Like many of us who spend our nights dreaming of microbes, I started my food preservation journey by canning up all the fruits and veggies I could get my hands on. In the early-mid 2000s, it seemed to be all people were talking about! You can eat locally all year round if you preserve, the food press would say, and I was sold. The end products were fantastic and I loved getting to know my farmers by buying giant quantities of their seconds. What unsold me were a couple of summers with many weekends spent in a kitchen sauna, over a very hot and humid stovetop for hours and hours, making a sweat-salted brine out of the boiling water bath before me.
While I have great respect for the practice, steamy indoor summer days and large kitchen equipment are just not my style. So after not too many seasons of wonderful, local, year-round goods, the giant stovetop canner moved into the basement, where it continues to take up way too much space, and a few of the basic canning books I had accumulated began to live the lives all books must fear: spending their days and nights propping things up and collecting dust at the back of the bookshelf.
Enter canning guru Marisa McClellan’s Preserving by the Pint, a book tailor-made for city dwellers who believe in eating locally all year round. It’s a fantastic book for those of us who love a project but maybe don’t have an entire pantry’s worth of space for just tomato sauce. These recipes make gorgeous food, not just visually gorgeous, but appealing in every way. They are creative, yet approachable. They cover a lot of ground, from figs to turnips and salt preserving to canning. These recipes have been carefully tested; it shows in the flavors that are so well-balanced, they could be walking a tightrope at helicopter altitude. It shows in the smile that appears on the faces of everyone who is lucky enough to get a bite or two.
The recipes are divided by season, fitting for a book that’s all about making the best things about the harvest taste wonderful all year round. They range in difficulty from five minutes of kitchen work all the way up to project territory. And as the title suggests, they mostly give you a pint of final product which suits me extremely well. No standing over a giant pot after hours of washing and prepping fruit and veggies, little need for special equipment (and NO need for large equipment) or special ingredients. This is my kind of preservation book.
This is an intimate book. Marisa shares tales of family life, seasonal rituals and the joys of bi-coastal produce access. I love that each beautifully written recipe gives me a piece of Marisa’s history and pushes me to connect with that particular fruit or vegetable in my own way.
What’s more, not all recipes require a boiling water bath. Some are intended for the fridge (or more aptly in my experience with this book, to be gobbled up immediately by hungry friends). There are even some fermented vegetable recipes here! If you’re a canner looking to broaden your skill set, or if you think you may want to dip your toe into food preservation of all kinds without investing in any equipment, this book should be the number one tool in your kit. I’ve already made quite a few of the recipes from Preserving by the Pint because it’s no trouble at all and the payoff is SO worth it.
Preserved Herbs Recipe from Preserving by the Pint
yields 1/2 pint of preserved herbs
Adapted from Marisa McClellan’s Preserving by the Pint
This finished product falls into my favorite category of foods to make: the secret ingredient. This is something you can sprinkle into any suitable dish at the last minute and have everyone eating it say, “Yum! What’s in this!?” Try it with a wide variety of herb combinations so you can use it in almost any dish. I used shiso, sorrel and huacatay for a citrusy blend. Marisa recommends common garden herbs like parsley, thyme, basil and chervil and I can see a Mediterranean version of this being an amazing addition to my cooking arsenal.
- 4 oz. garden herbs, washed and allowed to dry
- 2 oz. coarse sea salt
- Finely chop your herbs with a very sharp knife. Skip your food processor or dull blade since they will bruise the herbs.
- Place herbs in a bowl and mix in salt. Toss with your (clean) hands to make sure the salt is well-distributed.
- Place contents of bowl into pint jar. Place jar in the fridge.
- Once a day for a week, shake the jar well and then scrape down the sides. Place back in fridge.
- When the herb level in the jar is reduced by half, you’ve got your seasoning! Sprinkle it on any dish that would benefit from your particular choice of herbs.
Note: Marisa is a friend and a mentor. She also happens to be one of the most talented writers and recipe developers working right now. All opinions are here based on the quality of the work and the latter fact and not at all on the former.