This book helps someone just getting interested in food preservation become a capable and confident canner. The instructions are very easy to follow and the basics on safe canning are adequately explained.
And if that wasn't enough, Ball manages to also make this a go-to resource for the seasoned canner by providing charts & customization instructions so you can (safely) riff to create your own recipes.
Canning basics: gain confidence with this book
The beginning chapter (17 pages long) explains the basics of safety with enough detail that you feel confident canning at home.
For example, when talking about the role of acidity in safe canning, the book explains how different acid levels limit molds, yeasts, and bacteria, as well as the acidic level of common foods. The explanation is paired with a chart, making it easy to visualize and understand in a very succinct manner.
I compared the introductory information covered in this book to Ball's Canning: Back to Basics, and they are nearly identical. In fact, the All New Canning & Preserving book helps beginner canners even more with charts that help visualize and understand how to safely preserve food.
The book's most valuable resource: its charts
Everyone appreciates a well-written recipe, but the real gems in this book are the charts.
The charts provide you with the information necessary to customize a recipe (safely). This is a rarity in the canning world, where altering a recipe can make it unsafe. As a result, you're bombarded with a blanket statement to never change the recipe.
Normally, this is true. If you don't know what you are doing, altering a recipe can make it unsafe. But the canning experts are Ball figured out a way to help people alter recipes to suit their tastes - and to do so safely.
They do this by providing guidelines with easily readable charts. This lets you customize within a given set of rules, while still ensuring your end result will be safe.
For example, I wanted to make the peach-bourbon jam from this book, but the recipe calls for almost 1 cup of sugar per 8 ounce jar. I wanted a lot less sugar than that.
I referred to the chart for jam, which indicated the sugar could be cut by as much as 75%, down to about ¼ cup per jar.
Recipes of all types: something for everyone
The recipes are easy to follow and sometimes come with helpful hints, like using a flat beer for the Berry-Ale Jam reduces foaming. And the collection of recipes range from classics to foodie-inspired flavor combinations.
By my rough categorization, 15% of the recipes are classic, 70% lean towards foodie, 5% include alcohol, and 10% are meant to use the food you preserved (rather than actually preserving it).
It's hard to make a universal judgement on what people consider classic vs foodie, so I've included a few examples of my classifications below.
|Apple pie jam||Peach bourbon jam||Orange banana jam|
|Grape jelly||Citrus wheat beer jelly||Strawberry chamomile jelly|
|Meyer lemon marmalade||Orange shandy marmalade||Orange date cardamom preserves|
|Enchilada sauce||Cherry bourbon BBQ sauce||Homemade worcestershire|
|Dill pickles||Bloody mary mix||Lime pickled radishes|
While many of the recipes will make the modern foodie happy, they aren't full hipster-mode. That may be good or bad, depending on your tastes.
I also mentioned that about 10% of the recipes use the food you preserved. These 'paired' recipes immediately follow the 'main' recipe, rather than being their own section. Here are some examples:
|Canning recipe||Paired recipe|
|Cranberry port jelly||Swedish meatball stroganoff (uses the jelly in the sauce)|
|Strawberry syrup||Strawberry margaritas|
|Eastern shore corn relish||Crab cakes (adds the relish as a topping)|
Lastly, of the 350 recipes, about 85% of them have pictures. The pictures are bright, well photographed, and modern. (They will inspire you to make the recipes).
A focus on water bath canning
The book covers all types of preserving, but heavily favors water bath canning, which accounts for 67% of the recipes.
Water bath recipes go beyond jams and jellies. It also includes salsas, sauces, tomatoes, and pickles - so it seems fair to dedicate a majority of the book to this process.
The remaining third of the book is shared between the rest of the preservation techniques. While there are fewer recipes, they are still top-notch, and skew more classic than creative. Here are some examples:
|Preservation method||Example recipe|
|Pressure canning||French onion soup|
|Curing / Smoking||Smoked maple-juniper bacon|
You'll find helpful charts in each of these chapters as well. For example, the dehydration chapter includes charts for drying 16 kinds of fruit and 24 vegetables, like making banana chips or drying your own herbs.
Volume - how much do the recipes make?
Most water bath recipes make 4-6 half pint (8 oz) jars, which is a lot, but not too much for most cases. All of the charts use 4 half-pint jars.
- A large pot of boiling water fits 6 jars. If you make more, you need to do it in batches or have two pots.
- This amount usually requires 8-12 individual fruits (like 8 apples to make an apple-pie jam).
If you are making jam, you can check out the Ball pectin calculator page (which downloads PDFs). It has measurements for batches from 1 jar up to 10 jars. This lets you use up a small amount of fruit, like the 3 spare apples sitting on the counter.
Larger jars are used for most pickling recipes as well as other types of preserving (like bloody mary mix or a pasta sauce).
Conclusion: I highly recommend this book
I've used this book so much over the past that I wonder why I ever put it away. I always bring it out a week later when I have too many apples sitting on my counter. Or when I want to make a marmalade with leftover orange peels lying around after juicing them for something else.
The recipes are easy to follow and turn out great. Many of them are unique enough that they make great gifts too. Throughout the year, I've been canning to create a 'gift set' for family and friends.
- Cherries preserved in syrup for cocktails (made in June)
- Peach bourbon jam for cheese boards (made in July) - get the lower sugar recipe I made here
- Apple pie jam to go with a pre-made scone mix (made in October)
A note on canning supplies during COVID
Canning supplies are the latest thing to get hit by the pandemic. While frustrating, it's exciting that so many people are doing it. I've compiled a list of places to buy supplies at reasonable costs, as well as what the typical price should be (outside of pandemic pricing).