Six-Pack with Marisa McClellan

With a little work, these…

Tomatoes on scale
can =

Preserved tomatoes in jars
Cue the drooling.

The above is an example of the fruits of home-canning, a method of preservation dating back to when Napoleon was more than just a dessert. Canning is enjoying a bit of a resurgence lately, likely on the coattails of the larger celebrity food craze and focus on local, organic foods. Part of that renewal are entrepreneurial home cooks who take the whisk by the…um, handle, and showcase their knowledge via the internet. One of our favorites is Food In Jars by Philly’s own (!) Marisa McClellan, who is also writing a cookbook based on the popular blog. We caught up with Marisa for our first Six Pack, a quick Q & A with experts in their food field. This week, Marisa eases canning fears and shares some insights.

Toque Tips: Why “food in jars”?

Marisa: I grew up in a household that did a bit of canning. My mom typically made a couple of batches of jam each summer and I loved to help her with it. It wasn’t so much canning that it was a burden, just enough that I felt comfortable with it. In the spring of 2009, I determined to start my own food blog (before that, I had been the editor of Slashfood, AOL’s now-defunct food blog) and I found that food in jars held the most appeal for me. Thus, a blog was born.

 T: So many people have a paralyzing fear of canning, thinking you need a PHD in chemistry to pull it off. Is that true?

M: You definitely don’t need an advanced degree to can at home. When it comes to canning, people are most scared of botulism. Well, botulism can’t grow in high acid environments. If made correctly (meaning you follow a tested recipe and don’t make up your own), jams, jellies and pickles are all high acid and so perfectly safe.

T: Have you experienced any canning disasters?

M: In my early days, I definitely had a few catastrophes. I made a mixed fruit jam that didn’t set and separated in the most unappealing way. I’ve also dealt with my share of soggy pickles and blah chutneys.

T: After doing this for a while, have you seen a positive economic impact, personally?

M: I don’t really can for the economy of it. I do it to feel more in tune with the seasons and to have greater control over what goes into my food. However, it does save me when it comes to tomatoes. I buy 100 pounds at the end of each summer and can them whole. I don’t have to buy a single can of tomatoes for the rest of the year, which is fantastic.

T: Home cooking in general, and canning in particular, seem to have gained in popularity recently. Think that trend will continue?

M: I certainly hope that it’s a trend that’s gaining strength. I think there’s a huge amount of value that comes from spending a bit more time in the kitchen and investing in what you eat. I know that I always feel better, both physically and emotionally, when I eat food I’ve cooked at home.

T:  Absolute favorite recipe?

M: I think it’s the tomato jam I posted last summer. That stuff is amazing. (Toque Tip! You can see the finished tomato jam in the photo, above.).

Thank you again to Marisa for taking the time. Be sure to check out her blog, Food In Jars!

Ripe Tomato

Interested in canning? Fante’s carries a wide selection of Ball jars (in our retail store), copper preserving pans and other canning equipment to get you started. Marisa also offers classes and is available for demos with private groups. She can be contacted through her website.


Filed under Canning, Veggie

3 responses to “Six-Pack with Marisa McClellan

  1. It’s true – your tomato jam is magical! Great interview. 🙂

  2. judithky

    Love that Food In Jars!

  3. Caz

    I’ll vouch for the tomato jam recipe, I make it often and whenever someone tries it they immediately wanna know how to make it too. Props! x

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