I’m a little embarrassed to say that until a few weeks ago, I never really did much canning, preserving or jam-making. I have dabbled in it a little bit but to be honest, it kind of made me nervous. All that talk about the need to sterilize jars, the special equipment, the worry about making someone sick from not properly processing your jars – scary stuff. Enter Miss Amy Bronee and her debut cookbook The Canning Kitchen which has completely changed my opinion about preserving and, even after just a couple of recipes, has me hooked. So much so that I’m bringing The Canning Kitchen with me to France this summer.
I met up with Amy when she was in town for the Toronto leg of her book tour and we spent a good two hours chatting about canning, blogging, chocolate and France. Amy is easy-going and so modest but more than anything, she’s super encouraging. When we were looking through the book talking about recipes, she just made it all seem so very do-able – not a word I had associated with preserving before.
I took her book home and read it from cover to cover – what’s immediately noticeable about the recipes is how short they are, contrary to many others I’ve read that can be overly long (and intimidating!). Amy’s deliberately kept them short by making the “Processing Checklist” a separate part of the book, so instead of including that checklist in each recipe (it’s fairly long), she just refers to it when it’s time to process the jars. Even though you have to flip to the front of the book to refer to this, once you’ve done the process a few times, you won’t need to refer to it at all (even this beginner didn’t need to look at it more than a couple of times!) meaning that the very thing that seemed to overly complicate preserving and canning recipes is immediately made much more simple, simply by a clever layout.
I started out by making the strawberry sundae sauce, mostly because I had an abundance of ripe strawberries on hand. In under an hour, I had three tiny jars of old-fashioned strawberry sauce – the kind that tastes like it’s got real fruit in it – and couldn’t believe it. As I listened to the “pops” from the jar lids, I stood there thinking “Here I am, canning – me!”
Full disclosure here: I do not own any canning equipment. None at all. I had the jars leftover from another project, I used a large roasting pan with the rack it came with, a Pyrex jug to pour the sauce into the jars, tongs with rubber tips to lift the jars in and out of the boiling water and a cooling rack covered in tea towels to cool the jars. All stuff I have on hand in my own kitchen. Of course, a proper canning pan, jar lifters and a funnel would have made this even easier. But honestly, I see no need if I’m just going to be making tiny batches of stuff.
Yeah, the “tiny batches”. Another thing that makes Amy’s book approachable. None of the recipes makes a whole lot of product. I don’t know about you but so many canning recipes I read make much larger quantities than a 2-person household can consume (even with eager neighbours willing to taste test!) so Amy’s approach – making small batches – is very appealing. Of course, being the queen of minifying, I halved the recipes I made again but because her quantities list weight for the fruit, it’s easy to do.
Next up I tried my hand at some strawberry rhubarb jam. Again, a huge success in just under an hour. And that’s with guesstimating a little with the cooking time (I used “quick set” sugar already containing pectin – I know, I am a recipe writer’s nightmare!) and ending up with a jam that was a little more jelly-like than I think it’s supposed to be but no matter – it spreads on toast and English muffins like a dream and tastes amazing.
Amy and her publisher had kindly allowed me to share the recipe – you need to make this! No special equipment required! (Note: You can find Amy’s Processing Checklist (indispensable!) here.)
- 1 ½ lb (675 g) strawberries
- 1 lb (450 g) rhubarb stalks
- 1 package (57 g) regular pectin powder
- 6 cups (1.5 L) granulated sugar
- Rinse the strawberries under cool running water. Hull the berries, discarding the stems and leaves. Crush the strawberries with a masher in a large, heavy-bottomed pot (you should have about 2 ½ cups/625 mL of crushed berries).
- Rinse the rhubarb under cool running water. Chop into ½ -inch (1 cm) pieces and add them to the berries.
- Stir in the pectin powder. Bring to a full boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the sugar. Once the sugar dissolves, increase the heat to high and bring the jam back to a hard boil. Maintain a full boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Skim off and discard any foamy scum.
- Ladle into 7 clean 250 mL (1 cup) jars, leaving a ¼ -inch (5 mm) headspace. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes using the Processing Checklist on page 17.
- TIP Fresh garden strawberries and rhubarb can be chopped and frozen for making jam another day. Spread on a baking sheet and freeze before transferring to freezer bags or containers. Allow to thaw before making jam. You do not need to drain off any juices.
Thanks Amy for taking the intimidation out of this process for me. I feel confident to take on many more of your recipes over the summer. #TheCanningKitchenGoesToFrance 🙂
Disclosure: Penguin Canada provided me with a copy of The Canning Kitchen for review purposes. I was not required to post about the book and I have not received further compensation for doing so. FULL disclosure: Amy is a friend but I don’t post about cookbooks I don’t love 🙂
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