Small Batch Preserving Tips

Blogger, canning expert and author Marisa McClellan offers pointers for preserving in small batches.
Book and Jar of Pickled Eggplant and Appetizers on a Cutting Board.

Pickled Eggplant Recipe and Preserving by the Pint Book Review

Pickled Eggplant Recipe and Preserving by the Pint by Marisa McClellan.

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

Pickled Eggplant Recipe and Preserving by the Pint by Marisa McClellan.

Marisa McClellan is the creator and canning expert behind the blog, Food in Jars.  She specializes in small batch preserving of local and seasonal produce. In her cookbook, Preserving by the Pint, McClellan continues her focus on preserving in small batches and offers unique twists on classic canning recipes. The cookbook is divided up by the seasons: each recipe highlighting produce that is available in most places in that time of year. In addition to delicious recipes, McClellan gives serving suggestions on how to use your preserves and well as other recipes and entertaining tips. 

McClellan's specialty is breaking down canning science into an easy to digest format, with a special focus on preserving in small batches. Canning is growing in popularity again, but not everyone wants to put up three dozen jars of blueberry jam. With McClellan's tips in hand, anyone with a small garden or CSA share who wants to capture the taste of seasonal, ripe produce can do so, with as little as a jar or two.  Every recipe in Preserving by the Pint yields two or three jars (most recipes are in half pint batches or 4 ounce jars) and most are simple enough for anyone just getting started in canning.

HGTV sat down to talk with Marisa McClellan about her methods:

Why preserve in small batches?
It used to be that people preserved as a matter of survival. You needed to put up enough to get through the winter and so preserving in large batches was a necessity. These days, home preserving isn't about making it through the cold season. Instead, it's about eating well, preventing waste and the pleasure of homemade food.

What fruit or vegetable do you look forward to preserving each year?
I'm always most excited to preserve apricots, sour cherries and grape tomatoes. I do far more than these simple things, but they are my favorites.

What is your favorite recipe?
It's so hard to pick just one! I find that the small batch pizza sauce recipe is the most useful. As far as the one I most adore, the sour cherries with bourbon are so delicious. I'm also a big fan of the zucchini butter. It's not a recipe that gets canned, but it's a easy, flavorful way to concentrate vast amounts of zucchini and it freezes beautifully.

What are the basic supplies you'd recommend for someone just getting started?
You need a big stock pot to use as a canning pot and something to put in the bottom so that the jars aren't resting in direct contact with the heat of your burner (a round cake cooling rack is a good, inexpensive choice). You need a pan in which to cook your product and some prep tools like a cutting board, peeler and sharp knife. Truly, the only two pieces of dedicated canning gear that you might not have in your kitchen is a jar lifter and a wide mouth funnel. You can do without both of these for a time, but they sure do make the process easier. Oh, and jars!

Any words of wisdom for those nervous about canning?
As long as you're following a recipe from a reliable source, there's very little risk in home canning. Read the recipe several times, make sure you have all the tools and ingredients out and available before you start. And remember, even if the recipe doesn't turn out exactly as you'd hoped, it is still good. Use your imagination to devise alternate applications for runny jam (stir into yogurt!) or soft pickles (chop them and call it relish!). 

Pickled Eggplant With Mint

Makes 3 (half-pint/250 ml) jars

  • 2 cups/480 ml red wine vinegar
  • 1 pound/460 grams medium-size purple eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch/12 mm cubes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup/30 grams mint leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pickling salt

Prepare a small boiling water bath and 3 half-pint/250 ml jars. Place three lids in a small saucepan of water and bring to a gentle simmer. 

Pour the vinegar into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Once it boils, add the eggplant and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.

When the time is up, remove the eggplant cubes from the vinegar with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl. Add the garlic, mint  and salt to combine. 

Pack the eggplant, garlic and mint into the prepared jars and top with the boiling vinegar, leaving a 1/2 inch/12 mm headspace. Tap the jars gently to remove any air bubbles. Add more liquid to return the headspace to 1/2 inch/12 mm, if necessary. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings and process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. 

Recipe reprinted with permission from Preserving by the Pint © 2014 by Marisa McClellan, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Book Group.

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