Having an inspiring, clear resource for canning as a beginner is of paramount importance. Easy to follow and successful recipes with clear photographs and directions make the process of canning fruitful, fun, and entirely satisfying. While I certainly hope that you’ll find this blog to be your go-to resource for a beginning canner, I could never hope to be the be-all and end-all in that department; there’s room for many cookbooks on your proverbial shelf. This post shares the books I and others I know have found to be invaluable in hopes you can add them to your wish list too.
This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions remain my own.
If the idea of canning is completely new to you, and you are not even ready to commit to a tangible cookbook yet, and aren’t even sure if you can can, I wrote a little ebook just for you. Canning 101 is meant for a brand new beginner. When I got started I felt overwhelmed and uncertain about what I needed, if I could even do it all, what all the boiling was about, and if I would make myself sick in the process. With lots of nervous practice over several seasons, pouring over several now sticky-paged texts (listed below!) while stirring (and scorching!), I got pretty darn good and totally comfortable canning. That awful feeling of uncertainty made a big impact on me and when I started helping friends and now my Dear Readers learn how to can, I decided to write down everything a person needed to know just to get started into an ebook. This ebook has 30 easy to read pages and includes 4 beginner friendly recipes, an equipment checklist, my Acid & Canning Guide, and explains the whole process of water bath canning so you can begin with confidence. Grab it here!
If you are a beginner and don’t want a giant, shelf hogging resource, the 200 page, 500 recipe Ball Blue Book (no, it isn’t blue) Guide to Preserving is an excellent choice. It has a very clear introductory chapter (all good canning books do) and many recipes that are beyond boring. Think Sweet Cherry- Loganberry Jam and Mango Relish. Um, yes please.
I like how it sounds at once dramatic yet truthful when I say this canning book is the one that started it all for me. Canning for a New Generation spoke to me in a literal way; I felt like, hey, I’m part of the ‘new generation’ & I want to learn canning, and so with the pregnant nesting instinct in full force, I ordered my copy. My pantry shelves haven’t been the same since. I love this book because it has both classic recipes that would be familiar to our grandparents like strawberry jam and cucumber pickles but it has many, many recipes like kimchi and escabeche that elevate your canning from basic to badass in short order. Her instructions are clear (like all the books in this lineup) and I love her writing style. Not every cookbook is a joy to read but this one definitely is. I appreciate how it is arranged by season; You can preserve your way through, from front to back, and to me, that makes sense. You should be reading recipes about tomatoes when bell peppers are also ripe because they will be the next display down at the market. I find that arrangement to be the most inspirational. I wouldn’t have sought out a recipe for pickled pearl onions because I had never eaten them but because I was reading in the Spring section, and already going to be in the produce department for other Spring ingredients, I tried them and loved them. Get your copy by clicking the photo link below.
Food in Jars is the blog that I started following for regular canning inspiration and was actually the first food blog I ever followed. I find this eponymous book to be wonderful because her batch sizes are smaller and that is important for several reasons. Smaller batches take less time and gratification sooner rather than later is pretty important when getting started canning. Smaller batches are more manageable for smaller family sizes and kitchen sizes. I have a teeny tiny kitchen and I don’t have room for flat after flat of produce (though sometimes I still haul some home) and her recipes fit that need. Furthermore, small batches really fit with the idea of preserving because it is sensible to do so; many of her recipes in this book (and blog posts, for that matter) refer to the idea that she’s going to can up the last few peaches remaining on the counter or can the delicious remaining abundance of lemons before the go bad. Her recipes speak to the practicality and sensibility inherent in canning and I find that very valuable. You won’t be sorry if you get any of her books, but this is the one that I enjoy.
Well Preserved by Eugenia Bone was mentioned in Canning for a New Generation and one love affair led to another. While the recipes in Well Preserved are not more difficult, I would say they are in some ways more sophisticated or more, “Canning 2.0”. They include recipes like cherries in wine, an excellent marinara sauce, and she even has a chapter on smoking meats (done in a tiny apartment, not in some outdoor smoker from Cabela’s). Her book is arranged differently from the others and in a very useful way. She offers a recipe, and then 3 recipes that follow that use the basic recipe. So she not only tells you how to can a delicious tomatillo sauce but how to use it up in a variety of recipes. This becomes very important in the longevity of your canning experience as it is pretty discouraging to go through all the work of preserving 24 jars of grape jam to realize six months later that your family doesn’t actually eat a lot of toast. You’ll quit canning if you don’t end up loving the fruits of your labor and her book addresses that concern well.
The most experienced and prolific canner I know is my friend Rita. She has been friends with my grandmother for years and I have been hearing about Rita’s gardening and preserving prowess all my life. When I started canning, the most obvious resource beyond my own mother and grandmother was Rita. When I called and asked her what canning book was the very best, she said that the Ball Complete Book of Canning was THE book to get. It has over 400 recipes and at over 450 pages; you won’t run out of inspiration any time soon. Rita described it well by saying, “You know how all canning books have a berry jam recipe? Well this one has raspberry jam, raspberries in wine, raspberry sauce…” It has everything. Grab it from the photo link below!
If you are interested in the idea of preserving but aren’t ready to take the boiling water plunge to start canning just yet, I have created a super simple and completely FREE email course to help you get started making SHRUBS. Shrubs are a sweet tart syrup made with vinegar and fruit or vegetable and it requires no cooking skill whatsoever. When you sign up, I will send you 6 easy to read emails over the course of a week so by the end, you will be ready to enjoy your own shrubs! I can’t wait to help you get started!
What do you think, Wildflowers? What canning book do you have and love? Share in the comments below!