A year ago, I met up with a group of fellow Food Bloggers of Canada members at The Bookshelf in Guelph, to meet Amy Bronee of the blog Family Feedbag and celebrate the launch of her book, The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes. It was a great afternoon — we mingled and browsed in the bookstore, enjoying Amy’s strawberry jam on crackers (I may have eaten more than my share) and then gathered for a dinner together.
I came home with a copy of Amy’s book, of course, and smiled this morning when I looked at the inscription again.
Thanks for cheering me on! Now go make some jam.
I pretty much read the book cover to cover in one sitting. It has everything a good cookbook should have: solid reference information, clear instructions, a wide variety of recipes including classics and inventive new approaches, and beautiful photographs. And, it did what a cookbook is supposed to: it inspired me to get canning! As soon as blueberry season arrived I went to a local pick-your-own farm and came home to make jam. Even though there’s no recipe for crabapple jelly in The Canning Kitchen, it gave me the confidence to raid my son’s crabapple tree later in the summer and try my hand (successfully!) at making jelly for the first time.
Before I continue, it might be helpful for you to know that I’m a relatively inexperienced canner. It was only a few years ago that I made preserves for the first time. What held me back was fear of the unknown and a vague concern about safety. I don’t know why, because my mother was an enthusiastic maker of jams, chili sauce and pickles, and nothing ever went amiss. Then one day I realized that I really wanted to try my hand at canning, and there was no reason to think I couldn’t be as successful at it as anyone else. All I needed was to do some research and follow tested recipes using the most current techniques. Had I had The Canning Kitchen to guide me, I would have started much sooner!
Amy starts her book by reminiscing about the role preserves played in her childhood, and goes on in the Introduction to talk about what canning means to her. This sentence resonated with me and sparked a desire to make preserves that only grew with each page I turned:
There’s nothing like getting out my canning supplies and chopping up fresh seasonal ingredients with music swirling above my head to remind me that my favourite place on earth really is my happy little kitchen.
The reference section of the book provides all the information you need to can with confidence. Canning Kitchen Basics provides answers to questions you may have about canning, on topics such as equipment, food safety, how you can be sure your jams and jellies will set and whether you can use frozen fruit. This is followed by an overview of Canning Kitchen Equipment, divided into “must have,” “must have for some recipes,” and “nice to have.” Finally, there’s a Processing Checklist that you can follow for whatever recipe you choose to make — it’s a great step-by-step how-to reference.
(As an aside, at the book launch, Amy and I spoke about the diligent approach she took to ensuring the safety of her recipes and processes. As a result, I really believe this is a book I can trust.)
The book then moves into the recipe chapters: Jams; Jellies and Marmalades; Pickles and Relishes; Chutneys; Savoury Staples; and, Sweet Staples. Each chapter starts with an introductory page that romances the preserves, with anecdotes and sometimes tips for both making and using them. There’s also an overview of the recipes in each chapter.
Recipes I’ve Made
So far, I’ve made two recipes from the book. My first choice, right after I read the book for the first time last year, was Blueberry Lime Jam (page 33). I had made blueberry jam once before, but I was captivated by Amy’s addition of lime. What a winning combination! Everyone that I’ve given a jar of this jam has responded enthusiastically to the sweetness of the blueberries with the surprising zing of lime.
Right now I’m hoarding the very last jar in the pantry. I’ve been saving it all this time for the photographs that accompany this post, and then I’m going to enjoy it, right down to scraping out the last bits with my finger. And then I’ll go back to to the berry farm to pick more blueberries for another batch!
The second recipe I made was the Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (page 26). When I looked through the book a couple of weeks ago to write this review, I was seized by the urge to make another batch of jam. I had no trouble finding freshly picked local strawberries at that time, but the fruit stand staff informed me that rhubarb was out of season. Off I went to another farm market, only to be told the same. In desperation, I tried a third and — score! — I found some of the precious crimson stalks. Close call! The flavour of the strawberry-rhubarb combination is such a classic, and I love the soft chunks of rhubarb suspended in the strawberry-red jam.
The visual appeal of preserves is almost as big a part of the attraction for me as the flavours. I love the play of light and colour in a display of jams and jellies. The crabapple jelly almost seems lit from within, whereas the strawberry rhubarb jam is deeper in colour and texture, but still with an inner glow. The blueberry lime jam, however, is dense and seemingly impenetrable, unless you catch the light through a dab of it on the edge of the jar, setting its regal hue dancing.
A quick note about storage: jams and jellies are meant to be stored for up to a year, in a cool dark place. As pretty as they might look on a window sill, that’s not the place for them. And yes, as you can tell by the tags in the photos, I have to get a move on with finishing the remainder of last year’s preserves. I don’t think that will be a problem.
Blueberry Lime Jam
© Amy Bronee, 2015
Shared here with permission
Makes Eight 250 mL (1 Cup) Jars
- 3 lb (1.4 kg) blueberries
- Zest and juice of 1 lime
- 1 package (57 g) regular pectin powder
- 5 cups (1.25 L) granulated sugar
Rinse the blueberries under cool running water, removing any stems. Drain well. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot crush the blueberries with a masher to release their juices.
Stir in the lime zest, lime juice and pectin powder. Bring to a full boil over highest heat, stirring frequently. Stir in the sugar. Return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Maintain a hard boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Skim off and discard any foamy scum.
Ladle into 8 clean 250 mL (1 cup) jars, leaving a 1/4-inch (5 mm) headspace. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes using the Processing Checklist on page 17.
Recipes I’d Like to Try
I’m going to restrain myself and not list practically every recipe in the book. Instead, I’ll choose one from each chapter (apart from Jams) to give you a better sense of what the book is about. My next project will likely be canning something savoury, like a relish. I still recall with absolute clarity the intense aroma of Mom’s chili sauce canning sessions overtaking the house on hot and humid summer nights when I was a child, and I’d like to enjoy that in my kitchen soon.
- Pink Lemonade Jelly: made with lemons and strawberries, it just sounds like fun, and something the Little Misses would enjoy.
- Tomato Red Onion Relish: it was hard to make a choice from the Pickles and Relishes chapter; I’ve never made either and I think it’s high time I did!
- Sweet Thai Chili Chutney: with red peppers, ginger, garlic, lime and lemongrass, this sounds so appealing to me.
- Canned Tomatoes: from the Savoury Staples chapter, these tomatoes may be basic, but they’re exactly what I need in the pantry when the winter snow is flying outside the window.
- Salted Caramel Pear Butter: there were so many tempting choices in the Sweet Staples chapter, but this fruit butter has so much potential for use in desserts; Amy’s suggestions are to use it between cake layers or spooned over ice cream.
What can I say? Every time I look at The Canning Kitchen, I want to get out the canning kettle and tools and get to it. The only thing that stops me is that there are only so many preserves one person can eat. I think I’m going to have to start gifting more jams and chutneys and sauces, so I can pursue the love of canning that this book has instilled in me. So yes, whether you’ve never canned, are not very experienced (like me) or a master canner, I think you need to have The Canning Kitchen on your bookshelf. Or, better yet, on the kitchen counter as you make relish.
The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes by Amy Bronee
Published by the Penguin Group, 2015
Paperback, 248 pages
Available at bookstores and online
The recipe for Blueberry Lime Jam has been reproduced here with the permission of Penguin Random House Canada.
Disclosure: I purchased my own copy of The Canning Kitchen in 2015 and have not been asked or compensated by either the author or publisher to write this review. All opinions are my own. Penguin Random House Canada has generously agreed to provide and ship a copy of the book to the lucky winner of the giveaway.
Giveaway – Now Closed
Thanks to everyone who enthusiastically participated in the giveaway, and thanks to Penguin Random House Canada for generously providing and shipping the book! Congratulations to Sheryl @ Flowery Prose on being the lucky winner. and happy canning when you make that Blueberry Lime Jam and peach jam!
Thanks to the generosity of Penguin Random House Canada, I have one copy of The Canning Kitchen for the lucky winner of this giveaway! To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post telling me what your favourite preserve is. The deadline to enter is 7:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. The winner will be chosen randomly, and will have 24 hours to respond to my email or another winner will be selected. The giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the United States. The winner is required to correctly answer a skill testing question and to provide me with their mailing address and phone number, plus authorization to share them with the publisher so they can ship the book.
Good luck, and happy canning!