One of these days I’m going to start preserving and canning, all I must do is to overcome my very real fear of botulatizing my family. And, it’s not for lack of trusted sources — take Marisa McClellan for example. She is all about food in jars. I even own her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, which I got with the purpose of becoming more proficient at preserving. Her methods are clear and straight-forward and the recipes look delicious. It’s all about making the most of seasonal, farm-fresh ingredients. I’m looking forward to working up the courage but for now I’m glad to enjoy her newest cookbook: The Food in Jars Kitchen.
The Food in Jars Kitchen is, in my opinion, unique and completely inspiring. As she tells it in the introduction most people “love canning, but have trouble using up the contents of their homemade pantry.” This is where the book was born — providing ideas on how to use preserves and not just in the obvious ways (hello, toast!) Now, I know what you’re all thinking right now: “But, Kris! You don’t have a homemade pantry!” Yes, this is true, but I do have a pantry full of store-bought sauerkraut, jams, salsas, and pickles that I need inspiration on how to use. I know I’m not the only one to have a half-jar of this-or-that in my fridge that I don’t want to go to waste! What I appreciate most is that McClellan offers easy and accessible ways to curb potential food waste. With her book I’ve baked and cooked many things that my family has enjoyed. From granola to scones, dressings to soups, she offers recipes big or small to suit any occasion.
Now I like toast and jam as much as the next person but through the recipes in The Food in Jars Kitchen I found more than a handful of ways to use jam that doesn’t require a butter knife or toast. The first recipe I tried was her recipe for Basic Jam-Streaked Scones — here the jam is pocketed in the dough so that once the scones are baked your welcomed by some delicious ribbons of jam woven into the oven-warm scone. This recipe also serves as a blueprint/guide for making other variations on this theme (throughout McClellan’s cookbook she offers flexible recipes like this that you can use in any way that suits you). It’s not a one jam fits all type of scenario. Her recipes work whether you’re using your own homemade pantry or the store-bought stuff — a sign of well-tested recipes.
Another recipe that I tried and really loved is her Basic Jammy Granola — which is made in the same way that every other granola is made except for the liquid ingredients, which consist of butter/oil and jam. Not only does the jam work to sweeten the granola and add flavour, I found that it gives a nice chewy texture to the granola. My daughter and I mixed it up, baked it, and found that it was nearly impossible not to eat it off the baking sheet before we could get it stored. This granola is insanely good! And, as you can see, I’m a big fan of Bonne Maman jams (not sponsored, I wish!) and I think that when the holiday season arrives, I’ll be baking up this granola to gift instead of cookies (it’ll also let me use up all of the jars that I’ve been saving too)! Since I’ve mentioned giving homemade food gifts, another great example of this is her dad’s recipe, Mo’s Famous Pancake Mix, that she shares in the book. The mix itself is full of great ingredients (whole wheat flour, honey toasted wheat germ, fine cornmeal — just to name a few). Reading her recipe head notes she explains how her dad perfected his own pancake mix that he would gift to friends and family over the holidays. The mix results in some delicious pancakes — both the flavour and texture owing to great ingredients.
While I tried many jam recipes here, it’s not all about jam! Her recipes for pickled vegetables are great too! Sometimes I find that when I buy a big jar of sauerkraut, we get about half-way through before my family gets tired of it and I’m forced to force it on them. Using her Sauerkraut Frittata recipe, I was able to take the lingering jar from the fridge and finish it off. The combination of eggs and sauerkraut is delicious and tastes great with hot sauce. Next, I tried the recipe for Pickled Beet Borchst — don’t tell my baba this but I think this version is way better than hers! The recipe uses the pickled beet brine to flavour the soup and the pickled beets (chopped with chives) as the garnish. I normally have a jar of pickled beets on hand because we love to eat them in salads, however, I think I’ll be putting this soup recipe into my rotation. Normally I have a jar of salsa in the pantry for when the urge to dive into a plate of nachos arises, but I seconded the jar to use in her Brown Rice, Bean, and Salsa Casserole. The epitome of a one-pan weeknight meal, we really enjoyed this deconstructed skillet-version of our favourite burrito. Hearty, delicious, and warming (inexpensive too!) this skillet meal is the ultimate comfort food — I highly recommend it for a Meatless Monday main dish.
Although The Food in Jars Kitchen does offer recipes to suit those who enjoy a meatier diet, I found there were more than enough plant-based recipes to satisfy me. The cookbook is divided into 13 chapters: Breakfast + Brunch, Snacks + Toasts, Dips + Spreads, Sauces + Condiments, Salads + Sides, Braises, Soups, + Roasts, Yeasted Loaves + Rolls, Cookies + Bars, Cakes, Puddings, + Cobblers, Pies + Tarts, Drinks, Frozen Treats, and, finally, Essential Preserves. As I’ve cooked through her book, I’ve come to really appreciate her clear instructions and her homey, comfort-food based recipes. She offers recipes that home cooks of any ability can enjoy making.
In our modern era of food preservation, it’s not only important to have the preserves in your pantry but to also have a plan on how to use and consume them. As McClellan says what she’s offering is an “empty-jar-to-empty- jar education” — she shows how to preserve, then how to cook or bake with those jars full of preserves and pickles. I really appreciate that McClellan offers recipes that suit any occasion from a basic weeknight meal to ones perfect for when you’re entertaining family and friends. With 140 recipes there’s an abundance of inspiration! Please checkout my custom Instagram hashtag #foodinjarskitcheniseatworthy or my dedicated Facebook post (there you can see the delicious Antipasto Pasta Salad I made!)
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Running Press and Hachette Book Group Canada for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.