I first met Marisa McClellan in her home last spring when she hosted a book tour house party for “The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking.” Since then, she’s become a friend, and I’m totally thrilled for Marisa as she’s about to set out on her own book tour for “Food in Jars,” a cookbook with advice and recipes for small batch canning all year-round.
I love this book. It's not just jam recipes (although Marisa admits jam is her first love). It's full of all sorts of recipes for things you can spread on toast, of course, but it also has recipes for chutneys and condiments, pickles, salsas and relishes, tomatoes, syrups, nut butters and more.
I've tasted many of Marisa's creations, and every one has been delicious. My boys absolutely love her grape jelly. They wanted to know why I'd been serving them blah grape jelly all their lives after tasting hers. I always make sure that I get something she's put in a jar when we're at Philly Swappers
event. I'm excited to start digging into some of her recipes on my own like Caramelized Red Onion Relish and Rhubarb Chutney.
Marisa agreed to answer a few questions about her blog that started it all, also called Food in Jars
, and her new book.
How long have you been blogging at Food in Jars? What got you started with the blog?
I started Food in Jars back in February 2009, which means it’s been around a little over three years now. I started it when my job as the editor of Slashfood (AOL’s now-defunct food blog) was ending. I loved being a part of the food blog community and didn’t want to give it up. So I decided to start my blog and it just took off from there.
Getting a book deal is big goal of many food bloggers. Did you have a book in mind when you first started blogging?
While I didn’t start Food in Jars with the goal of writing a cookbook, I’d had it in the back of my head for years that writing a book of recipes and stories was something I wanted to do someday. I didn’t start the blog as a way to build towards a book proposal though, I really just wanted a place to call mine in the food blog world.
Your book is subtitled “Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round.” Explain small batch canning. Is a good way for those who have never canned before to begin? Why?
Here’s the thing. Up until recently all canning recipes were written for people who were canning in order to have enough food to make it through the winter. They produce huge yields, require tons of produce and you end up needing a second home in order to store what you’ve canned.
For this book, I wanted to create recipes that produced yields for a modern home. So I built these recipes to yield just three or four pints. Smaller batches means less chopping, peeling and mashing, less cooking down vast cauldrons of jam and far less time in the kitchen. Sticking to small batches takes a great deal of the tedium out of canning and helps make it simply fun and satisfying.
For someone who has never canned anything, what would be the best recipe to start with?
I always recommend that beginners start with a batch of pickles like dilly beans or pickled okra
. They are incredibly easy to make. All you have to do is measure spices into the jars, pack the cleaned vegetables into the jars, top with hot vinegar and process. It can take as little as 45 minutes to make a batch of pickles from start to finish, and that includes the clean-up time.
You’re going to be doing a little traveling to support the new book over the summer. What can people expect if they come out to see you on the book tour?
It really depends on the venue. I’ll be doing a lot of canning demos at farmers markets and bookstores around the country. For those places that don’t have the facilities for a canning demo, I’ll be hosting canning Q&As along with the book signings. Come prepared to ask me all your canning questions (even the ones you think are silly) and I’ll do my best to answer them.
If you want me to come to your town to teach a canning class, host a demo and sign some books, please feel free to get in touch. I’m always up for trying to make another city work!
After the book tour is over, what’s next?
Well, right now, the book tour looks like it may well stretch out into 2013 (it’s the never-ending tour!) However, once things quiet down a little, you’ll find me writing, canning, teaching classes and hopefully working on another book (though nothing is set yet).
Robin’s note: In addition to the copy of “Food in Jars” that I bought for myself, I’ve already bought a copy as a gift. If you need a gift for someone who cans (or wants to can), who gardens and always has an abundance of fresh produce, or someone you know loves spending time in the kitchen, this is it. In addition to being well-written with basic canning advice and easy-to-follow directions, it’s beautifully photographed with an attractive layout.