This past summer I started a new hobby that would quickly become an obsession. Canning. For years I had wanted to can but was always afraid to for safety reasons. Then, at the beginning of last summer, I visited family in Arizona and was in awe of my sisters’ and cousins’ canned food stashes. I mentioned my fear to a cousin and she reassured me and said I should start with high-acid foods and educate myself about high-altitude adjustments. And that is exactly what I did when I got home.
A couple months into my new obsession, another cousin sent me the Better Homes and Gardens: Complete Canning Guide. I will be reviewing this cookbook for today’s post.
Better Homes and Gardens: Complete Canning Guide is a spiral-bound, loose-leaf cookbook that is divided into 16 chapters. The cookbook includes chapters on canning basics, equipment to use, the typical fruits and vegetables, as well as the jams and jellies that are typically found in canning books. It also has chapters on preserving by drying, freezing, and fermentation. The index cross-references recipes. For example, the Carrot Cake Preserves can be found under “carrot” and “preserves”, making it very easy to find recipes of interest.
Throughout the cookbook, ingredients are listed in the order that they will be used in the cooking instructions. The instructions are relatively easy to follow; although, the print could be larger and broken down even further into smaller steps. This would avoid a reader accidentally missing a step. For example, the following instruction from the Tart Cherry-Coffee Preserves on page 358 could be further broken down.
- In a small saucepan bring cherry juice to boiling. Add coffee beans; cover pan and remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving juice. Discard coffee beans.
Of course, this might be something that doesn’t bother other people with better vision than myself. There is a lot of information squeezed into this already large cookbook. And this is not going to stop me from trying the recipes.
One great feature of this cookbook is that there are footnotes throughout that educate the reader. The footnotes include more detailed information about specialty ingredients, and techniques used during recipes, as well as canning, drying, and freezing tips.
At the beginning of the cookbook is a chapter that discusses the basics of preservation. Different methods of preservation are introduced. This section of the cookbook addresses how high-acid and low-acid foods need to be canned or preserved in different ways for safety, including which types of canners are appropriate for each canning situation.
Throughout the cookbook, there are full-page color photos of a good portion of the recipes, while others have small photo inserts.
Two recipes I tested were the Peach Jam (238) and the Carrot Cake Preserve (366). One of the best features of this cookbook is that multiple flavor alterations are included with many of the recipes and the Peach Jam is one of them. The flavor alteration I chose was the Sweet Basil-Peach Jam and it was delicious. I picked fresh basil from my potted plant in my kitchen. There is only a hint of the basil flavor, but it surprisingly pairs amazingly with peach. To date, this is the best jam I have ever made. I am already having requests for more from people that I gifted this jam to. My one regret is that I only made two batches of this before the peach season ended. Next year this will be one of my first peach recipes.
The Carrot Cake Preserve recipe turned out delicious. I would not have thought that carrots could make such a delicious spread, but they do! I would say it ended up a little bit too sweet for my taste, but the fact that I had three pieces of toast with this jam yesterday says that it wasn’t. I do have a bit of sugar addiction, but that is another post for another time. In my mind I expected the carrots to break down more in the boiling process, but it is a preserve after all. The shredded carrots do give the preserve a slightly crunchy texture. Next time I might try blending them in the food processor to give it a more jam-like consistency. And yes, I will be making this one again — as is, and with some experimentation as well. I am inspired to create a Moroccan carrot jam, thanks to my cousin who sent me his creation not long ago.
All in all, I recommend the Better Homes and Garden: Complete Canning Guide. There are countless numbers of recipes that I will be trying. As mentioned before I do wish the print was larger or that directions were further divided to avoid missing a step, but this cookbook excels in creativity with flavor combinations. This is a cookbook for both beginners and seasoned cooks alike.
As I mentioned before, I did receive this cookbook as a gift but if you would like to purchase it you get it on Amazon.com.
Rating: 4 Stars