Sure – “best” is a subjective term, but 2016 brought us a handful of amazing new canning books that should be part of any food preservation library. And since it’s the season of giving, remember that books make fantastic gifts for the food lovers in your life (or a treat for yourself)!
I have long been a fan of America’s Test Kitchen – not only do they test and design recipes to be the best versions out there, they also explain why and how the recipes work. So when it was announced that they were coming out with a canning book, I was excited. While there are lots of classics included in this book, there are a ton of new twists and exciting new flavor combinations – all in tested, fully safe recipe formats for canning.
My number one favorite recipe in the entire book is the Roasted Tomato & Lime Salsa. It’s hand down the best salsa I’ve ever created, and it won me first place in the county fair this fall. It’s that good! A few more my favorite recipes are Mulled Cider Jelly, Summer Tomato Sauce, Bloody Mary Mix, Clementines in Syrup, Dijon Mustard, and Applesauce.
Another benefit to the recipes in this book is the fact they’re designed as small batches, meaning you can put up just a few jars of each item, which is great if you’re short on time, attention and/or produce. But the recipes double easily as well, if you prefer to do bigger batches. This is a great book for both beginners and those more experienced canners who want to add some recipes to their repertoire.
Ball is the industry leader and authority on home food preservation. They’ve been around since basically the beginning, and have a huge library of books available to home canners, most notably the “Blue Book”, which is typically given a refresh every couple of years or so. This new book in their line quickly became a go-to for me this year, with recipes like Low Sugar Roasted Strawberry & Chamomile Jelly, Southeast Asian Sweet & Sour Sauce, and Oven Roasted Marinara becoming new family favorites.
This is another book that’s great for both beginners looking for easy classics to start with, as well as experienced preservers who want to try something new. It’s also formatted with small batch (but easily doubled) recipes. One added benefit that this book has is that it also contains recipes for cooking with your creations, and includes chapters on pressure canning, freezing, dehydrating, curing/smoking, and fermentation in addition to water bath canning. So if you want to get a well-rounded taste all kinds of food preservation to see what you like best, this is the book to get.
A lot of people are really skeptical about canning traditional jams and jellies because of the large quantities of sugar these recipes call for – sometimes up to 7 cups for a couple of quarts of fruit! Fortunately, there are low and no sugar pectins on the market that can significantly reduce the amount of sugar needed, but at the end of the day, refined sugar still isn’t the healthiest thing in the world. Cutting out refined sugar and using more natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and dried fruit is increasingly important to home cooks, myself included.
Fortunately McClellan has answered the call and written a book focused exclusively on canning recipes with natural sweeteners. Roasted Apricot Jam, Honeyed Meyer Limoncello, and Lavender Lemonade Concentrate are some of my favorites from this book. And like the other books mentioned, this one also focuses on small batches that are more than manageable for busy home cooks to pull off.
So, whether you’re shopping for someone else or working on your own wish list for this year – books are the way to go, especially with so many great new recipes that can really up your canning game.