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Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round Hardcover – May 22, 2012
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"Everything about this book, from the attractive design chock-full of enticing pictures to the ingredients, demystifies the canning process and alleviates associated fears....VERDICT: This is an excellent introduction to preserving. The author keeps things simple by using accessible ingredients and small batches."―Library Journal
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I initially browsed the book then started to read it and it's like having an experienced friend guiding at the beginning. Followed by some intriguing recipes - I never thought of canning brussel sprouts.
I can truthfully say that I am enjoying this book as instructive and interesting.
I noticed that while I followed each and every recipe exactly as written on the page, weighing or measuring the ingredients carefully, I had wildly different results with the recipes. In the Basic Salsa I had enough salsa to fill 4 pint jars, but the recipe only called for 3 to be prepared, leaving me with an extra pint of salsa to be used immediately. The recipe for Pickled Brussels Sprouts called for 2 lbs of sprouts, which I carefully prepared. Unfortunately, they came no where close to filling the 4 pint jars the recipe indicated, so I had to quickly move some sprouts from the fourth jar into each of the other three jars, AND make an extra half-batch of brine to cover the sprouts. This left me with 3 jars and a partial jar to use right away. The recipe for Caramelized Red Onion Relish also came no where close to filling the 3 jars it said it would. I had only 2.5 jars filled, though I do have to note that the relish was absolutely delicious and was raved about by friends and family. I will be making it again, albeit with a slightly larger quantity of onions, based on my own notes, so I can be sure it will actually fill the jars. Finally we have the Cranberry Syrup. I am from New England, and love the flavor of Cranberry year round. I was excited to make this syrup for use in seltzer and mixed drinks. Sadly the flavor was not wonderful. It tasted primarily of sugar, and lacked the brightness and tartness associated with cranberries. I believe increasing the amount of cranberries, and adding some lemon juice might go a long way with improving this syrup. Sadly, I won't be trying this myself, as I am still learning about canning and am not comfortable creating my own recipes yet.
As a frame of reference for readers who are considering this book, I created 15 different canning recipes in the last two weeks (since I started). Seven were from the Ball Book, and each came out perfectly as described and outlined. I created 3 from Put 'Em Up!, and again, each came out exactly as described. The final 5 were from Food In Jars, and NONE of the 5 recipes I tried came out as described in the book. They lacked vital information and contained numerous typos that should have been caught during editing. While I understand a typo may slip by even a careful editor, the ones I noticed were numerous and glaring. While the pictures are pretty, it does not make up for lack of substance with the actual information. Also, this novel-style binding is highly inconvenient while cooking. One has to either break the spine to lay it flat on the counter, or make a copy of a recipe to use it.
Like many other readers I would urge prospective canners to check out the Ball Complete Book of Preserving instead. The information is excellent and thorough. If you would like to move beyond that, I would also highly recommend Put 'Em Up!, which is arranged by type of food you wish to preserve, and includes recipes for canning, freezing, drying and fermenting. That book was clearly tested and edited before being dropped on the public.
Still think it’s for old people or your parents’ generation? Think again. Impress guests of your next party by serving cocktails made with Marisa’s delicious syrups. Meyer Lemon Drop anyone? Or my favorite, a Rhubarb Martini made with the Rhubarb Syrup. To.Die.For. Having a kids’ (or work) party? Make Italian sodas with those syrups. Looking for a quick and easy hors’d’oeuvre to serve? Add some Amy’s Tomato Jam to your cheese board - or, gently heat into a glaze for meatballs (Coleman Organic Hearty Italian chicken meatballs are a perfect flavor combination! Sold at Costco). Or, pour a jar of Roasted Corn Salsa over some nachos – doesn’t get much easier than that. For dessert just fill some tiny tart cups with the Meyer Lemon Curd. I really love having these little homemade jars of heaven stored in my small cabinet that I can rely on anytime I need to pull something together in a hurry – and they are fresh flavors that you just cannot buy - anywhere.
I like this book so much, I bought some extra copies to give as gifts and just had to buy her two subsequent books – all look to be just as good as the first. Marisa has given my cooking repertoire a fresh and enjoyable update, and given me some creative inspiration.
Note: If you are new to preserving, please be prepared for a little bit of trial and error because there is going to be a learning curve. Be patient, make some mistakes, learn from them, and you will be better prepared to deal with the inevitable variations that occur in cooking times and yields. Fresh fruits and vegetables vary in their moisture content due to differences in the weather during their growing season but you will soon learn how to effectively deal with these variations. One of the benefits of creating small batches is the reduction in risk should a batch not turn out perfect in the beginning. Also, Marisa's recipes are good places to start and after you've tried them as written, it is easy to tweak the spices to your taste - just as you would any recipe.