Recently, I learned that Marisa McClellan, a Philadelphia-based food writer, canning guru, and person I wanted to meet was going to be doing a demo and book signing at my local farmer’s market. I was super-excited because I’ve been following Marisa’s popular blog, Food in Jars, for some time now, and it’s my go-to resource for all things related to preserving food. I resolved to arrive early so I could actually talk to her.
And I did talk to her! She graciously answered my questions about sugar content of jams and jellies, pectin in various fruits, refrigerator pickles, and even blogging. I got a signed copy of her latest book, Preserving by the Pint, and rushed home to check it out.
With many of my endeavors, I’m either obsessed or not at all interested, and so it went with canning a few years ago. Every weekend, our kitchen was hot and steamy with pots boiling, sticky fruit juice all over the counters, and jars lined up on towels all over the kitchen. At the end of that season, I felt both accomplished and overwhelmed. I was intrigued by so many recipes, I ended up with jars and jars of pickled carrots, beans, and beets, canned tomatoes, plum jam, tomato basil jam, peach jam, and strawberry jam. Mr. P and I can eat only so much jam and jelly because there are only so many slices of toast or biscuits we can eat. Every recipe seemed geared towards planning for Armageddon, particularly if your definition of it is a lack of jam for your toast.
Preserving by the Pint, however, is more my style. It focuses on small batches of delectable preserves suitable for anyone who doesn’t have a walk-in pantry, a bomb shelter, or a family of eight. I have limited time for canning and preserving but I crave variety and unexpected flavors. Most of the recipes in the book yield up to four half-pint jars, so you can try many, many different recipes and still manage to eat them all.
The first recipe I tried from the book – the very afternoon after talking with Marisa- was the Garlic Dill Pickle Spears using the glut of cucumbers I had just harvested from my garden. The refrigerator pickles were crisp as she had promised they would be and so good, they are nearly gone. The bonus? The recipe was manageable. No need to sterilize 8 quart-sized jars, commit my entire afternoon, or wonder who was going to eat all of those pickles. I ended up with 2 jars, a sense of accomplishment, and time for a cocktail and nap in the hammock.
While the refrigerator pickles highlight a classic flavor combination, there are plenty of other recipes that feature unexpected flavors such as Quick Pickled Strawberries, Pickled Eggplant with Mint, Blueberry Jam with Crystallized Ginger, Pear Jam with Chocolate (OMG!), and Ramp Greens Kimchi. The book is perfect for those who strive to eat local, seasonal foods since the recipes are arranged by season. If you have not been following the Food in Jars blog or you don’t have Marisa’s first book by the same name, they are not prerequisite for enjoying Preserving by the Pint. The book describes all the basic techniques and equipment you need to get started with water bath canning and is suitable for any first-timer.
If you are intimidated by canning and preserving, this is a wonderful book to inspire and reassure you. Canning is not the final frontier, it’s just a cooking technique that lets you enjoy your favorite seasonal flavors year-round. Preserving by the Pint is a colorful, beautifully-photographed book of easy-to-execute, well-tested recipes. And, you’ve certainly dealt with recipes before, right? So, get this book and dip your toe into these waters. You’ll be glad you did!
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