I’ll admit – I’ve always liked the idea of canning and preserving but was a little nervous to get started. You know – all that stuff about sterilizing your jars, buying special equipment, making sure you correctly process the jars of preserves etc. Well at the beginning of the summer, I made my first tentative steps into the world of canning and preserving and haven’t looked back since. How? With Amy Bronee ‘s debut cookbook The Canning Kitchen which has completely taken the intimidation out of the preserving and canning process for me!
What you notice right away is how short the recipes are. This was surprising to me, since I’d always associated canning and preserving with “long and complicated”. Amy has been able to keep the recipes short by making the all-important “Processing Checklist” a separate part of the book, so instead of including that checklist in each recipe (it’s pretty long), she refers to it when it’s time to process the jars. (You do have to flip to the front of the book to refer to this, but once you’ve done the process a few times, you probably won’t need to refer to it at all meaning that the very aspect of canning and preserving that seems to overly complicate the process in my mind is immediately made much less intimidating, simply by a clever layout.
At the beginning of the book, Amy covers “Canning Kitchen Basics” where she covers questions about all aspects of the canning and preserving process. This was the section that really helped me feel a lot more comfortable with the idea of making jams and jellies myself. Amy’s answers are clear and concise and she covered every question I had. No more “But what about…?”, Amy makes it easy to understand how the actual process works and explains why which is very helpful to beginners in the world of canning and preserving.
Worried about equipment? Amy de-mystifies this aspect of canning in the “Canning Kitchen Equipment” section. When I first started out with the book, I was so keep to get going that I didn’t own any canning equipment. I had jars leftover from another project, I used our large roasting pan with the wire rack that came with it, a glass jug to pour the sauce into the jars, regular tongs with rubber tips to lift the jars in and out of the boiling water and a cooling rack covered in tea towels to cool the jars. All of which I already had on hand in my kitchen. Amy divides the equipment into “Must Have”, “Must Have for Some Recipes” and “Nice to Have” and over the course of the past few months, I have acquired a canning funnel and a jar lifter because they simply make life easier but I did just fine without them too!
Worried about the processing of your jams and preserves? Amy breaks it down into 10 manageable steps in the “Processing Checklist” section. This is the most important section and you’ll find yourself referring to it often when you first start out if you are new to this. Once you’ve made a few of the recipes though, you’ll find it becomes second nature.
The rest of the book is divided into chapters on Jams, Jellies and Marmalades, Pickles and Relishes, Chutneys, Savoury Staples and Sweet Staples.
The title of the book includes the words “small batch” and as Amy says, the recipes in the book “are designed to leave you with just enough jars to make your efforts worthwhile and have a couple of jars extra to share or give away as gifts.” The small batches are yet another thing that makes Amy’s book even more approachable. One of the things that had deterred me in the past from venturing into canning and preserving was the idea that everything was made in much larger quantities than a 2-person household can consume (even with many neighbours, friends and colleagues always willing to taste test!) so Amy’s approach – making small batches – is very appealing. I’ve even managed to halve some the recipes I’ve made but as her quantities list weight for the fruit, it’s easy to do. Perfect for when you have a tiny amount of something gorgeous and seasonal that you want to preserve.
From sweet jams to savoury pickles, this book really does have something for everyone. I’ve made a number of the recipes over the course of the summer – started out easy with strawberry sundae sauce then graduated to strawberry-rhubarb jam, apricot jam, cherry jam, plum jam, triple berry jam and, most recently, Concord grape jelly. Each time with great results. Each time, the product looks “just like the real thing.” I am hooked!
Red Pepper Jelly
Recipe from The Canning Kitchen by Amy Bronee (c) 2015. Published Penguin Canada. All rights reserved. Published here with permission.
This classic pepper jelly is beloved for its sweet and sour combination, ruby-red colour and just a hint of heat. I like to give jars of this jelly as gifts because almost everyone likes it. Try it spread onto a buttered bagel, or serve as a party appetizer with warm crostini and a soft cheese like Brie.
MAKES FIVE 250 ML (1 CUP) JARS
1 ½ lb (675 g) red bell peppers (about 4 large peppers)
2 cups (500 mL) cider vinegar, divided
2 tsp (10 mL) dried chili flakes
1 package (57 g) regular pectin powder
5 cups (1.25 L) granulated sugar
Rinse the peppers under cool running water. Coarsely chop the peppers, discarding the seeds and stems. Place the peppers in a blender along with 1 cup (250 mL) of the vinegar. Purée until smooth.
Pour the purée into a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Stir in the chili flakes. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
Stir in the pectin powder and remaining 1 cup (250 mL) of vinegar. Return to a full boil over highest heat. Stir in the sugar and return to a boil again, stirring frequently. Maintain a full boil for 2 minutes while stirring. Remove from the heat.
Ladle into 5 clean 250 mL (1 cup) jars, leaving a ¼ -inch (5 mm) headspace. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes using the Processing Checklist on page 17 ((Note: You can find Amy’s Processing Checklist (indispensable!) here.).
TIP: Choose deeply red peppers for the brightest red jelly. For other jelly colours, try using orange or yellow bell peppers instead. If you like it a little hotter, include a couple of jalapeno peppers or even bird’s-eye chilies in your pepper purée.
The Canning Kitchen – a giveaway!
Thanks to Penguin Canada we have one copy The Canning Kitchen to give away to a Canadian reader!
To enter, let us know what you’d like to learn how to preserve.
For a second entry, tweet the following message:
I entered to win a copy of @familyfeedbag’s #TheCanningKitchen from @RecipeGeekMag + @PenguinCanada! Details: http://ow.ly/ShZIC
then come back to let us know you did in a second comment!
Contest closes: October 1st, 2015
Winner will be chosen by random.org and announced/ emailed on October 1st
Mardi Michels is a full-time French teacher to elementary school-aged boys and the author of eat. live. travel. write - a blog focusing on culinary adventures near and far. She has lived and worked as a teacher in Australia, Hong Kong, England, France and now calls Toronto home. She spends nearly every summer in France, honing her cooking and baking skills and touring different wine producing regions. As part of her job, she runs a cooking class twice a week for 7-13 year-old boys, Les Petits Chefs and Cooking Basics. She was one of the founding members of Food Bloggers of Canada, and is a cook, baker, traveller, photographer, writer, Food Revolution Day Ambassador for Toronto, contributor to JamieOliver.Com and in her spare time teaches cooking and baking classes around Toronto.
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