Browsed by
Category: Pickles and Preserves

Must Have Canning Cookbooks

Must Have Canning Cookbooks

Canning and preserving is one of my favorite cooking activities, which is why I want to share my must have canning cookbooks list with you.  I first learned how to can from my mom.  Many years ago, when I was an early teen, she and I went out to a farm, probably in some way out place like Brighton, Colorado, and bought pickling cucumbers and peaches.  These stand out in my mind because that Christmas, we had our own canned pickles to go with our Christmas Eve buffet.  I also remember the peaches, because I remember the taste of peach conserve that had maraschino cherries and walnuts.  I also remember that we used the Ball Book of Canning, which is the sort of the original bible of canning and ended up with a billion quarts of pickles and as many pints of peach conserve.  To say that these lasted us awhile is an understatement.

We were canning before small batch canning became popular.  I think my mom only canned for two or so seasons.  I remember doing more pickles, along with some watermelon rind pickles.  But beyond that, my canning memories are a bit fuzzy.  I didn’t pick up a jar until many years later, when I had one canning season in New Mexico.  I made some sort of crabapple jam, scavenging crabapples from just outside our neighbor’s trees.  Somewhere along the way, I’d picked up a cookbook on small batch canning, which was revelatory.  Instead of having to can thirty jars of something, I could do four.  And four jars of something canned can be a lot easier to get through, especially in a family of two.

I decided it was time to try it again when we moved to Oregon.  Oregon has some of the most incredible farmer’s market and U-Pick farms, and we were lucky enough to have both close by.  Around the same time, I discovered Marisa McClellan’s Food in Jars blog and then her first Food in Jars cookbook.   For several seasons, I canned just about everything I could get my hands on.  I loved having all the pretty jars lined up in the pantry and loved experimenting with more exotic flavors in some of my jams and preserves.  I also loved making pickles and canning tomatoes.  I discovered Dilly Beans, which are the absolute best snack food I’ve ever made.  I was a canning convert.  I even entered my preserves in the county fair for two years in a row (and even won a couple of blue ribbons, along with a couple of second and third place prizes).  We grew 60 pounds of tomatoes in our own yard in 2015 and I canned them all.

You don’t have to preserve 60 pounds of anything though to get the joy of canning in your own kitchen.  You can most definitely do small batches and enjoy the fresh tastes of fruits and vegetables all through the long bleak winter.  In this post, I’m going to run down my favorite canning books.  These are mostly all small batch books and cover jams, preserves, and pickles.  I’ll also share why each is a favorite.   Check back here in a few weeks, as I’ll also be posting about my favorite canning gear, along with a giveaway of one of my absolute favorite canning tools.

These first three books are all from Marisa McClellan. I love both McClellan’s lovely flavors, but especially the ethos of small batch canning.  These are so perfect for the home-canner who doesn’t have storage space, time, or the desire to eat jar after jar after jar of one type of strawberry jam.  Food in Jars is also the perfect introductory book for someone who hasn’t preserved before.


The Ball Book of Canning and Preserving is a standby for me.  If I want to make a large batch of tomato sauce, for example, this is where I’ll turn.  It’s a great book, too, for the novice canner with lots of great tips.  It’s updated often, so the flavors stay contemporary as do the tips for how to can safely.

Canning for a New Generation is a gorgeous book with so many yummy recipes.  One of the things I love about this one is that it also includes recipes for what to do with the stuff you’ve just canned.  Because I promise you, there’s not much worse than looking at a pantry full of jams and pickles and thinking – uh oh – what do I do with all of this now?  Most of the recipes here are also small batch, so really perfect for the weekend cook.

The Joy of Pickling is entirely focused on pickles, from fermented pickles to small batch refrigerator pickles, to freezer pickles, to chutney and relishes, to canning pickles.  I made my first batch of fermented pickles using the recipe in this book and munched on them all summer long.  This one is a cookbook I could just curl up with and read from cover to cover.

The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving is another great book for beginners looking to try out some small batch recipes.  This one covers everything from jam to pickles and everything in between.  There’s also a chapter in the most recent edition about what to do with what you’ve put up.  There’s a chapter on low-sugar preserves, too.

Last, but not least, is Put Em Up!  This one covers all sorts of preserving topics, including canning in small batches, but also freezing and drying.  This is a great book if you are looking for ways to make use of produce from a CSA or if you are a farmer’s market fan.

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something linked here, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  I only include products that I use and love.  Thank you for supporting Fix Me a Little Lunch. 

This post is linked up to Inspire Me Wednesday

And to Country Mouse City Spouse’s Monday Mish Mash

And it’s also been shared at Cottage Making Mommy,

Quick Pickled Spring Vegetables

Quick Pickled Spring Vegetables

One of the more interesting challenges of moving has been what to do with all of the preserved goods from last year.   I dutifully packed three large boxes worth of pickles, marinara sauce, and jams, and then realized once we were in our new place just how small the kitchen is and just how little kitchen storage we have.  For now, it’s cool in the garage, so that’s where the boxes are hanging out.  I had the presence of mind to pack six jars of marinara separately so we could easily make spaghetti and meatballs in our first month in our new place.  I also packed two small jars of marmalade and jam, as I couldn’t stand the thought of not having a few tablespoons of homemade jam in my yogurt in the mornings.

In the meantime, farms keep producing and it’s already farmer’s market season in the PNW.  I couldn’t resist going to the new market this past weekend and came home with the most lovely radishes.  I think you’ll soon see a blog post from me just about radishes – that’s how much I love this vegetable.  I’d just as soon eat radishes as a snack with salt, but decided I wanted to also include some quick picked radishes on my bagel sandwiches this week.  We had some carrots leftover from some quick chopped salads we made last weekend.  I’d also packed rice vinegar.

An aside – I had a strange sense of what was essential during this move: honey, rice vinegar, bread flour, marinara, one bag of pasta, and salt and pepper.  However, I managed to leave our half open bottle of olive oil behind and still can’t find my unopened bottle of red wine vinegar.  Since I didn’t bring sugar with us, nor remembered to buy it at the last run we did to the grocery store, I used a little bit of honey for this recipe. I also had juniper berries on hand, but these aren’t essential to the recipe.

spring pickle2bagel 1

Quick Pickled Spring Vegetables

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced mixed spring vegetables (I used radishes and carrots – I think this would be a great recipe with spring peas, red onions, celery, etc.)
1 cup rice vinegar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon juniper berries
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Combine the rice vinegar, water, spices, honey and salt in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and pour over the vegetables.  Let cool and then store in the refrigerator. These will keep for about a week.

Salt Preserved Meyer Lemons

Salt Preserved Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemons

Sometimes, particularly on a rainy PNW day, I like to curl up with a cookbook and just browse the pages, imagining all the cooking I might do. One of my favorite cookbooks with which to while away the hours is The Art of Simple Food II by Alice Waters. I don’t recall that I intentionally set out to purchase this cookbook – I suspect it might have been a remnant of the cookbook book club days when I often forgot to respond to the email declining my monthly book selection and so ended up with a bigger than intended cookbook library. I’ve only ever made one recipe from Waters’s book – salt preserved kumquats – but that one recipe made me a lifelong aficionado of salt preserved citrus.

Since then, I’ve explored salt preserving regular lemons and have made more salt preserved kumquats, but by far, my favorite citrus to preserve are Meyer Lemons. The combination of salty and sweet and floral livens up so many dishes. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing how I use up my most recent jar of this beautifully simple, lovely condiment. I’ve read that these can last in the refrigerator for up to six months, but I’ve always used them up well before that.

Salt Preserved Meyer Lemons

The lemons take a month to cure. You’ll know they are ready when the remaining pulp in the lemons looks mushy and the rinds are soft. They are an easy preserve – they take just a few minutes to put together and then can go in the back of the refrigerator and be forgotten about until a month has gone by. I do occasionally give them a good shake to distribute the salt a bit, but I don’t think that’s really necessary. I just like to be assured they are coming along as well as be cheered by their sunny lemony appearance.

Salt Preserved Meyer Lemons

Salt Preserved Meyer Lemons

8 Meyer lemons, thoroughly washed
1 ½ cups kosher salt
Juice from the 8 Meyer lemons
2 bay leaves
6-8 whole black peppercorns

In a pint jar, pour a thin layer of salt – it should just cover the bottom of the jar.

Cut each of the Meyer lemons in half and juice them. Fill each half of the lemon with salt. In a pint jar, layer each lemon half filled with salt and press down each time. After you’ve added three or four lemon halves, place the bay leaves and peppercorns. Continue to layer the remaining salt-filled lemon halves, pressing firmly on each to fit them in the jar. When you’ve gotten as many of the halves in as will fit with about an inch left at the top of the jar, pour in the lemon juice. You may have more juice than you need, so reserve what’s left for other recipes. Run a chopstick or knife around the inside of the jar to release air bubbles and ensure the lemon juice is covering as much of the salt-filled lemons as possible. Pour an additional layer of salt over the lemons at the top of the jar, covering the lemons as much as possible. Put a tight fitting lid on the jar and store in the refrigerator. The lemons will take a month to cure.

When they are ready, pull out each lemon for use, remove the remaining pulp and rinse thoroughly. Only the rind is used.