DeMent prefaces her hundred-plus recipes with the basics. Thankfully, she doesn’t belabor the process part. Just a soupçon, as it were.
Clearly and authoritatively, she explains the principles of water-bath and pressuring canning. When putting up low-acid foods (green beans, potatoes, soups, stews, and so on), pressuring canning is required for safety reasons. No exceptions!
The method for preserving high-acid fruits and veggies (tomatoes, pickles, acidulated jams), however, is totally low-tech. It doesn’t require much of an investment, either: basically a large pot with a lid, a rack for protecting fragile glass jars from the flame, perhaps a jar lifter (to save your hands from the hot water).
Don’t make this hard, people.
Starting with unadorned peaches and pears, and moving on to jellies, jams, sauces, juices, meat and fish, DeMent makes it all seem so hassle-free, foolproof, delicious.
I love how some of her seemingly arcane practices hark back to the days when refrigerators, freezers and store-bought shortcuts didn’t exist.
Happily, I don’t see a single recipe calling for manufactured pectin. And the instructions for putting up deboned meat, salmon, spaghetti sauce, etc., are a revelation—stuff I don’t normally mess with because I don’t own a pressure canner.
Apparently, there’s little you can’t put up in a jar. DeMent even cans greens—who does that? (They look fantastic, by the way.)
Admittedly, though, there are some foods that shouldn’t be kept under glass. She covers a handful of those (pesto, chocolate sauce, caramel) in a final chapter cleverly called “Freeze These.”
In some cases, this thrifty cook uses one canned concoction to conjure another: Pickles become relish; tomatoes, chili; roasted tomato sauce, barbecue sauce. And so on.
She seals the deal by closing each chapter with recipes for using the fruits of one’s labor: As always, she keeps it simple, too. Jars of corn and butterbeans are combined to make succotash. Meat or veggie broth and salsa goes into black-bean soup. Apple jelly or cranberry-orange curd is the filling for a jellyroll.
I’m a fairly dedicated canner, and I own a lot of books on preserving food. Many of them are cluttered and repetitive; few of them really teach me anything new (aside from flavor profiles and pectin workarounds). “Canning In the Modern Kitchen” is different. It demystifies an art that is foreboding and precious to many.
Once again, when I least expected it, Jamie DeMent, sly as fox and smart as a whip, has hooked me.
“Canning in the Modern Kitchen: More than 100 Recipes for Canning & Cooking Fruits, Vegetables & Meats” by Jamie DeMent (Rodale, $24.99)
Wendell Brock is an Atlanta-based food and culture writer, frequent AJC contributor and winner of a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award for journalism. Follow him on Twitter (@MrBrock) and Instagram (@WendellDavidBrock).
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