For as long as I could remember growing up as a kid my folks would plant a garden in our back yard. There wasn’t a day that went by during the summer that we weren’t running out to the garden to pull off a fresh tomato or cucumber from the vine. Sometimes even pulling the tomatoes while they were still green to make one of my favorite dishes, fried green tomatoes, which I always pestered my Mom into making. We always had an abundance of tomatoes, zucchinis, squashes, cucumbers, bell peppers, eggplant, and chilies sprouting from the vines. My Mom had a green thumb when it came to gardening, which unfortunately I have not quite inherited. I can’t even keep a simple houseplant alive.
We always had more vegetables than we always knew what to do with. Which wasn’t a bad thing, it just meant that instead of letting them go to waste, because there are only so many tomatoes you can eat in a day, my Mom canned them. She would take big bowls out and we’d pick tomatoes and chilies, onions and bell peppers, then we would bring them into the kitchen, wash them up and she would get to work chopping away turning the tomatoes, chilies, onions, and bell peppers into homemade salsa. There is no store bought salsa that can ever remotely touch my Mom’s. Just saying. I loved watching her make it and her spaghetti sauce, which I would sneak a spoon into every so often to taste it. You know, to make sure that it was still good.
My Mom was a wiz at canning, and at making jam from the many different fruit trees in our back yard. My parents had over ten different fruit trees in their back yard, and still do to this day. So the amount of fruit we got, especially during the summer was an extensive amount. One of her specialties was apricot jam, which I still love to this day. Though she has not made it in a long time. There is nothing in the world better than homemade jam.
I was lucky enough to marry someone who’s Mother and Grandmothers also canned and made jams. And let me tell you, their jam is pretty amazing stuff too. I love my Mother In-law’s olallieberry jam. If you haven’t had or don’t know what an olallieberry is, it is a berry that is a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry. It’s darn good stuff I can tell you. And I was even luckier to have her and Grammy show me how to make it when we made it for wedding favors at my and the Hubs wedding nearly two and a half years ago. Time sure flies by fast doesn’t it. I truly treasured having them, a few of my bridesmaids, my awesome new Aunt Jeanne Marie, cousin Brielle, and my wonderful Mom spend the day laughing, talking, and making jam. Though me and Grammy sneaked in a bit more butter in the jam mix when everyone was talking and not looking.
But since that day I have been wanting to try my hand at making jam on my own. Especially now that I live in another state and don’t have them to walk me through the process. So naturally I went out on the hunt for a book to guide me into the canning process. That’s when I picked up Marisa McClellan’s book, Food in Jars; Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round at our local Powell’s Book Store.
After getting it home I sat down with the Hubs and went through the book putting yellow sticky notes on the recipes that I immediately wanted to try making right away. We had success at our first attempt at canning our own pickles from a recipe we found via the internet, and thought to ourselves if we can do that and they turned out great, we should have no problem with this book.
And besides I was intent on filling our cupboards with jars of glorious fruits and veggies that we get from our local farmer’s market in town that we attend every Saturday like clockwork. That way during the winter months we can still have our summer veggies we love.
McClellan breaks the book into 14 chapters; jams, fruit butters, jellies, marmalades, curds and conserves, chutneys and condiments, pickles, salsas and relishes, tomatoes, syrups, whole fruit, granola in jars, nut butters, and other foods in jars. Each chapter is clear and each recipe is easy to follow. No difficult explanations to attempt to decipher.
She gives clear instructions that will get you set up correctly and safely with hot water bath canning, the most basic canning process. So all my novice friends who are wanting to try your hand at making jams or canning in general this book is for you.
And since her focus is on putting up small batches, it’s a good way to dip your toe in without having to worry about finding yourself overwhelmed, which is great for novices like myself who aren’t as confident with the canning process yet. The thing I love about the book is that you can make everything into small batches, which suits the Hubs and I just perfectly. We love being able to get a basket of veggies and fruits from the farmer’s market and bringing them home to turn them into jars of canned goodness. And because the recipes are geared towards creating small batches we have the opportunity to make lots of small jars of a variety of items. Rhubarb, pears, peaches, I am looking into your direction next farmer’s market.
Accompanying her recipes are these incredibly shot photos of the recipes themselves. Although I would have personally liked to see a photo with every recipe, which is just me being a little picky, she adds enough photos to get the inspiration going.
An added bonus about the book is that I, we, actually got to meet Marisa McClellan at our farmer’s market in Beaverton. She was there signing her second book, Preserving By the Pint.
Here she is. She was incredibly nice and very approachable. I talked with her for a bit of time, until the Hubs had to drag me away to finish our market shopping.
Now one of my favorite things in the world is a pickled carrot, especially those of the spicy variety. There is just something about the taste of tang and spicy that gets my taste bud motors running. So naturally I was deeply enticed by McClellan’s recipe for Pickled Carrots and Radish Coins, when I came across it in the book. Though her recipe didn’t have as much spice as I personally would like, it still had enough spice to satisfy my craving. The thing I was most surprised about was how clean and refreshing they were, which I feel was because of the ginger and star anise that was mixed into the brine. Especially when I added them on to something as simple as grilled chicken tacos or a torta. For those who aren’t in the know a torta is a steak sandwich with refried beans and veggies on a hoagie roll. Simply delicious. You can definitely add the carrots to anything really, sandwich, taco, wraps, or just snack on them by themselves. It is all up to you.
I for one can’t wait to whip up a few more jars now that we have went through our first batch of them rather quickly. Yes, I couldn’t help myself from taking the jar and snacking on it while watching the latest season of Call the Midwife.
Ever since I had the pleasure of having pickled beets for the first time from a small little shawarma shop in LA with the MESA club nearly eight or nine years ago I became hooked on pickled beets. They were seriously that ridiculously good. And since then I have been on the hunt for the purple goodness at nearly every restaurant that happens to sell shawarmas that I stop for a bite in. But to no avail I haven’t came across them again, no place I have frequent tends to offer them, input my sad face here.
So when I came across McClellan’s recipe Gingery Pickled Beets, I knew that I would definitely be making them. How could I not. Although her recipe differs from my beloved shawarma’s shop beets, hers are definitely good. I think the biggest difference I found between the two styles of beets were that McClellan added cinnamon into her brine, where as the other were more tangy. I happen to be a big fan of cinnamon and love to add it in as much recipes as I can, so her recipe was definitely right up my alley.
This is another good one to add on wraps, tacos, sandwiches, or just snack on them. I tend to snack on them as a side dish when I am having a chicken wrap. They are just that good.
I have always been a big fan of lime. Can’t get enough of it. Ask my Hubs he will tell you. One of the biggest ingredient staples in our home are limes. When I came across this recipe for Zesty Lime Curd, after flipping through the book I definitely took a moment to scan the whole recipe. It seemed simple enough and I had all the ingredients in the house, why not try my hand at making a batch. Especially after reading McClellan state that it would be a perfect topping on a baked tart shell. Yum, lime tarts.
I was very recently introduced to the wonderful world of curd spreads, thanks to my lovely friend Lahryssa who put a bit of lemon curd she picked up from our favorite grocery store New Seasons on a piece of toast. I was a bit ill that day and wasn’t able to really hold anything down. So she spread a bit of curd on a nice slice of wheat toast and handed it to me to try and eat. Being a bit skeptical at first once I bite into the lemon and tasted the tangy sweetness I couldn’t help but hoover the rest of the slice up. Then I gave her the whole Oliver, ‘may I have some more’ bit in my best attempt at a British accent. After hoovering my second slice of toast with lemon curd I knew that I was a goner and would keep one jar of the stuff at all times in the refrigerator. You know for the late night toast and curd sessions.
That’s why I couldn’t wait to attempt making McClellan’s recipe. Especially since I am a bit more partial to limes than lemons. Let me tell you this, I absolutely love this stuff after I made it. So incredibly refreshing and surprisingly light. I even tweaked my curd by adding a few key limes into the curd mixture. If your a fan of lime you will definitely love this recipe. I put my curd on shortbread cookies, and even on grilled chicken for a bit of dinner time flare. And yes, putting it on a baked tart shell with a few rings of candied limes and lemons was absolutely heavenly.
Now For My Review:
Marisa McClellan’s book, Food in Jars, is a wonderful book for anyone who is interested in canning and preserving. Both non-experience and experienced a like will take something away from the book. I know that I have. The instructions are clear and to the point. Which for any beginner, like myself, can appreciate. I am so pleased with how each recipe’s accuracy and consistency is spot on, and even when it isn’t McClellan gives you a basis to make it so.
Not only does it give super easy directions on canning and trouble shooting, but it gives some really unique takes on canning recipes, like Cantaloupe jam with vanilla. I would have never thought to make that into a jam. But it is examples like this and countless others in Food in Jars that truly open up the reader to new possibilities to get creative with your ingredients. I know that I have.
This book is a great companion to her blog, http://foodinjars.com/
Definitely take a look for more recipes and inspirations. I can’t recommend it enough.