Sunday, 7 August 2016

Sunday August 7th, 2016 Canning

The beginning of August means one very important thing – canning season is in full swing and the heat of the next month will under no circumstance deter the preserving plans. Most of the berries have already been taken care of earlier in the summer and sights are now set on the upcoming harvests. Tomatoes, carrots, beans, beets and more are slated for the weeks to come. With tried and true recipes in hand, the urge to try something new might well crop up; which naturally leads to browsing the shelves at the public library for inspiration from trusted sources such as Canadian Living and others.

Most books of this nature will have introductory sections covering the basics of equipment, the chemistry of preserving, terminology, and techniques. Often these pages offer insightful suggestions and are worth perusing; even if all you get is a refresher on the basics.

The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving (2016) includes over 350 recipes for canning, pickling, and preserving throughout the season. There are six chapters of recipes that cover everything from water bath canning to fermenting, pressure canning, freezing, dehydrating, curing and smoking. This book goes beyond the standards you’d expect and will even teach you how to make your own pancetta.

The Complete Canning Guide (2015) from Better Homes & Gardens is a sturdy resource designed for use in the kitchen. Recipes are divided among tabbed sections under headings such as Chutneys & Conserves, Preserves, and Relishes & Toppers. There is a large component of savoury and internationally inspired recipes in this collection and will surely succeed in introducing new flavours to your preserving repertoire.

Preserving Everything: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and More (2014) certainly wins for the longest possible title. And at fewer than 300 pages it seems impossible for one book to cram in so many different methods and provide useful information. This book manages to do it though and strikes a great balance between technical detail and delicious recipes. Chapter thirteen is unique for this sort of book in that it focuses on troubleshooting and addressing common mistakes or issues that arise in preserving fresh foods.

Canadian Living’s Complete Preserving Book (2012) is an all time favourite of mine and has been put to good use for several years now. This is a reliable reference book for both basic recipes and suggestions/variations on how to transform simple ingredients into something new and unique (like strawberry balsamic black pepper jam). Colour coded chapters are divided among canning essentials, jams, marmalades, jellies, pickles & relishes, chutneys, salsas, sauces, syrups, vinegars, liqueurs and seasonings. There is something here for everyone.

 Even with the best and newest ideas at the ready, you may often feel pulled back to the traditional family recipes that a parent, aunt, uncle, or grandparent used to make. It may be due to feelings of nostalgia, commitment, or preference. Whatever the reason, the maintenance of recipes that cannot be found in any cookbook is worthwhile. I have yet to find certain recipes anywhere but on a card written out by my grandmother decades ago. Preserving Family Recipes: How to Save and Celebrate Your Food Traditions (2015) provides an informative and entertaining guide full of tips and ideas to ensure you will never be left with just a memory of that great dish that used to come to the table and has been since lost.

Jesse Roberts

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