in a bed in the greenhouse. From there, you harvest and can them for later use.
I’ll be honest with you; I’m not a fan of turnips. I love the greens but not the turnips. But boy, did my mother-in-law love turnips. She’d prepare them to where they sort of resembled mashed potatoes only the flavor is obviously much more stout than a potato.
Anyway, turnips are hearty vegetables so you can grow them over the winter in most locations as well. You get a two-for-one as you’ll get both the turnips and the greens. Then you preserve the turnips by canning, so you can enjoy something fresh all winter long.
If you’ve ever browsed through your grocery store produce section, then you’ll probably have seen a large purplish looking vegetable that looked similar to a turnip but wasn’t. If so, then you’ve just discovered rutabaga.
So the rutabaga is actually related to a turnip, which explains its heartiness and ability to be grown over winter in some locations or in greenhouses as well. You can also can rutabagas over the winter when you harvest them. That way you’ll have another delicious item to feast on while you wait for winter to pass.
Do you enjoy the taste of parsnips? If so, then you’ll be delighted to know they are another crop that can be grown over winter in a greenhouse. Once you’ve harvested them, you can be productive by preserving them with canning.
However, some people say they don’t like the flavor of parsnips when canned. But a lot of people also say if you like the taste of parsnips prior to canning, then you stand a good chance to like them after canning. Give it a try and see what you think.
7. Sweet Potatoes
Growing sweet potatoes is a fun process. You plant them, harvest them, and then you must cure them in order to store them over winter. But what if you’d like to prepare them, so you can quickly grab them off of the shelf instead of having to bake them for longer periods of time?
Well, good news! You can. During the winter, it is actually a great time to take some sweet potatoes from your storage and can them. That way you can enjoy your harvest a little easier.
I love greens! Actually, the other day, my mom called me and said, “Jennifer, those greens you sent to my house at Christmas are just so good. I don’t usually eat greens, but these are good.” You know why she thought they were good is because they were fresh and green. During winter, I think most people’s bodies just begin to crave the nutrients that we get from fresh, green foods.
So if you have a cold frame greenhouse, then consider growing some greens in it. If you live in a warmer climate, you may even get away with planting greens outdoors. Either way, when you have them harvested, bring them in and can them. They are so good!
I do most of my canning of fruits and vegetables in the late summer and fall because it is based around my gardening. When winter hits, we begin to preserve meat. This is the time of year when deer season hits in my area.
So we have a family that loves to hunt, but they don’t eat enough meat to make a dent in what they hunt. That’s okay because we take any deer anyone hunts and doesn’t want. We process it ourselves, and I turn a lot of it into deer tips, then can it. It is so easy to do and delicious too!
When I first began canning, it took me a while to realize that practically anything that I could purchase canned in the grocery store I could make myself. One of the first winters after I started canning, I began a tradition for myself. I like to take everything that I’ve canned over the summer and stuff I have in my pantry and pull it out right around the time it is time to start seeds.
Then I turn it into different types of chili and can it. I do this to free up jars and storage space for my next canning season. It is a delicious way to do this, and it keeps me from going stir crazy.
Along with the tradition of canning different chilis to clear out my pantry, jars, and prepare for a new season of growing and canning, I also like to make soups. I do this not only for space but for convenience too.
So when I’ve been busy working in the garden all day, I can come in, open a fresh can of soup, and make a quick salad to have a dinner in no time flat. Look at what you have in your freezer or pantry that you know that you need to clear out to make room for more. Put it together and make delicious soups like, chicken noodle soup or vegetable soup.
Have you ever considered canning sausage? Some people are familiar with it and some people look at you like you are nuts when you talk about canning sausage. But it can be done in multiple ways.
So my husband and I usually begin to can our sausage over winter when we have the time to go through the freezer. We’ll either brown it in little pieces and can it, or we’ll patty it out and can it. Either way, it’s shelf-stable and not taking up excess room in the freezer.
When you begin canning different soups or meats, you often end up with extra bones, skin, etc. I’m not one to waste, especially if it’ll save me money in the long run.
Well, making and canning your stock is a great way to save money. So that is what I do when I finish up canning soups and stocks to utilize my ‘leftovers.’
Do you ever run into the issue that you’re running behind and supper needs to get done? Well, a few years ago I decided to combat this issue by canning some hamburger meat. When your meat is already cooked, and you don’t have to worry about thawing it out when you’re in a hurry, it can be a lifesaver.
So you can actually can hamburger that is ready to use in lots of different dishes. I’ve been known to use it in spaghetti, tacos, or lasagna. It certainly can make dinner time easier.
Let’s face it, we all have times when we are rushed during our harvesting seasons, so we do things a little halfway. For instance, I’ve been known to put whole chickens in my freezer after butchering simply because I didn’t have time then to debone and divide the meat out.
So why not go back and take care of that meat during the winter? You may want a few whole chickens, but they take up a lot of freezer space. So you can thaw them out and can them where the meat is ready to be used at any given time. Then you also have additional freezer space for when you need it.
Now you have 15 different options for harvesting and canning over the winter months. It should help you create more space in your pantry and freezer while also keeping you busy during the ‘dreary’ months.
But I’m curious, do you do much canning over winter? If so, what do you like to can?
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