Monday, February 25, 2013

Cookbooks For Next Summer: Flip Now To See If You Want To Pickle Or Can The Best Of 2013

Cukes, hot peppers and snow peas ready to be pickled last summer
Think now about the upcoming spring, and start to make a few plans if you want to play with canning.

Over the past two years, I have dabbled a bit in preserving vegetables.  Some spectacular tomato sauce and pickled beets.  Some good salsas, a tomato relish, and yellow tomato jam.  Still learning how to pickle cucumbers successfully.  All in all, I have poured a lot of vinegar, and it has been mid-winter fun to pour the flavor of summertime out of a jar.

The real point of canning is to grab a whole lot of something when it's cheap or when you have time to cook.  Then you preserve that flavor in glass jars for the rushed nights when opening a can feels like a victory.

For my ingredients, I have gone two ways.  The romantic is Larriland Farm in Woodbine, where I have picked blueberries, tomatoes and beets on the volume discount.  The practical is the Asian groceries stores like Lotte or H Mart in Catonsville.  Beets, snow peas, cucumbers and more are seasonably cheap, and I buy a bunch to put some away.

Either way, it's a fun project for anyone who likes to cook -- but maybe bursts of cooking rather than steady time every week.  It's great fun to put away salsa or jelly or relish and then be able to create a weeknight meal with the twist of a wrist.  Simple tomato sauce is a revelation in January.  It's like covering pasta with the taste of August.  Grate some cheese, and it's so much better than a jar of commercial sauce.

If you're intrigued, I recommend that you leaf through two books now to what people do with your favorite ingredients -- Canning For A New Generation by Liana Krissoff and Put 'Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton.  They're variations on a hipster theme, using the traditional canning methods and modernizing the ingredients and flavors.

Tomato sauce
Both books are organized by ingredients -- four seasons of ideas from sauerkraut and kimchi that you could make now through berries, tomatoes, peaches, carrots and everything else that makes me hungry for warm weather.  Vinton's book is all canning.  Krissoff alternates canning recipes with other dishes where you use your preserved ingredients.  In the same way that gardeners are flipping through seed catalogs, you should flag pages in these books so that you know when it's smart to load up at Larriland.  (The Howard County library has Vinton's book.)

My advice is that you start small.  You'll see to buy basic equipment -- a large pot, empty jars, and some tools like a pot lifter and a measuring stick to stir out air bubbles.  (Kendall Hardware has a bunch of supplies, although I bought my large pot on Amazon.)  Buy small and see if you're amused.

Both books describe the basic techniques.  I read a few books two years ago, and I put together the idea.  In the end, it's pretty easy.  You put your food in Mason jars, then boil them a while to heat the food and force out the air.  As they cool, vacuum seals the lids, and you can put them away.  The books give you times.  You follow instructions.

Put 'Em Up is a fine starter book if you just want one.  Tomato sauce, jams, pickled beans and beets.  That is a year's projects right there.  Canning For A New Generation goes a bit wilder on the ingredients -- peach and cilantro salsa, green mango chutney, cumin-pickled summer squash.  Krissoff's ideas are worth experimenting.  Flipping through now, I just got inspired to grab a few pounds of radishes and carrots on my next Lotte run.

And we have already circled strawberry season on our calendar for Larriland.  Come on mid-May!

Let me know if you have canning advice.  Any stories to share?  Any other books that you like.  We also grabbed The Preservation Kitchen at Sweet Elizabeth Jane on Main Street in Ellicott City.  Beautiful pictures, but the recipes weren't as useful to me.


Anonymous said...

Chipotle coming to St. John's Plaza in Ellicott City.

victoria@thesoffritto said...

Love Cannng for a New Generation. It gets a lot of use year round in my house. I've also dug into Canning & Preserving by Ashley English & Can It, Pickle It Cure It by Karen Solomon. They are all a great way to envision my green garden on a cold winter day.

LisaBMrsS said...

I love both of those books, but Put 'Em Up is my standby. The Ball Guide to Canning is a great resource, too. I hate to cook, but I love to can, and I love to eat my stored food. This weekend I made sloppy joes for lunch, and we ate that with a selection of pickles (dill carrots, dill cukes, spicy cukes, watermelon rind) that I put up last summer. Yum yum.

Rob said...

I bought Saving the Season by Kevin West after hearing it mentioned on The Splendid Table on NPR. It is well illustrated, with lots of recipes and recommendations for equipment. There is also a Saving the Season web site/blog.