About Marisa

Marisa McClellan is a food writer, canning teacher, and dedicated small batch canner who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her jams, pickles and preserves (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first book, titled Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, is now available.

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Honey Sweetened Cara Cara Orange Jam

Back in mid-February, my husband and I made our quarterly trek out to Costco. We got necessary items like toilet paper and dishwasher tablets, as well as a number of not-so-necessary things like 96 ounces of dried blueberries and ten pounds of Cara Cara oranges.

I adore Cara Caras for their pink flesh and sweet/tart flavor. But as the sole fruit eater in my household, ten pounds is a lot to move through in a timely fashion. A preserving project was in order.

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Homemade Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter

Over the years, I’ve spent a goodly amount of time dabbling in homemade nut butters (several of my favorites are in my first cookbook, Food in Jars).

I really enjoy taking a product that’s most often brought home from the store and translating it into something I can make at home. It’s an added bonus that the homemade version is almost always fresher, made with better ingredients, and contains less sugar.

roasted sunflower seeds

My most recent batch was inspired by a comment a friend made online recently. Her daughter’s favorite sandwich was Nutella on whole wheat bread but her new school had a strict nut-free policy (understandable with all the allergies kids have these days). They were looking for a lunchbox replacement but were coming up empty.

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Pomander Spiced Orange Jam

When I was growing up, one of my very favorite holiday-time projects was making pomander balls.

My mom would put out a bowl of oranges and give both my sister and me small dishes filled with cloves. We’d use toothpicks to pre-prick the oranges with patterns and then would poke cloves into those spots. When they were all done, we’d roll them in a mix of ground cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and then set them around the house in small saucers.

10 oranges in a bowl

They were time consuming, but I loved making them. Nothing smells quite so much like the Christmas season to me than the combination of orange and spice.

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Roasted Applesauce with Spices

To me, applesauce is the quintessential fall food.

One of my favorite autumn memories is of wandering an antique apple orchard outside my hometown of Portland, Oregon, bundled up in scarves and layers for the first time of season, picking up windfall apples with my mom and sister. We’d bring our dog with us, and she’d run between the trees, tossing apples up in the air with her nose and then chasing after them.

apples in a roasting pan

Once our bags were full to the top, we’d head home to preserve our gathered fruit. My mom would cover counter tops with newspaper and we’d begin to peel. When the apples were ready, they’d go into her biggest soup pot with a splash of orange juice, cinnamon and grated nutmeg until they’d cooked down into a homey sauce (the peels and the newspaper would go to the compost bin).

roasted apples with spices

Though I live on the other side of the country now, it still doesn’t feel like autumn until I’ve spent an afternoon tramping around an orchard, picking apples and then taking them home to the canning pot.

I make my sauce much like we did when I was young, with plenty of spices and without any added sweetener. The one difference is that instead of cooking my apples down on the stovetop, I peel, core, chop, and roast.

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Home Canned Marinara Sauce

For most of the year, I am a staunch advocate of the small batch. I make jam in skillets, put up pickles one pint at a time, and simmer my chutneys in a miniature Dutch oven. However, come tomato season, I change my tune and go big. Very big.

Over the last five years, I’ve gotten into the habit of buying at least 100 pounds of tomatoes in the first or second week of September and spending a few very messy days painting my kitchen red.

bowls of tomatoes

I peel tomatoes, pack them into jars, and can them whole. I make tomato jam. I roast trays of tomato puree until they thicken into brick-red paste. And I cook up vast vats of basic marinara sauce that becomes the base for batches of meat sauce and soups all year long.

Having homemade marinara sauce on your pantry shelf is a dinnertime lifesaver because it means that you’re never more than 20 minutes away from a meal that you can feel really good about. [Read more...]