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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
“Inspire

And to Country Mouse City Spouse’s Monday Mish Mash

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

Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

The February/March Cook the Books reading selection, Dinner with Edward, inspired my mini strawberry chocolate galettes.  Dinner with Edward, by Isabel Vincent, is a charmer.  It’s a quick read, filled to the brim with amazing food stories, menus, and inspiration.  But the heart of the book is the relationship between Edward, a retired gentleman whose wife recently died, and Isabel, a younger woman who goes through major life upheaval in the course of the book.  It’s a book about friendship and food, both of which cut across generations.  I really thought this one was, well, charming.

And so much food to choose from for inspiration (as you can see from my very sticky-noted copy)!  I initially couldn’t decide if I was going to try one of Edward’s potato recipes, or steak, or soup, or soufflé, or martinis, or chicken, or fish, or pork.  What I eventually landed on was being inspired by the apple galette that shows up around chapter three.  Strawberries are slowly making their way into season (as spring seems to finally be peaking around the corner here in the PNW).  I decided to aim for a version of the galette using butter instead of Edward’s recommended lard, and go for flavors that I love to share with friends.  Thus, I ended up with a dozen perfect mini strawberry chocolate galettes that my husband and I have been munching on all week long.

Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

These mini strawberry chocolate galettes would make a great Easter dessert.  They’d also be delightful as the final course for a picnic.  You can substitute other berries for sure – I’m definitely going to be making these again when raspberries are in season.  Galettes take all the loveliness of a pie and make it into a rustic, easy to make and bake treat.  They are completely free form, so all you have to do is make the pastry, roll it out, fill and bake.  I added a touch of dark chocolate and some sugar macerated strawberries and called it delightful.

Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

Oh – and I’ll confess.  I did end up making a dry martini the way it was suggested in the book.  I think it may be the best martini I’ve ever had in my life.  If you are curious, check out either the book (which I highly recommend) or take a peek at my Instagram feed where there’s a photo of the martini and tips on how to make it.

Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

Mini Strawberry Chocolate Galettes

Ingredients

    For the Pastry
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • For the Filling
  • 1 pint strawberries, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 egg for egg wash

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Make the pastry by combining the flour, sugar and salt. Cut the butter into chunks and add to the flour, using a fork, your hands, or a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour. Add the water, a bit at a time and work into the flour/butter mix until it forms a ball. Refrigerate the pastry dough for 30 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, combine the sliced strawberries and 2 tablespoons sugar and set aside to macerate.
  4. Use parchment paper to line a baking sheet.
  5. Melt the dark chocolate chips. Roll the chilled pastry dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Use a round cookie cutter or similar to cut the dough into small circles.
  6. Spoon a bit of the melted dark chocolate into the middle of each pastry dough circle. Arrange several slices of strawberries on top of each and gently fold and pinch the pastry dough up over the strawberries.
  7. Place each mini galette onto the parchment lined baking sheet. If you are using an egg to wash, combine the egg with a tablespoon of water and beat until frothy. Brush the egg wash over the pastry dough for each galette.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes or until the galettes are light brown. Enjoy!
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cookthebooks

This recipe is linked up to March’s Treat Petite, hosted by Cakeyboi.  Treat Petite is hosted alternative months at Cakeyboi and The Baking Explorer, so be sure to check out both awesome blogs!

And to Novel Foods #29

And to the March 2017 Foodie Reads

Late Summer Melon Mojito

Late Summer Melon Mojito

I keep thinking that the last of summer is surely around the corner.  I’m ready for sweaters, pumpkin spice everything, and lots and lots of rain (it’s the PNW after all – shouldn’t it be raining already?).  I know there is a change coming in the weather; I’m just impatient, that’s all.  In the meantime, I figure if it’s going to insist on being in the mid-eighties, I might as well enjoy a last (maybe) summer cocktail or two.

It’s sometimes challenging to be in a family with food allergies.  There’s a list of fruits, vegetables, and nuts that Clay is sensitive to, including melons.  This means that anytime I buy a melon, I’m on the hook for finishing the entire thing.  This leads to the purchase of about one melon per season.  This year, I picked up a Galia melon from the farmer’s market.  In addition to eating it as part of my lunch, I also saved a quarter of it for this mojito.

Somehow or another, I also managed to go the entire summer season without making a single mojito.  I’m going to blame a much diminished liquor cabinet (our new kitchen doesn’t have space for much beyond the pantry basics), as well as limited access to mint.  I’m keeping everything contained in pots, so my one mint plant has had to battle it out with oregano and chard.  I didn’t realize anything could hold its own with mint, but the oregano has done a fine job.

melon-mojito-with-galia-melon

Late Summer Melon Mojito
Serves One (but could easily be doubled)

¼ melon
3 sprigs mint
Juice from one lime
2 ounces white rum
Club soda

Combine the melon, mint, lime juice and rum in a cocktail glass and thoroughly muddle.  Add ice and top with club soda.  Enjoy!

Cucumber Sandwich

Cucumber Sandwich

Sometimes, simple is better, especially as the lazy days of summer continue.  In this case, a simple open-faced cucumber sandwich can make the most glorious afternoon snack.  The reason reason, however, that I decided to do something with cucumbers today is this:

cucumber destruction

This is what’s left of my cucumber plant.  The culprit who pulled it out of the ground and dragged it around (as well as ate a cucumber) is there on the left looking innocent with her ball.  I can only think that the cucumber, which was in a pot at the corner of the house, really impeded her ability to go tearing around the corner at high speed to bark at other dogs.  Whatever her motivation was, I’ve got about a dozen small cucumbers in the fridge and no more cucumber plant in the pot, as well as a note to myself in my gardening journal that the dog now has a taste for cucumbers, so it might be wisest to plant the cucumber in the front yard next year.

Some of the cucumbers are going into spring rolls later this week, so be on the lookout for the recipe.  Some are going into these easy cucumber sandwiches to snack on this weekend.  This is one of those not really a recipe recipes and here’s the how-to:  take some good crusty French bread and slice it in half.  Spread a generous amount of salted butter on the bread.  Place several basil leaves on top of the butter (I used some of my dark purple basil).  Slice one small cucumber and then places the slices on top of the basil.  Sprinkle with salt.  Eat outside, preferably with a drink over ice and a good book.

summertimecucumber sandwich and spanish g and t

The lovely drink accompanying this is a Spanish Gin Tonic from one of my favorite bloggers, Fox and Briar.  You can find the recipe here.

Enjoy!

Stone Fruit Sangria

Stone Fruit Sangria

I’ve been posting a lot this week about my urban garden.  I have to back up a bit and say that there hasn’t been a time in my life since I was a pre-teen that I didn’t have some sort of garden going.  I learned how to garden from my grandparents and my mom, and spent much time in my childhood outdoors, in the garden.  Whether I was reading, playing with imaginary friends (and sometimes real ones, too), or actually planting seeds and weeding, the garden was a focal point throughout my summers.  As a pre-teen, I started taking over small plots of land in my mom’s garden (I am responsible for the blackberry that refuses to die in her yard, as well as an entire swath of allium that have reproduced wantonly for the past thirty years).  As an adult, I’ve lived in both apartments and houses, as renter and as owner, and in every single one, including my two-year stint in the Marshall Islands, I’ve had either a full out in-the-ground garden, or a set of containers as my garden. 

I also developed an early appreciation for herbs – I think I was caught up in the romanticism of using plants to heal, which led to many years of planting and experimenting with herbs for both health and culinary uses.  I’ve loved living in Oregon, as some more herbs that wouldn’t make it past Colorado and New Mexico’s winters, like rosemary and lemon verbena, do really well here and winter over without too much complaint. 

In recent years, I’ve discovered using aromatic herbs widely in cocktails, so many of my summer happy hour recipes have herbs incorporated.  This one is no different.  If you aren’t a big fan of herby drinks, no worries – you can leave them out and still enjoy the wine and fruit. 

We’re starting to transition from early berry season into stone-fruit season.  In my mind, there is little to compare to a tree-ripened peach, even though it’s a fruit that’s not nearly as convenient as a berry (a takes a knife to open up or a willingness to get very sticky to just eat – hard to gorge on after having just picked, unlike a strawberry or blueberry).  I happened to have some very fruity, very effervescent, very light Vinho Verde in the wine rack, which paired very well with the peaches and plums.  I think a Riesling would work, too (I’ll confess, when I ran out of Vinho Verde, I threw in some Riesling, thus mixing wines.  It was pretty good.  I don’t mix wines regularly – it just somehow seems wrong). 

stone fruit sangria 2 sangria up close

Stone Fruit Sangria
Serves 4

2 cups assorted stone fruits (peaches, nectarines, plums), pitted and chopped
½ cup orange curacao
1 bottle white wine
4 or 5 sprigs of citrusy herbs (I used lemon verbena, lemon basil, and pineapple sage)
Mix all ingredients in a pitcher.  Let sit for at least two hours for flavors to combine.  Serve with pieces of the fruit and a few leaves of herbs.

Enjoy!

Blackberry Basil Gin and Tonic

Blackberry Basil Gin and Tonic

As you can probably tell, I’m into herby cocktails this summer.  This gin and tonic is no exception – blending the best of berry season with purple basil.  Gin and tonics are one of my favorite cocktails, and while I like a very classic G&T,  I don’t mind mixing things up a bit every now and then and adding other flavors to it.  I especially enjoy drinking this while sitting on the patio on a hot summer day.  I used purple basil for this, but would have used regular green basil, too if that’s all I had on hand.

blackberry basil g and t 2

Blackberry Basil Gin and Tonic
Makes 1

1 ounce gin
1/2 lime
3 basil leaves
5 blackberries
tonic water
ice

Muddle the basil leaves, three of the blackberries and half of the lime in a glass.  Add the gin and the ice and top with tonic water.  Garnish with the remaining lime and blackberries.

Easy Baked Chicken Breasts

Easy Baked Chicken Breasts

Last week was one of those weeks that I just didn’t feel very enthusiastic about anything, particularly cooking.  By Friday night, I was just tired – it had been raining all week, and as much as I love rain and love the PNW, I’m not a huge fan of this occasional season called Juneuary.  Sometimes, even a PNW girl needs some sunshine.  All of this is a long way of saying that on Friday, I just wanted to make an easy dinner, curl up under a blanket, have a glass of wine, and just be done.

Fortunately, I have just the recipe for such a situation.   Easy baked chicken breasts are just that: easy.  They can be accompanied by all manner of roasted veggie, including potatoes, green beans, cauliflower, and my personal favorite, fava beans.  I had fava beans from the farmer’s market from the previous Sunday, and I have an abundance of herbs in the garden right now, so all of these combined, along with a little bit of easy focaccia, made for the perfect weekend night meal.

parsley herbs

basil oregano

(Showing off my herb garden – all in pots and all doing better than I expected).

This is designed to be an easy meal for two, but could easily be adjusted to make more.

chicken and fava chicken fava focaccia

Easy Baked Chicken Breasts
Serves 2

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 – 3 tablespoons finely chopped herbs (I used basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme and parsley)
2 or 3 finely chopped garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
A few grinds of fresh pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine the herbs, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Put the chicken breasts on a foil lined baking sheet and spread the herb and oil combination over them with a spoon.

You can also put vegetables on the baking sheet with the chicken – just keep an eye on them as you cook the chicken as they may cook at different speeds.

Bake the chicken for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees.

Time for Iced Tea

Time for Iced Tea

We’ve had some warm days here of late in the PNW.  A couple of days of eighty here and there, punctuated by some cooler days and rain.  Even though we are currently living in a rental and I can’t go digging up the grass (as much as I’d like to), I’ve been busy gardening in pots.  My last addition was a chocolate mint plant that I don’t fully trust not to climb its way out of the pot and colonize the yard.  So be it – it will at least smell good.

chocolate mint

I started to think that today would be a great day for iced tea, so did some pruning on the chocolate mint.  The result was this lovely iced tea.

iced tea up close

Chocolate Mint Iced Tea
Serves 4

4 or 5 sprigs fresh chocolate mint
4 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 lemon

Steep the chocolate mint in the boiling water for 5 minutes or until desired strength is reached.  Add one teaspoon sugar and stir. Cool and then refrigerate until cold.  Serve with slices of lemon.

 

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