I have less than fond memories of being conscripted by my mother and grandmother to peel blanched peaches and tomatoes and to wash what seemed then like endless numbers of jars during the brightest, warmest days of my childhood summers. During those days, I would have undoubtedly preferred to be reading McClelland’s Food in Jars and dreaming about fruit and flavour combinations I’d never before encountered. (Or that’s how I think about it now. Then, any book or space to daydream would have likely done the trick.)
Food in Jars is based on McClelland’s blog. It’s a book that neatly brings together foodie culture, a DIY aesthetic, and an environmentalist ethos, and the result is a compelling and polished book.
The recipes neatly bring together familiar (and dare I say, nostalgic) recipes — Strawberry jam (which, incidentally makes my mouth water in anticipation of Winnipeg’s all too short strawberry season), lemon curd, pickled beets, canned peaches, among others — with the slightly (to me, anyway) unexpected: is adding vanilla bean to strawberry jam a thing? It should be, and I should have thought about it a long time ago. And lemon curd made with Meyer lemons? Sign me up! Bourbon in canned peaches? Yes, please! I’ll admit to being slightly more skeptical about adding ginger to pickled beets, but the combination certainly sound interesting.
Most of the recipes can be scaled up without too much difficulty, and none seems to make an unreasonably huge amount.
I also can’t say enough good about the photography, which is vibrant and inviting.
While I hate to end on a note of caution, I would be awfully remiss to not mention that if you can without a pressure canner, you risk infecting the food — and anyone who eats it — with botulism. (And unlike anything else that can go wrong, you won’t be able to tell.) The recipes in Food in Jars are mostly high enough acid that it shouldn’t be a problem. But I’m paranoid, and after an unfortunate incident where I made both Andrew and I think we were going to die by improperly cooking fiddleheads, I would suggest always using a pressure canner (and, it goes without saying, exercising caution with all unfamiliar food), which can raise the temperature high enough to kill botulism spores.
Food in Jars is published by Running Press.