Last night, I found myself in a Twitter conversation with an acquaintance about canning books. She was looking for something to take her beyond the simple freezer preserving she did last summer into something more ambition and jar-based. I first told her to check out the cookbooks she already had. Any edition (even the most recent and modern volumes) of the Joy of Cooking, Fannie Farmer, Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks will detail the basic steps of canning. If you’re good at following written directions (admittedly, not everyone is), there’s enough there to get you started. You’ll find sensibly written instructions with a nice-sized collection of recipes.
After recommending that she check those all-purpose cookbooks out, I gave her list of some of my favorite canning, pickling and preserving books. However, I inadvertently left one of the best (and cheapest) canning resources around off the list. The Ball Blue Book of Preserving, which has been continually published in yearly editions since 1909, is a terrific book for someone who wants to expand into more exotic recipes and pickling techniques. It typically costs somewhere between $4.95 to $8.95, depending on where you buy it, which keeps it fairly affordable. It’s also often sold right in the grocery store next to the canning jars, lids and pectins (if you live in the city, I warn you that you’re going to have a harder time finding an in-store copy. I found mine at Giant in Lancaster).
One thing to keep in mind about any canning instructions you follow is that it’s always a good idea to cross-check the details with the latest safety recommendations, like those that you can find here.
And, if you’re curious, some of the other canning books I recommended last night were Putting Up: A Seasonal Guide to Canning in the Southern Tradition, Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods, The Joy of Pickling, Revised Edition: 250 Flavor-Packed Recipes for Vegetables and More from Garden or Market (although I have the older edition), Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It: And Other Cooking Projects and So Easy to Preserve, a plastic-bound book out of the University of Georgia’s extension service that has a bit of folksiness that hearkens back to the days of truly useful community cookbooks.