My preserves pantry is beginning to look a little sparse as we’ve been finishing up all the pickles, jams and canned tomatoes from last summer.
The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes is newly released by my friend and fellow food blogger Amy Bronee. She’s a West Coast mother of two who has long been addicted to preserving the harvest and shares over one hundred of her favourite recipes in a beautiful debut cookbook.
Both nostalgic favourites and new creations shine in this warm and helpful guide to canning at home. Through Amy’s careful tutelage and vibrant photography, novice and experience canners alike will find inspiration for every season in this cookbook.
Read on for a fun interview with Amy and a chance to win one of two copies of The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes!
Q & A with Amy Bronee of Family Feedbag.
SB: There are so many canning cookbooks already out there, why did you decide to write yours and what’s different about it from any other preserving book on the shelf?
Amy: I wish I could tell you I daydreamed about writing The Canning Kitchen for months and describe for you the dramatic moment I finally decided to forge ahead, but the story of how it came to be is really quite simple: I got an email from Penguin Canada asking me if I’d like to write a book. They were wanting to publish a book of preserving recipes and I had already been writing about canning on my blog, so they approached me. I said yes right away, of course. It was a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime surprise!
It’s true there are already many canning books out there, but the same could be said for bake books and general cookbooks. Just like fiction or biography, I think there is always room for a new voice on the bookshelf. Plus, canning is something home cooks are likely to seek out information on, so it’s an honour, really, to bring my canning classes to people in the form of a book.
I had a strong sense of wanting the recipes to be preserves people will use regularly. There are some much-loved classics like Strawberry Jam (page 25) and Tart Green Apple Jelly (page 61), but I also wanted to create recipes that home cooks would not just spread on toast but actually use in their cooking. With two flavourful mustard recipes and four fantastic barbecue sauces, I think the book goes well beyond jams and jellies to stock the pantry with a variety of other truly useful preserves.
Simplicity is also a main focus of the book since I believe that simple food with well-balanced flavours is often the tastiest.
SB: Where did you get your inspiration for the recipes in this book? Can you share your top five ‘must haves’ for the pantry shelf?
Amy: I get a lot of preserving inspiration from my own garden. I think there is this added importance (or is it self-imposed pressure?) to get it right when you grow it yourself. I adore all those home-grown strawberries, rhubarb, apples, pears and more. I spend time in the garden putting a lot of hope into them, and once harvested they are precious in a way that is different from fresh food I buy at the store. I want to make the very best-tasting preserves with them, and I find that motivating when it comes to writing recipes.
Usually for me a recipe idea starts with a certain flavour combination. I will get it in my head that juicy peaches would dance wonderfully on the tongue with garam masala, or that pickled green beans should be spicy. The idea rolls around in my head, for days or even weeks, until eventually I have to explore it. If only to stop thinking about it. Just to know – Am I right? Do those flavours really work? What is the right balance? I wish I was more methodical about it, but it’s really that simple.
Choosing favourites is of course hard to do, but I do have some recipes in the book that get me in all the right places. When I taste something I absolutely love, my eyes close, my head tilts back and I feel spoiled in the very best way. For me, Pear Amaretto Sauce (page 209) does exactly that when spooned over a wedge of cool, creamy cheesecake. It’s a dream-worthy flavour combination. On the savoury side, there’s nothing better with crackers and cheese than Garlic Rosemary Apple Jelly (page 62). It is tart, herby and fruity all at once.
Based on feedback from my taste-testers (neighbours, family and friends) the Raspberry Cocoa Jam (page 53) is a popular favourite, plus the Blueberry Lime Jam (page 33), the Bing Cherry Barbecue Sauce (page 162), as well as the whole marmalade section. There is a lot to love about preserving!
SB: What is your take on the cultural shift among young people that embraces DIY projects like canning and urban homesteading? Why is it gaining popularity so fast?
Amy: This is something I have pondered a lot, and I think it stems from our heavy use of technology. I, like most people these days, spend a lot of time online or writing at my computer. I love feeling connected to other home cooks, regardless of how close or far their kitchen is to mine, and my blog lets me do that in a really wonderful way. But when I take time away from that, I crave something tactile and tangible; something that will give me a useful end product and that will let me spend more than 30 seconds focused on the same thing.
I’m an avid knitter too, and over the last few years I have seen a lot of new people interested in picking up needles and yarn for the first time in their lives. Growing a garden, knitting, canning – it’s all simple, back to basics stuff. We love our technology, but we want to truly live life too and experience the satisfaction of making something useful with our own hands.
SB: Here on Simple Bites, we like to welcome kids in the kitchen, even for canning projects. Can you recommend a handful of recipes from The Canning Kitchen that we could make with little helpers?
Amy: I love that you make that such a focus on Simple Bites. Cooking is love, culture and memories, and we give our families and communities a wonderful gift when we hand it down from one generation to the next. Not everyone is going to love cooking, but everyone loves to eat, so we might as well find at least one person in the family who enjoys being in the kitchen, even if they are 8 years old.
There are a lot of opportunities to get kids involved in canning, from growing your own pickling cucumbers to visiting a u-pick orchard or berry field together. In the kitchen, cold pack pickles are a great place to get little ones involved. Have them place a garlic clove and a handful of fresh dill in each jar for Crunchy Dill Pickles (page 105), then get them stuffing jars with those gorgeous cukes. Same goes for Doubly Dilly Beans (page 106) and filling jars with garlic cloves and fennel seeds for Pickled Asparagus Spears (page 113).
Kids also love applesauce, and there are two applesauce recipes in the book, one of which has three variations to blend with other fruits. Making something they can’t wait to dig a spoon into is always a good place to start with kids.
Thanks to publishers Penguin Random House, I have two copies of The Canning Kitchen to give away!
UPDATE: This giveaway has ended and here are the winners!
1. Noreen! Who said “My favorite preserve is the Strawberry Vanilla jam from “Food in Jars”…it was the first recipe that I tried, and the one that my kids like the most!”
2. Pascale! Who said: “My favorites to make are a peach lavender butter as well as a chili pepper chutney from Jamie Oliver’s At Home book. This book looks amazing!”
Congratulations, Noreen and Pascale! A big thank you to all who entered the giveaway. Now add the cookbook to your wishlist or buy it before the canning season is over!
Tell me your favourite summer preserve! Is it a jam or a chutney? Perhaps something pickled or a spicy salsa. Share in the comments below.
Giveaway ends June 19, 2015**ENDED**. Winner will be announced here on this post. Good luck to all!