I suppose that I’ve always had a thing for red fruit. One piece of family lore has it that when I was about two years old my aunt, a recent bride, and her new husband volunteered to keep me for a week. Maybe my parents were otherwise occupied–probably with my newborn brother–or, I don’t know, maybe Aunt Libby and Uncle Tommy just wanted the practice. Anyway, the two of them apparently convinced me to eat all of my dinner each night of my stay by promising me sliced tomatoes for dessert. Apparently, the taste of summer tomatoes held much more allure for me than say ice cream or pie.
Well, that’s still true. I believe that tomatoes are the supreme fruit (and they are a fruit botanically speaking) followed closely by strawberries. I also believe that the best of both are those acquired in as fresh a condition as possible–and for me that means the ones that I grow in my very own back yard. I’m still waiting for the tomatoes to start coming in, but (and feel free to accuse me of bragging here…because, well, I am) to say that the strawberry crop this year has been “bumper” would be putting it mildly. So much bumper in fact that I have had enough to freeze and make refrigerator jam.
And that’s the thing about having a garden–you have to plan for the surplus if you are “lucky” enough to have it. My plan this year includes lots of canning (I hope), or as both my grandmothers called it, “putting up.” I’ve posted here before about canning and preserving but since then, DCPL has added some new and exciting resources. Check these out whether you’re growing your own or picking out the best of the season at a farmers market.
First up, and a fun find, is Food In Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round by Marisa McClellan. McClellan creates the charming canning blog Food In Jars and her emphasis in the book is on preserving seasonal food in small batches. Such an approach is bound to help a canning novice feel more comfortable diving into the process–quite a change from the month-long canning marathons I remember from my childhood. Steam-fogged kitchens and frazzled nerves are no longer necessary to preserving the good tastes of the season. Also by McClellan is Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces, which is similar in philosophy and approach. (DCPL owns this only as an eBook for now.)
A very beautiful book is The Art of Preserving by Lisa Atwood, Rebecca Courchesne, and Rick Field. Copiously illustrated with gorgeous photographs by France Ruffenach, the book is equally abundant in its recipe offerings. You’ll find plenty here to guide you in making jams, preserves, pickles and salsas along with suggestions on how to use the resulting bounty. Chicken Lime Soup with Pickled Jalapenos anyone?
Speaking of using your preserves in recipes (because you don’t, after all, want to just line your shelves with jars in order to simply admire them…although maybe you do!), Put ‘Em Up! Fruit: A Preserving Guide & Cookbook: Creative Ways to Put ‘em Up, Tasty Ways to Use ‘Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton will provide you with plenty of innovative ideas. Eighteen types of fruit are represented in this nifty little book (including tomatoes!) and offerings range from Spring Rolls with Asian Dipping Sauce to Momma’s Manhattan (made with cherries that you “maraschino” yourself). Yum! Also by Vinton is Put ‘Em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling.
Finally, my current favorite canning guide is Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Pickling and Preserving by Kevin West. This book is gorgeous, with beautiful photography throughout along with a wonderfully written text that chronicles West’s preserving journey. From a “ramp dig” in Cass, WV to Plymouth, MA for a cranberry harvest, you will be charmed with West’s engaging and lively reports of his many road trips taken in search of the finest in preserving traditions. Equally intriguing are the recipes. I for one can’t wait to try Sunshine Pickles and Canadian Ketchup although it might take me awhile to work up to Nostradamus’s Quince Jelly.
Do you can and preserve or do you know someone who does? Do you have memories, fond or not so much, of canning?