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Customer Review

68 of 78 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A really good canning book, May 21, 2012
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This review is from: Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round (Hardcover)
The flavors in this book are just wonderful. I made the rhubarb jam with strawberries and oranges a couple days ago, and it is hands-down the best jam I've ever tasted. The perfect balance of sweet, tart, and spice. So far this is the only recipe I have tried from the book, but I'm eager to try many others.

While I trust that the author knows a heck of a lot more about canning than I do, and I trust that she tested the recipes, and I trust that an unsafe book wouldn't have been published (well, maybe I'm naive on that one, but I'd like to think it's true)...maybe I'm just too new at canning to be relaxed about the process. I've only been canning for a year (the rhubarb jam was my tenth project), but I've read a lot of canning recipes and these are the first I've come across that don't ALWAYS use bottled lemon juice, that don't specify the headspace in EACH recipe, and that don't direct you to skim the foam from your jam before you fill the jars (I don't know what that last thing has to do with safety, but surely the other sources tell you to do it for a reason?). Also, this is the first time I've seen curd recipes that can be processed in a waterbath canner--I'm grateful for it, because I love curd and am eager to can it, but I can't help but be a little apprehensive about canning something that has eggs and butter in it. I also dislike that most of the recipes are written for pint jars...is it ok to can them in half-pint jars? Does that affect processing times? I mention this because the author discusses using different jar sizes, but only mentions how this affects the processing time if you can tomato sauce in quart jars instead of pints.

I do love this book, and I appreciate that most of the recipes use produce that I can easily find at my farmer's market or co-op here in the Midwest (unlike a lot of other modern canning books that use produce I've never even heard of). Unlike another reviewer, I am not concerned that these recipes are going to make me or my loved ones sick. If the author has chosen these methods, I believe it's because she knows them to be safe. But as a beginner, I think I'd like just a little bit more hand-holding to walk me through the process.
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 21, 2012 8:13:07 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 22, 2012 2:46:23 PM PDT
Hi Whitney,

I just wanted to drop in to answer a few of your concerns. On the subject of bottled lemon juice, it's only necessary to use the bottled stuff when you're depending on it for its acidic properties. The jams are plenty high in acid naturally, so the lemon juice is simply there as a flavor booster and balancer. In the recipes where the lemon juice is necessary for safety, bottled lemon juice is specified.

Skimming batches of jam is done to help control the bubbling and to prevent unattractive jam. I don't skim my jams because I've just never found it necessary. However, if you like to skim, you're welcome to do so.

As far as headspace goes, the rule of thumb is 1/4 inch for jams and jellies and 1/2 for just about everything else. You're right to point out that one out, it's an omission.

The procedures for canning the curds are straight from the National Center for Home Food Preservation. You'll note that those recipes do say that the curds don't keep as long as other preserves. There is a curd in that section that isn't canned, because the orange juice doesn't lend enough acidity to the party.

I hope that helps!

-Marisa

In reply to an earlier post on May 21, 2012 8:33:04 PM PDT
Whitney F. says:
Hi Marisa,

Thank you so much for answering my questions! I actually really appreciate your use of the fresh citrus juice in the jam recipes. It's so much more flavorful than bottled. I'd never had rhubarb with orange before, and I love the combination so much that I plan to use it instead of lemon juice in my rhubarb pies from now on. I'm glad to know that skimming the jam isn't a big deal...I've always found it more annoying than anything. I really do love your book, particularly in the way you make preserving seem so approachable. The rhubarb jam was a pleasure to make (and even more of a pleasure to eat!).

-Whitney

Posted on May 29, 2012 3:56:50 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 29, 2012 3:57:57 PM PDT
petals says:
Whitney, the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (and the Ball Blue Book) only require bottled lemon juice for tomatoes, since the acidity of tomatoes can vary considerably. I would not worry about it. Also, I've seen canned lemon curd in another preserving book. Anyway, thanks for your review (and Marisa's comment)--I've been eyeing this book! ETA--I often halve recipes (using half-pint jars instead of pint jars for jams). You'll be fine.

In reply to an earlier post on May 30, 2012 7:21:17 AM PDT
Brenda Moody says:
I was not sure if I was going to buy this book or not but after seeing the author respond to any and all questions and concerns I feel this is a safe bet. I am new at canning and this is one author who makes me feel like I am not alone, and help is only a message away.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 8, 2012 6:32:12 AM PDT
I need to agree with you Brenda. I am a novice at canning, but love it so far and was looking for a resource to help me expand beyond tomatoes and strawberry jam. Seeing the author's concern in responding to all the comments has now moved me to add this book to my shopping cart! I can't wait to get it and get started!!!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2012 8:36:50 AM PDT
Brenda, you're definitely not along! I try to answer every canning question that's thrown at me, either here or over on the Food in Jars Facebook page. If you do end up getting a copy of the book, I hope you enjoy it!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2012 8:37:17 AM PDT
Trish, I really hope you like the book! :)

Posted on Dec 17, 2012 6:04:12 AM PST
My impression was that this is not really intended to be a starter book. Acceptable for a novice, yes, but better maybe as a second canning book. Maybe try the Blue Ball book?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 17, 2012 10:43:20 AM PST
Whitney F. says:
As I stated in my review (and I have to wonder, did you even read it?), I consider myself a beginning canner, but this was not my first project. At the time I wrote the review, I had just completed my 10th project (the first nine coming from various sources, including the Ball Blue Book). My takeaway from the Ball Blue Book, Canning for a New Generation, Ashley English's canning & preserving book, and a couple of different magazines were to use bottled lemon juice, always measure headspace accurately, skim the foam from your jam before you ladle it into jars, changing jar sizes affects processing times, etc. etc. etc. These are the points I mentioned in my review that confused me, because they were either omitted from Food in Jars or the author's advice was at odds with what I had personally read in other sources. And while I agree with you that this probably shouldn't be anybody's first or only canning resource, I do think the author considers it a good starter book...she wrote as much in one of her most recent blog posts.

Anyway, I stand by my review. Four stars for excellent-tasting recipes, but I can't give it five mainly because the headspace requirements aren't included in every recipe (my other concerns were mostly cleared up by the author in this comment thread).

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 4, 2013 5:54:36 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 4, 2013 5:55:45 AM PST
L. H. says:
Headspace Requirements are specified on page 11 in this book.
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