Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Canning for a New Generation: A Cookbook Review

Call me easy to please, but there are few things more exciting than receiving an unexpected package in the mail. When that unexpected package turns out to be not only a cookbook, but a cookbook covering a topic and technique you are currently trying to master; well, the excitement goes beyond words.

I know you think I’m exaggerating, but I have no doubt that my neighbors heard me shout, “Awesome!” when I opened an envelope at the mailbox a couple weeks ago to discover a copy of Canning for a New Generation: Bold Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry by Liana Krissoff.


This summer is the first that I’ve finally been able to overcome the fear instilled in me by my food safety nutrition courses in college. I’m not kidding. The reason I have never canned is because of how strong the warnings were in those classes about botulism and all sorts of unpleasant things.

This year, however, things changed. One, we have our own garden, and two, I’ve been witnessing this canning craze going on in the food world accompanied by wonderful recipes and cookbooks.

My first sign that I’d love this particular cookbook came in the introduction as I read through helpful info that was down to earth and completely…well, me. For example, in an attempt to explain the basis for the book and how it relates to the reader, Krissoff writes:
"How an early-morning spoonful of perfect blueberry marmalade, made by a good friend you might know only via email and your perspective blogs, can help you make it through a busy day of office work."
See? Perfect for me. Perfect for us. I’ve lost count of these types of relationships I’ve stumbled upon in the past couple years.

Before I go on and on with detailed stories about why I am a huge fan of this book (because I certainly could), let me break down the pros and cons.

Things I love about it:
  • There is a detailed, yet easy-to-read intro on the basics of canning including the purpose of different ingredients and equipment.  
  • The recipes are divided by season and fruit or vegetable.
  • There are freezing tips throughout the book for some of the same ingredients used in the canning recipes.  
  • The diversity in recipes is astounding, 200 total. There is everything from traditional U.S. jams, jellies and pickles to Indonesian and Indian vegetables and relishes.  
  • In addition to weight measurements for the ingredients in some recipes, numbers are listed too which is helpful and the ones I followed were spot on.  
  • While the author tells she uses white sugar, she does recommend a resource for using alternative sweeteners and aims to reduce the use of commercial ingredients. For example, she uses green apples for pectin in her canning. 
  • All the recipes are for water-bath method which is the only method I’m interested in at the moment. A pressure cooker is a whole other canning animal for me. 
  • After you can your fruits and veggies, there are plenty of recipes provided for using up your stock of homemade canned goods. Enchiladas Verdes and Toffee Topped Vanilla Peaches, to name a couple.

Things I’m not so crazy about: 
  • Some of the instructions are in long paragraphs so you really have to sit down and read carefully before getting started. This makes it really easy to lose your place when you are going back and forth between the recipe and your pot.
My first success using the book came with the Whole Jalapeños with Honey and Allspice which is the recipe I have to share with you. First of all, I like the fact that there is so little chopping with this recipe. The author explains that these are barely hot, but I left the ribs and seeds intact so there is no mistaking the heat in mine.


Next time I may remove those parts, but otherwise this recipe is a keeper for me. The spiced honey adds an element that is surprisingly tasty with the hot of the jalapeño. It is like sweet pickle meets chile pepper. I served them up with the Vegetable Fried Rice I made recently and they were delicious!

My next success was the Charred Tomato and Chile Salsa. At first I wasn’t sure how I would like the charred flavor of the veggies, but I opened a jar today and it is fantastic! There is a slight sweetness that hits you first and then the spicy jalapenos come in with a punch. This salsa is gift worthy for sure.




I have so much left to try in this book that I’ll be using it for seasons to come. My next project includes the Spiced Apple Butter, Hot Chile Jelly and the Minted Cranberry Relish with Walnuts!


Whole Jalapeños with Honey and Allspice
Reprinted with permission from Abrams Books
Makes about 5 pint jars

2 ½ pounds jalapeño chiles
6 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
2 tablespoons pure kosher salt
2 tablespoons honey
5 cloves garlic
5 small bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole allspice
½ teaspoon black peppercorns

Slit the chiles almost in half lengthwise from the bottom and set aside. (I did go ahead and remove the stems on mine and cut them fully in half.)

Prepare for water-bath canning: Wash the jars and keep them hot in the canning pot, and put the flat lids in a heatproof bowl.
In a non-reactive saucepan, combine the vinegar, 2 cups water, the salt, and honey. Bring just to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and honey.

Ladle the boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. Using a jar lifter, remove the hot jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded towel. Drain the water off the jar lids.

Working quickly, pack the chiles as tightly as possible into the hot jars (flattening them first with your palm if necessary), along with the garlic, bay leaves, and spices, leaving 1 inch head space at the top. Ladle the hot vinegar mixture into the jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Use a chopstick to remove air bubbles around the inside of each jar. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it’s just finger-tight. Return the jars to the water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes to process. Remove the jars to a folded towel and do not disturb for 12 hours. After 1 hour, check that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each; if it can be pushed down, it hasn’t sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately. Label the sealed jars and store.

Disclaimer: This cookbook was sent to me free of charge. I was under no obligation to review it and received no compensation for doing so.

18 comments:

MelindaRD said...

Both of those look like they turned out great. I would love to do some home canning. My bread machine has recipes for jams, so i will start there. My husbands grandparents used to have a garden and did canning and he has stories of all the goodies they had. I of course, never had the chance to meet them, but it sounds really cool all the things they did. Keep up the good work.

Deanna said...

Oooo - is that salsa water bath canned? I don't suppose you'd be willing to share that recipe, would you? I'd love to can some salsa, but only have a water bath and the recipes I've seen elsewhere don't look very tasty.

Lori said...

Melinda - I was really pleased with them and love the book. I, too, grew up in a family of canners. My great aunt still does all kinds of things and my mom has carried on some of it.

Deanna - It is a great salsa and everything in the book is water bath. It's not about being willing, but having permission. :) I highly recommend the book. There are so many great recipes including the salsa, you'll use it a lot if you can. It should also be popping up at libraries since it was just released this month. Maybe you can find it there if you don't wish to buy it.

Joanne said...

These recipes sound so unique! I would have screamed as well if I had gotten this in the mail. I am seriously scared of canning but maybe with the right cookbook...

eatingRD said...

This looks like a wonderful book!!! I think I would have squealed with delight at the sight of it too. I've always wanted to master canning, but like you I'm terribly afraid of killing someone with botulism lol everything looks wonderful!

Anna said...

Hi Lori, congrats on top 9, I'm very intrigued about canning. And I also freak out about contamination. BUt I would love to have a homemade blueberry jam for my breaky. I will check the book for sure.

emily (a nutritionist eats) said...

I just canned beets last week! I haven't tried them yet, I'm a little nervous!
Those jalapenos sound fantastic!

5 Star Foodie said...

Sounds like this would be a great book for me. I have never done canning though I fondly remember my grandmother's many canned specialties that I've enjoyed so much as a child. I've even gotten all the supplies recently in order to try but have yet to conquer my fear :)

Marianne (frenchfriestoflaxseeds) said...

We used to can all sorts of fruits when I was a kid, and my uncle and grandpa would do pickles, green beans, and salmon. I used to love eating all that stuff throughout the year. Alas, we have converted all of our old canning storage space into a sewing room for my mom. I would love to get back into canning and making some of the things from my youth. Sounds like a great little book you've got there.

Andrea (Off Her Cork) said...

Love it! Once you mentioned getting this book, I immediatly put it in my Amazon shopping cart! I can't wait to do some canning. :D

kat said...

That sounds like a wonderful canning book!

Daily Spud said...

Sometimes I think that I have a bit of a cavalier attitude to canning / preserving. I just do what my mother did - sterilise the jars and get on with it. I suppose I'm generally making either jams or pickles with high sugar or high vinegar content, so the risk of the unpleasant things you mention is low in those cases anyway. Maybe there's just a confidence that comes from the fact that I haven't manage to poison either myself or anyone else yet! :D

sarah marie said...

What a timely post for me - I had an abundance of CSA peaches and plums and just made jams earlier this week! That cookbook looks great, and your salsa looks amazing. I'm going to put that book on my wishlist.

My grandmother used to make jalapeno jelly. Sounds weird, but I really loved visiting her and having some of that jelly spread on toast as a kid.

Lori said...

Joanne - A good, updated cookbook helps!

eatingRD - So far so good and I've tried a few things now. Ha!

Anna - Thank you! I wish I had gotten some more blueberries. That was one jam I didn't get around to making.

Emily - I saw them on your blog! That is so great. Let us know how they turned out.

5 Star - It does take a lot of courage, but once you jump in all is good. :)

Marianne - My great aunt did a lot too, still does. My mom has always done a lot of pickles. I haven't used all their recipes yet.

Andrea - Great! You will seriously love it.

kat - It's a great one to have.

Daily Spud - My mom has that same type of approach and I've really learned to relax for the same reason. There are certain foods that are more worrisome, but those aren't the ones I want to do anyway. :)

sarah marie - That's great news! You'll love it. I love pepper jelly and I've been checking out some jalapeno jellies. I'm waiting for my jalapenos to turn red in the garden for the recipe I want to try. :)

K O R I said...

Great to hear about this book! I'm planning to make both peach and blueberry jams this week, so I've been hunting around for the best recipes. I'd also love to try salsa with the over-abundance of tomatoes we have right now, so it sounds like something I should pick up. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Tangled Noodle said...

Canning is supposed to be my big goal before the end of the year but I can't quite seem to find the time to get to it (excuses, excuses!) Thanks for sharing this review - I really appreciate your concise listing of what you like/don't like about it. Your efforts look fantastic!

OysterCulture said...

I've been doing a lot more canning this year, I'd done it before (I was in 4H after all) but got out of the habit, but with all this incredible produce staring me in the face, it was taunting me not to can it.

The jalepenos sound like the Cowboy Candy I made and it is indeed awesome. We loved it with a mild cheese, but it had 101 uses.

Indonesia Eats said...

I usually do canning for my sambal.