I’ve been getting a number of requests lately, both over email and on the Facebook page, asking me to recommend a couple of good canning books for people just getting started canning. Happily, the canning book market is positively exploding these days (as canning grows in popularity), so there are a number of terrific new volumes for me to suggest.
One new book that recently drifted my way that I was delighted to discover and am excited to recommend is Saving the Seasons. This volume is written and produced in the tradition of those classic cookbooks More-With-Less, Extending the Table and Simply in Season (this one came out about five years ago, so it’s not that old). If you know anything about those books, they come out of the Mennonite community and emphasize healthful, frugal, seasonal eating.
One of the terrific things about Saving the Seasons is the fact that it is dedicated to all forms of food preservation, from canning, to drying, to freezer preserving. That particularly great because it then becomes an all-in-one reference. It’s also got several instances (like the one you see above) in which they walk you through each step of the process with pictures. Excellent for visual learners.
The book contains a number of recipes, as well as handy reference charts. One thing to note is that the jam recipes do call for pectin (I know a number of you are hoping to phase out your pectin use, so if that’s a concern for you, be aware). I’ve yet to cook out of this book, but I’ve got my eyes on the Hot Peach Chutney and the Dilled Green Tomatoes.
A few of you have reached out in the last couple of weeks, asking about making and canning baby food. Not being a parent yet (hopefully soon though), I don’t have any first-hand knowledge to share. This book has a brief section devoted to the making and freezing (not canning though) of delicious things to feed your little one.
Beyond all the useful information that this book offers, what I like most about it is the feel and tone with which it’s written. The co-authors (Mary Clemens Meyer and Susanna Meyer) are mother and daughter, and as you read it feels a little like they’ve opened up their pantry and shared the many ways they eat well all year round. It’s a cozy, accessible feeling and makes me want to leap up from the couch and head for the kitchen. In my opinion, that’s just what a good cookbook should do.
In the interest of full disclosure, know that I was sent a review copy of this book.
I made baby food for my now 15 month old daughter…the freezer is a great way to save batches in serving-sized amounts using ice cube trays. Each cube of food usually ended up being two servings when she was 6-9 months old, but by ten months old it was incredibly convenient to be able to pop a few cubes into a bowl to thaw and know that her meals were set!
The point of all this rambling is that, as someone who’s ‘been there done that’, I don’t think canning would have been worth it for baby food. She ate such small amounts at a time, and her taste buds developed so rapidly (and ice cube amounts were so convenient!) that I can’t see us needing canning. It would have taken too much of any one food to make it worth the effort…I generally had 4 to 5 foods on rotation with one tray of each. Small amounts! And there’s my two cents on baby food, for what it’s worth…:)
Thanks for the book suggestions! My library has all but one of those 🙂 Looking forward to checking them out.
We have a small garden, and augment what we grow with purchases from farm stands and farmers markets. Often when canning we only have enough to do a few jars so often turn to “The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving” by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard. The recipes that stand out are for Favorite Dill Pickles, the Tomatillo Mexican and Triple Tomato Salsas, grainy mustard, and chutney recipes, but we have tried and enjoyed many others. This is probably the most recent book I purchased, but have several canning books and will be adding some of your suggestions to the shelf!
I echo Jasmine’s comment regarding baby food. Freezing is the way to go. Especially when you are introducing foods you need so little that an ice cube size is perfect.
I also agree with Jasmine’s comment about the baby food. I wanted to can my own, but babies eat so little at any one time that canning doesn’t make a lot of sense. The closest I did to canning baby food was to give my daughter some of my homemade applesauce. Other than that babies eat a lot of meat and veggies which require pressure canning. Also, they are only eating purees for a few months before they move on to chunkier foods at which point you can just feed them whatever you are eating anyway. I make all my own baby food and have found that freezing is the easiest way to do it. If you want to make big batches just dump the ice cubes of food into freezer bags and you can have lots of bags in the freezer so you have multiple choices with only a couple of ice cube trays.
Thanks for these! This summer will be my first foray into canning and I’m very excited.
What evil lurks in pectin that I don’t know about?
So you guys are thinking about having kids one of these days? That’s super-exciting! Annabel Karmel is the guru of making your own baby food. She’s a Brit and has lots of great books, like 1001 Baby Purees (I’m paraphrasing there)>
I’m a Mennonite who still hasn’t checked out Preserving the Seasons! But the others I am very familiar with and cook/blog from often.
When I had babies, I used Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron – it explains the freezer ice cube method and also explains how to make your own whole grain baby cereal. Really great.
Looks like a great book! I’ll have to check it out. I’m really not sure what’s up with the anti-pectin people – it’s all made from apple or citrus. As a bitter hypertaster and supertaster, I can’t taste any ‘pectin flavor’ or bitterness. We can with all different methods, from liquid and powdered pectin to buttering and gel setting. I just can’t imagine how you’d really capture the organic volatiles from fresh Michigan strawberries, the sunshine from fresh picked peaches, or the floral scents of those amazing tiny local plums without pectin (as the cooking time would destroy or drive off the volatiles otherwise). Then again, as a biologist, I don’t understand the dislike of white sugar (it’s processed with purified water, and is purer and technically healthier than raw cane since they burn the cane leaves off during harvesting. Think grill char. Otherwise the nutritional content is the same). Then again, I ususally get local organic beet suagr, and it is amazing. I think I’m going to add that Hot Peach Chutney to my list this year, too!
Just wanted to add that I also think it wouldn’t be worthwhile to can baby food. If you are making your own baby food, they typically move on to “regular” food rather quickly. Plus, because you need to be careful about allergens at that young age, you wouldn’t want to can a bunch of something they turn out to be allergic to. Although I suppose the pureed food would still have its uses elsewhere.
Thanks for the recs!
I also love the classic Ball book.
Tarc, I’m not a professional biologist but I do have a BA in biology and an MA in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology . . . all of which is to say, I maybe think too much about what I eat or feed my children. 🙂 Some of the reasons I can are to be more connected to my food, to control my ingredients, and to eat more sustainably and locally throughout the year. If I *must* use pectin (I’ve avoided it so far in my short canning career), I think I’d rather try to use homemade pectin. Pectin from a store in a little box that has been refined and shipped from who-knows-where (Pomona’s is from Denmark)–meh. I’m not crazy about sugar, either. I know it can be essential for a recipe to set or offset tartness, but many recipes are sweeter than they need to be, and sugar is not exactly a health food. 🙂 Further, making sugar is generally an energy-intensive process. I would rather use very little of it like it is something precious, rather than a sun around which all other ingredients revolve. So, I don’t know about anybody else, but that’s my thing with pectin and sugar. 🙂
Regarding baby food: Unless one is terribly busy, it’s pretty easy to steam a sweet potato or thoroughly mash a bit of parents’ dinner (an incentive to eat healthfully!) rather than create something for baby in batches, freeze, and then reheat separately. (It’s nice to have something in the freezer for emergencies, though.) Interestingly, allergists have found that children who are introduced to small bits of a variety of foods over time develop fewer food allergies vs. those were on a delayed-allergen diets who ate lots of one thing at a time (the exception here would be if you have certain food allergies that run in the family).
I so love all the more-with-less cookbooks! This would be an excellent addition…