They say that there’s nothing new under the sun. And when it comes to canning recipes, that’s doubly true, particularly since it really is important to stick to tested recipes when you’re putting things in jars. I know that lots of you wonder how it’s possible to develop a canning recipe that feels like your own when you’re working within these confines. As I come to the end of my cookbook process, I have a few things I’d like to share about my own process and the steps I go through in developing recipes that feel uniquely mine.
First off, copyright law states that it’s impossible to copyright a list of ingredients. That means that essentially, a recipe becomes your own in the introduction and instructions. This is particularly true with things like jam and pickles, where the possibilities for grand scale deviation are fairly limited.
That doesn’t mean that you can copy and paste someone else’s ingredient list into your own blog or manuscript, rewrite the instructions and call it yours. You need to make it. Tinker with the seasoning levels. Adjust the volumes slightly to better fit the ingredients you have available*. Those incremental tweaks eventually lead to a new recipe, that coupled with a headnote and instructions written in your voice, becomes something you can call yours.
Of course, even after you’ve worked your way through a recipe, massaged the ingredients and fine-tuned the spices to fit your palate, it’s still always good manners to indicate where your inspiration was found. In my cookbook, there are two recipes that were heavily inspired by the work of other canning bloggers. Even though the recipes I sent to my editor were markedly different from the ones I had originally seen, I felt that those items still bore the fingerprint of the original writers and so I stated that in the head notes of those recipes.
When I head into the kitchen to make something new, I will often cast around for a bit of inspiration. I’ll look at cookbooks and blogs to see how other people have treated the ingredients I have on hand. I look for themes, various techniques and where the similarities and differences are. Then I close the books and browser windows and head into the kitchen without any of those sources. That way, I can allow myself to be guided by the produce but with a framework of solid technique and understanding about how ingredients will come together.
Sometimes the results are magical. Those are the recipes I post, publish and share.
For more on the attribution of recipes, make sure to check out this post that Sean wrote on Punk Domestics last week.
*Always take care to ensure that if you’re reducing volume levels, that you keep the proportions of acidic ingredients the same, so as to maintain safe levels of acid.