We've all canned a jillion jars of jam and whatnot, but where the rubber really hits the road in preserving is practicality. Once you've empowered yourself with the ability to preserve the things you really use in the everyday, you liberate yourself from the grocery store shelf. That's what I love about the new book Not Your Mama's Canning Book by Rebecca Lindamood. In the vein of Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry and others, this book strives to arm the canner with a staple of foods that either turn into easy meals, or turn the humdrum into something special. See, for example, these zesty marinated mushrooms, delicious straight from the jar or as part of an antipasto plate. The author took time out of her schedule, busy no doubt promoting the book, writing her blog Foodie with Family, and raising her kids, to talk to us.
PD: This book is wonderfully tailored to building a pantry of sensible, applicable items. Like many of us, you went through a phase of canning too much of some things, and too little of others. What is your advice to novice canners when considering what to can, and how much?
RL: It is great to can all the things, but it's a little disheartening when you put all the work into it and it languishes on the shelf. I think the best advice I have for novice canners is to can something you know you like. Are you crazy for jam? Start there. Are you a mustard nut? Make your own. As you gain confidence in your ability not to kill people with botulism, branch out. As for how much to put up? The first year you make a recipe, stick with a single batch until you know you love it, then calculate how much you think you'll eat. For example, the Smoky Roasted Salsa that is in Not Your Mama's Canning Book is one of the items we seem to have to increase every year to keep up with our ability to consume it.
PD: You live in rural Upstate New York, but your recipes pull from a global palate, including Mexico, Korea, India and more. Where do you derive your inspiration?
RL: I was an exchange student in high school and was bit hard by the travel bug. It seemed to me that my biggest human connection moments in all of my travel came when I shared food with people. Some of the global influence comes from my passion for travel, some of it comes from honouring the roots of my my multi-cultural family, some of it is just because food is good everywhere, man. I want to eat all the best the world has to offer.
PD: What preserved item do you turn to most frequently in the kitchen, either for a quick meal or to take a dish to the next level?
RL: Oooh. That's like asking which kid I like best. If I go by volume alone, I have to say we use the Smoky Roasted Salsa the most. We love it as a dip, but I also use it as the cooking liquid for roasts, and as a flavour boost for soups. Whole grain Dijon mustard comes in a close second. I put that stuff on and in everything.
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