Are your counters like mine—overflowing with the last of the tomatoes, squash from your in-laws and those plum and apple “seconds” that were too good a deal to pass up at the farmer’s market? As you survey your bounty one question keeps going through your mind, “How the heck are we going to eat all this before it spoils?”
Never fear! Canning books are here.
We’re not the first humans to want to preserve the sun-drenched lusciousness of summer for the colder months. Fortunately, preserving has been honed to a science and raised to a fine art. In my family we used to do old-fashioned kettle canning every August. It was a hot, sweaty affair but the sheer pleasure of cracking open a jar of pickles or preserves in December made it all worthwhile. That is, if my sisters didn’t scarf everything down after dates gone awry in October.
Canning is actually fairly easy. If you can boil water and follow directions, you can can. My favorite online blogs for canning are the gorgeous Food in Jars and Punk Domestics. They are packed with tips, recipes and experience. You’re not the only one to pick all those pears at the orchard.
My advice for novices is to keep it simple. A tasty jam using a fruit high in pectin (pectin is the magic ingredient that makes jellies gel and found in apples, pears and plums) and just a couple of additional ingredients is ideal. A tasty Spiced Plum Butter—which calls for just Italian prune plums, sugar, cinnamon and cloves—would make a great starter recipe.
To get you started here, are a few of my favorite canning books. If I missed your favorites, tell me in the comments.
Blue Ribbon Canning: Jams, Preserves, Pickles, Sauces & More by Linda J. Amendt (Taunton Press, 2015)
Ever wished you could get the recipe for those glistening jars of preserves that were the blue ribbon winners at the local state fair? This volume has classic as well as modern recipes that you’ll be tempted to try, including Habañero Pineapple Jelly, Cinnamon Pickled Watermelon Rind and Roasted Roma Tomatoes. In addition, she helps you get the details right that will help you raise your game—maybe even to state fair competition level!
Pickled Delicacies: In Vinegar, Oil and Alcohol by Eva Aufreiter, et al. (Schiffer Publishing; September 28, 2015)
The most common canning recipes use vinegar or sugar for preservation, but you can also use alcohol and oil to keep foods fresh. This guide will get you started on preserving with savory salts, seasoned oils and adding an adult kick with recipes such as Clementines in Whiskey or Curry Pears. All of the prep work and proper preserving techniques are included.
Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces by Marissa McClellan (Running Press, 2014)
McClellan is the canning guru behind the popular blog Food in Jars who also teaches canning and cooking. In this, her second cookbook, she addresses a modern dilemma—most canning recipes were written for people with large families and large kitchens. A city dweller herself, McClellan shows how to make smaller batches and explores the freedom of having more than one type of jam or pickles on the shelf.