Interview with Sarah B. Hood and canning resources

During my marmalade making adventure, I was extremely glad to have social media at my disposal. Tweet and (hopefully) you shall be heard.

Sarah is a wonderful person who I met during the Foodie Bake Off. She is known for her award-winning preserves and is the author of We Sure Can! Sarah answered all my newbie questions and was happy to answer a few more for me for this blog.

For someone new to canning, where is the easiest place to start? Jam, jelly, marmalade or pickling?

Probably the easiest are things like cranberry sauce, applesauce and gooseberry jam that require minimal prep and no added pectin, and that are certain to gel properly. Marmalade’s a bit fussier because it requires more chopping and you need to do it a few times before you begin to be able to predict how the peel will turn out. But they all require the same procedure for canning.

A lot of people are afraid to can with all the safety precautions involved. Do you recommend using recipes found online or should it come from a trusted source?
Beginners should use a recent (post 1990) cookbook or a recipe that conforms to the USDA standards found at the National Centre for Home Food Preserving site:

If I want to use different sized jars than stated in the recipe (e.g. using 125mL jars instead of 250mL), do I need to adjust the processing times?
You’ll need longer processing for larger jars. The site above gives processing times for most standard types of preserves.

I love the idea of making a recipe my own. Can you safely change a recipe (e.g. add ingredients/spices) without compromising the acidity levels?

No, and yes. With sweet preserves, if you are certain that the pH of an ingredient is 4.6 or lower (lemons, oranges, strawberries, apples and many more), you can increase the quantity. More acidity is not a problem. However, if you increase the proportion of low-acid ingredients, or decrease the proportion of high-acid ones, you will compromise the safety. Flavourings (spices, essences) used in small amounts will not vary the acidity level to any significant extent, but always compare proportions in a new recipe to those in trusted sources.

With pickling, much of the acidity is likely to come from immersion in vinegar, so you can change the ingredients in a mixed-vegetable pickle (carrots, cauliflower, onions, beans, zucchini, garlic and so on), as long as the ingredients are fully immersed in vinegar that’s at least 5% acid (the label should indicate acidity level).

You have a cookbook out called We Sure Can! What can someone new expect out of the book? What’s a simple and easy recipe to make from it?

We Sure Can! documents the recent rebirth of interest in home canning and the online community of people who are doing it; it’s also an anthology of recipes from people in the US, Canada and the UK, so it provides a wide range of different approaches to similar recipes. Easy Victorian Style Raspberry Jam or Easy Peasy Cranberry Sauce.

Finally, one last question: Is there anything that you’re nervous trying?
Sure, almost anything new. But since I’m an Aries I tend to just charge ahead anyway and see what happens.

Thanks again Sarah for answering these questions!

During my canning research I found Food in Jars to be a great resource. Here are some helpful links from the site:

Air bubbles in finished products
How to check that your seal is good
How to get rid of canned goods gone bad

Looking for fancier labels? Tip Nut has a collection of jar labels.

Here are some ideas of what to do with your preserves:

I found this orange and vanilla marmalade mini cake recipe at Always Order Dessert via Sarah’s blog. It uses an entire jar of marmalade if you’re looking to cull your stash.
Nutty Jam Thumbprints from Once Upon a Chef
African Drumsticks from Adventures Africa Travel
What to do with marmalade? via Chowhound

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