Just like seed catalogs help backyard gardeners weather the long cold winter, canning books help preserving types get through the planting season. Apple blossoms bring to mind jars of spicy apple butter, and grocery store tomato plants have us planning new salsa recipes. Alas, it’s a bit too early to jump into full-fledged canning mode, but it’s not too early to plan our canning projects. That’s where these favorite canning books come in handy.
Most of these books won’t be found on any best-selling list, but after 30 years of experience they are the books that I find most useful. I don’t receive any free copies or other benefits for recommending them – with one exception, see below. They are the books that you will find on my bookshelf, sticky with spitting jam and stained with sloshed vinegar. I am sure that you will find them useful too.
Ball Blue Book: The Ball Blue Book, published in cooperation with Ball® has been the go-to canning guide for over 100 years. This is the first canning book many new canners purchase, and many long-time canners own more than one version. The Ball Blue Book is updated periodically, as canning and safety guidelines are updated. The most recent version is from 2004 and includes all the basics about canning both low-acid and acid foods, freezing and dehydrating. There are numerous recipes for soft spreads and pickling as well as some less well known recipes like Chablis Jelly and Maple-Walnut Syrup.
So Easy to Preserve: If the Blue Book has all the basics covered, So Easy to Preserve takes those basics and does them one better. So Easy to Preserve is published by the Cooperative Extension of the University of Georgia, where the National Center for Home Food Preservation is located. It is a coil bound book with few illustrations, but chock full of canning/freezing/drying charts, tips and recipes. For example, there are 12 salsa recipes alone. As might be expected, there is quite a bit of southern region food information like how to can okra or black eye peas that might not be as popular elsewhere. You will find something about almost any meat, fruit, or vegetable that you are interested in preserving in this tome.
The Joy of Pickling: I borrowed this book, along with its sister, The Joy of Jams and Jellies, from the library so many times that it’s a wonder the staff didn’t buy me a copy. Finally I ordered both books, and haven’t looked back since. Linda Ziedrich is the genius behind The Joy of Pickling. It is divided into several sections, each highlighting a particular kind of pickle, e.g. fermented pickles, fresh pickles, sweet pickles, chutneys, and even pickled meat, fish and eggs. The instructions are well written and easy to follow and all include an interesting head note. My favorite thing about this book? The variety. Along with recipes like Old-Fashioned Bread and Butter Pickles and Sweet Gherkin Pickles you’ll find Robert’s Tea Pickles and Pickled Walnuts. In fact, I try to make something new and different every year. This book has kept me going for several years now with no end in sight.
Preserving Memories: Preserving Memories, written by Judy Glattstein, is a one-of-a-kind book primarily about jams, jellies, and other soft spreads. Since jams are my very favorite canning projects, I fell in love with this book because of its shear scope of recipes. Not only will you find recipes using common fruits like raspberries and blueberries, you will also find recipes for rose petal jam, cranberry butter, rowen jelly and caramelized apple-sage relish. Just looking through the recipes will have you out foraging for saskatoons or lingonberries. This is the perfect book if you really want to wow your gift recipients with something unique.
Saving the Season: Saving the Season, written by Kevin West, is a hefty hardcover book, with an in-depth index, a bibliography, and informative appendices that provide information about popular fruit varieties, peak fruit and vegetable seasons by region, and a helpful pH guide. All the basics are here too; canning how-to, canning equipment, jam making directions and explanations, and pickling tips. There are canning and preserving recipes here, everything from a basic strawberry jam to lime curd to pickled cardoons. One thing in particular I love about this book is how deep the author delves into the why of canning and preserving. Most canning books simply cover the how and what of canning but Saving the Season explains why canning requires certain steps too. You can find more about this book over on my blog where I reviewed it last year.
The Confident Canner: Full disclosure – I wrote this e-book. All of the above books belong on your bookshelf and in your kitchen, but I have found over the years that canning books don’t always answer the niggling little questions. You know the questions I mean, things like “Do I have to add salt to my canned vegetables?” or “Is it ok to design my own canning recipes?” or “How do I keep my cooking jam from boiling over?” The Confident Canner is like having your grandmother standing next to you, teaching the finer points of canning. After 30 years of canning and giving advice, I pulled the questions together so everyone could benefit from mistakes I had made. For example, boiling jam all over the stovetop is a mess, and something you definitely don’t want to repeat.
Honorable Mention: Since canning is so popular once again, there are plenty of good new canning and preserving books. I can also recommend Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant, The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz, Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan, and Put em Up by Sherri Brooks-Vinton.
Do you have any favorite canning books I haven’t mentioned?
Renee Pottle is an author, Family and Consumer Scientist, and Master Food Preserver. She writes about canning, baking, and urban homesteading at Seed to Pantry
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