If you’ve ever taken any of my canning classes, talked to me for more than say, two minutes about canning or read anything I’ve written in the past few years about canning, then you might have picked up that I’m a bit of a fan of Food in Jars. I completely and totally credit the end of my years long struggle of making a decent batch of jam to Marisa McClellan, the woman behind both the blog and the cookbook. She introduced me to the concept of small batches – which also happens to be the subject of her latest cookbook, “Preserving by the Pint:Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces“. She was here in Charlottesville last night at The Happy Cook, where she demoed Honey-Sweetened Strawberry Jam, on the first stop of her southern book tour promoting her new cookbook.
- When a recipe calls for fresh lemon (or lime) juice, it’s for flavor, which means you can sub other flavorings in for it. In other words, get jiggy with it. However, if the recipe calls for bottled lemon juice, it’s for the acidity and you are not to mess with that.
- If your processing time is 10 minutes or longer, your jars don’t need to be sterile, just clean and hot. I sort of knew this, I was doing this, but it’s good to hear it from someone else who really knows what they are doing.
- A splash of white vinegar in your water means you don’t have to scrub your pot clean afterwards.
- Let your sweetener dissolve before heating your fruit when making jam. This avoids the sugar caramelizing and makes for a better end product.
- The more rapidly jam cooks, the sweeter and fresher tasting it will be.
- You can tell the amount of pectin a fruit has by how well it keeps its shape. For instance, apples which tend to keep their shape when tossed in lunchboxes (or my purse) have more pectin than pears, which when dropped in a lunchbox (or my purse) tend to get mushy by lunchtime and quite possibly all over the rest of your lunch (or purse)
As much as I’ve read about the cues of how to tell when a jam is set, as much as I’ve studied the pictures, to see it happening right in front of me (because I was front & center smack dab in front of Marisa) was illuminating. Yes, I fully admit that even though I teach canning, I am still always learning new things on the subject. Especially when that subject is jam.
I also learned that I am not the only canning instructor to absentmindedly stick her hand in a pot of very hot water while talking to a class. Marisa’s new cookbook is not just canning recipes – there is fermenting, there is freezing, there are quick pickles. It is meant to be a guide for saving the smaller batches of produce you pick up from your CSA, the farmers market or even your garden. I’m definitely looking forward to trying out the pizza sauce recipe. I’d recently had this revelation I could make pizza night here even easier if I put up sauce in small jars dedicated to this and voilà, Marisa just happened to write a recipe for me. This is part of why I’m such a fan – when I get a new idea for something in jars I want on my shelf, I look through her recipes and am almost always assured of finding one. Also, her Curried Squash pickles are a revelation. If you haven’t made them yet, make sure you do it this summer.
Thanks to Happy Cook for hosting such a great event and thank you for coming through Charlottesville Marisa! It was fantastic to meet you in person and see you in action. Atlanta & Birmingham friends, she is headed your way in the next few days – if you get a chance to come out & see her, do so!