Today I want to talk about preserving. As you know, I am an avid canner and am part of a nationwide group dedicated to canning (Canning Across America). This year I am thrilled by the release of two books by two of my favorite preservers, Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces by Marisa McClellan of the Food in Jars blog and Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving, by Cathy Barrow of the Mrs. Wheelbarrow blog. Both of these books are gems. Once again, full disclosure: I have been pals with both of these talented women for several years and have talked about their work on my blog. Not only am I friends with them, I am a fan of each. These two women are two of the most talented preservers around and I am elated to have their books in my preserving library.
With Preserving by the Pint, Marisa gives us a much-needed book on small space and small batch preserving. Canning can be overwhelming—and the notion that you have to buy a flat of fruit in order to try preserving can scare off the folks who might normally be interested in doing it. This book addresses that problem—and does so wonderfully. Most of the recipes here make one or two jars of preserved produce. This allows the city-dweller or the canner with not a lot of time on their hands to pick up a bag of fruit or veggies at the farmer’s market (or the grocery store), go home, and can it within a short amount of time. Heck, I’m an avid canner and have been known to spend the whole day canning dozens of jars in a day, but there are times when I just want to get into the kitchen and preserve something without a lot of hoopla.
As with her first book (Food in Jars—another must-have for the canning kitchen), Marisa not only provides recipes, she provides guidance on equipment, how to process your jars, and addresses all of the issues involved with canning: high acid vs. low acid produce, cooking times, testing for set, yields, shelf-life, and adjusting for altitude. The equipment section is brilliant because it shows just how little you need for small-batch canning. She recommends a pot called a “4th Burner” pot that comes with a basket that is perfect for small-batch canning–even though it’s not officially designed for canning (I think it was designed for veggie cooking). It’s a tall, thin pot that fits on a small or crowded stove top, and it works just perfectly for canning one or two jars at a time. It is such a great tool—and it doesn’t take up much storage space. I invited my pal Jodi, who was interested in getting into canning, to Marisa’s book talk this past summer. Jodi is someone who wanted to dip her feet into the preserving pond, but who didn’t want to invest in a ton of equipment just to can a few things. This book, the pot, and Marisa’s recipes have turned her into an avid canner. She is a knitting pal of mine, and it seems like almost every week during summer and fall she came to knitting group with another canning success from Marisa’s book. And, since she is a career gal living alone, she has no need (or time) for lots and lots of canned goods—one or two at time suits her perfectly!
The recipes are divided by season (including winter) and include both sweet and savory options. Some of my favorites are: Spicy Apple Cider and Mustard Glaze (for chicken or pork—yum!), Dilled Carrot Spears (my family loves these), Pickled Golden Beet Cubes, Blueberry Maple Jam, Salted Brown Sugar Peach Jam (!!), and Marinated Red Peppers. Actually, I will say that everything I’ve tried is my favorite. Marisa is one of my favorite canning recipe developers—everything of hers is meticulously tested and scrumptious. Each year I do a couple of canning demonstrations at farms and festivals in the area and I always use her recipes—they are easy, work every time, and taste so good. Finally, Marisa sprinkles the book with recipes in which to use your canned items–perfect!
On the other end of the preserving spectrum is Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry. It is an offshoot of Cathy’s fabulous Mrs. Wheelbarrow blog. It is a huge and wonderful tome chock full of every type of preserving you can think of, including: both water bath and pressure canning; quick pickling; curing with salt, brine, smoke, and air; and how to make cheese. It’s all here. No matter what you want to preserve–produce, meat, fish–as well as make your own cheese, this is the book for you. It is designed to answer all of your questions about these arts and to get you started. Cathy has information in each chapter on equipment, safety, troubleshooting problems, and carefully written steps and recipes on how to do each type of preserving.
In addition, she includes “bonus” recipes on how to use what you’ve put up, which are useful as well as being yummy. These recipes are for old favorites (Rugelach), or things that are twists on old favorites–she has a New Fangled Three Bean Salad in which she uses fresh green beans, Dilly Beans (from her recipe) and Canneli Beans (again from her recipe). In addition, she has sidebars like the “Waste Not, Want Not” in Crushed Tomatoes recipe, where she includes how to use the scooped out gel and seeds to make tomato water—which can be used for a variety of purposes, including as the liquid in rice making or in bread baking, or for reducing to a syrup and using as a glaze for chicken or fish. Truly, this book is amazing in its scope.
I have only been able to skim the surface of treasures in this book, but so far my favorite recipes have been: Maple Bourbon Bacon (!!) with the bonus recipe for Candied Bacon, Sweet Pickle Relish and Dill Pickle Relish, Asian Style Plum Sauce, Spicy Pickled Okra, and Many Berry Pie Filling. One recipe I have yet to try but that I can’t wait for is the Canned Dried Beans recipe. I tend to use dried beans a great deal, and it would be wonderful to have some ones that I canned myself (so as not to worry about additives or chemicals in the cans). Also, I have not yet made cheese, but I am planning to do so this winter. Also, she has a recipe for making your own Pectin, should you not want to go the store-bought route. This, I think, is brilliant.
Truly, Preserving by the Pint and Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry are lovely additions (or starters) to your preserving cookbook shelf.
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