Review of Preserving by the Pint

marisa mcclellan book

My friend Marisa McClellan changed the way Americans think about water-bath canning with her iconic blog Food in Jars. Writing from her apartment in downtown Philadelphia, Marisa showed a new generation of cooks that preserving fruits and vegetables food was the logical extension of their interest in local, seasonal produce from CSAs and farmers markets. She also showed us that preserving is fun and accessible to all and that the results — namely homemade jams, pickles, relishes, salsas, curds and more — are sublime.

Marisa published her first book, also titled Food in Jars, in 2011 to rave reviews. Over the past 3 years, the print version of Food in Jars has become my go-to book when undertaking a new preserving project.

spring turnips

In season in early spring, Hakurei turnips look like white radishes but are less peppery.
Notice that snazzy knife? It’s the Petite Santoku from CUTCO and
it’s my new favorite knife for slicing vegetables.

After years of corresponding by email and Twitter, I finally met Marisa in person when she came to Chicago to promote her first book in 2012 and I was not surprised to learn that she is as low-key and delightful in person as she appears in her writing. Marisa has been a mentor to me both as a cook and as a food writer. She is unfailingly generous with her time and her expertise and my career would not be where it is without her help. Indeed, it was reading about the food swap in Philadelphia that Marisa runs with several friends that inspired me to start the Chicago Food Swap back in 2011.

So needless to say, I, along with Marisa’s many other fans, have been waiting anxiously for her second book, entitled Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces, to appear this spring.  I absolutely love the concept of this book which is to provide preserving recipes and ideas for small quantities of fruits and vegetables – the quantities that you might receive in a CSA share or at the farmers market.

Those who are reluctant to try home food preservation because it seems too expensive to invest in a flat of berries or too time-consuming to spend hours standing over a hot stove no longer have any excuses. Preserving by the Pint is full of projects that you can make of an evening with a pint of berries or a quart of stone fruit. These projects yield one or two delicious jars to eat or give away, so you aren’t left wondering what to do with eight jars of jam. (I’ll tell you what to do with eight jars of jam: bring it to a food swap! Hello!)

baby turnips

Baby turnips are sliced and salted before being covered with a spicy brine.

A few weeks ago, I received a review copy of Preserving by the Pint and instantly began trying out the recipes. Due to the record cold spring that Chicago is experiencing, I started out with the Winter recipes, making two different versions of citrus curd: orange cardamom and grapefruit. Both recipes turned out wonderfully and I especially appreciated having an orange curd recipe that did not come out cloyingly sweet. Rather than processing these curds in a water bath, Marisa recommends freezing them, which saves work. I will happily pull these jars out of the freezer on Sunday and bring them to the next Chicago Food Swap.

Although having new citrus curd recipes is helpful, citrus curd is not exactly a new concept for me. I’ve been making them for years. The next recipe that I tried from Preserving by the Pint, however, introduced me to an entirely new vegetable: Hakurei turnips. These spring turnips, which come from a Japanese variety, are in season right now and I easily found bunches of them at Mariano’s, a Chicago grocery store with a well-stoked produce section. You might find them at an early farmers market.

pickled turnips

Quick pickled Hakurei turnips from Preserving by the Pint

Preserving by the Pint has a recipe for quick pickled Hakurei turnips that blew my mind. Sliced and cured in a brine, these turnips are spicy and crunchy yet somehow creamy.  And they look absolutely stunning in the jar.

As an added bonus, the recipe for Quick Pickled Hakurei Turnips offers several suggestions for what to do with the leftover and extremely nutritious turnip greens. I made a pesto with some and put the rest in a frittata for that night’s dinner. (Recipe for the frittata coming soon.)  Now that is how I like to cook: experimenting with a new vegetable, wasting nothing and ending up with pickles and pesto in my fridge and dinner on my table.

I cannot wait until more spring produce arrives in Chicago stores and farmers market so I can try other recipes from Preserving by the Pint, like Pickled Ramps, Garlic Scape and Arugula Pesto, and Rosemary Rhubarb Jelly. And huge congratulations to my friend Marisa on another beautiful and useful book! I hope you are inspired to check it out.

Full disclosure time: I received a complimentary review copy of Preserving by the Pint. All opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.