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.
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