The Food Column: Canning around with Marisa McClellan


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The Pittsburgh Canning Exchange kicks off the local fruit-and-vegetable season this weekend with a duo of events featuring Marisa McClellan, a young canning expert whose blog site, foodinjars.com, puts a trendy spin on an ancient art.

She also will hit a few other farmers markets and the like while she’s in the neighborhood, so see below for her full schedule while she’s in the ’Burgh promoting her new cookbook, “Preserving by the Pint.”

Her appearance is only part of the attraction for the unique Canning Exchange events. Saturday’s Rhubarb Social from 7 to 10 p.m. at Marty’s Market in the Strip District also features live music, hors d’oeuvres and rhubarb desserts prepared by Marty’s, rhubarb-gin cocktails made by Wigle Whiskey, canning demos and merchandise, and a “Leave a Jar, Take a Jar” table for home-preserved concoctions. And Sunday’s Spring Canning Workshop from 1 to 3 p.m. at Legume Bistro in North Oakland will allow an exclusive small group to learn firsthand from Ms. McClellan and take home a jar of pickles.

Her book tour was a coup for the Canning Exchange, co-founder Chelsea Burket said, because she’s “really been on the forefront of making canning and food preservation more hip and accessible for young people.”

Though she grew up in Southern California and Portland, Ore., Ms. McClellan has made Philadelphia her home. When she was new to Philly at age 22, she went blueberry picking with a friend and came home with 13 pounds of blueberries.

She’d grown up canning with her family, so it seemed natural for her to turn those berries into jam. But what made all the difference was that she was no longer the helper; she was the person in charge.

“That first batch was so satisfying,” she said.

Now she makes her living through food preservation – a combination of writing her blog, teaching canning classes, writing cookbooks and freelance writing for food52.com, the Food Network blog, “Fine Cooking” and other publications and websites.

Her new cookbook highlights what she calls “micro-batch canning” for people who perhaps live in the city or pull produce from a community-supported agriculture box or a tiny backyard garden.

The book contains such recipes as Honey-Sweetened Strawberry Jam (see recipe, which she’ll demo on some of her Pittsburgh stops), homemade pizza sauce, and a pear-caramel sauce that is canner-friendly because it doesn’t involve the usual dairy products.

The recipes are “for a pint, a quart, or one or two pounds of fruit,” she said. “The investment is low, in both time and resources.”

But it’s also a way to get people hooked: They try that first tiny batch, and then they want to start sticking everything in jars.

Her schedule of Pittsburgh stops follows. Also, note that at the Rhubarb Social, the Pittsburgh Canning Exchange will unveil its full season of community canning parties and other events – at least one per month through November. Watch this column in future weeks for announcements of Canning Exchange events.

Marisa McClellan canning events

Farmers@Firehouse Demo and Book Signing: Watch Ms. McClellan demo Honey-Sweetened Strawberry Jam (see recipe) and get your cookbook signed. 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 14, at Farmers@Firehouse market on Penn Avenue in the Strip District. farmersatfirehouse.com.

Rhubarb Social: Food and drink from Marty’s Market and Wigle Whiskey, canning demos (including Pittsburgh Canning Exchange’s own Chelsea Burket, who will demo either pickled rhubarb or vanilla-rhubarb jam), live music, canning cookbooks and merchandise, book signings with Ms. McClellan and more. 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 14, at Marty’s Market in the Strip District. $15; proceeds will help the Pittsburgh Canning Exchange keep its community canning events low-priced this year. canningexchange.org.

Spring Canning Workshop: Join Ms. McClellan for a hands-on pickling workshop and a small-batch jam demo, using recipes from her latest cookbook. 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, June 15, at Legume Bistro in North Oakland. $35; space is limited to 15 participants. canningexchange.org.

East Liberty Farmers’ Market Book Signing: Cookbook sales and signings from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Monday, June 16, at the market at Station Street and North Euclid Avenue.

Demo and Talk at Squirrel Hill Library: Ms. McClelland will demonstrate Honey-Sweetened Strawberry Jam and offer samples after her talk. 6 p.m. Monday, June 16, at the Squirrel Hill Library. Registration required: 412-422-9650.

Brunch and dinner

Meanwhile, here are a couple of other upcoming food-related events:

“Celebrating the Bagel” brunch: New York-style brunch featuring bagels; learn about the history of the bagel and enjoy tarot card readings and live performances. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 14, at Most Wanted Fine Art in Garfield. Free. cafeconlechepgh.com.

Jarosinski Farms Dinner: Enjoy a local foods dinner in an Amish wooden barn, on a farm where some of the food was grown. 5 p.m. Saturday, June 21, at Jarosinski Farm in Buffalo. $100 per person; ages 21 and up only. 412-841-8381 or farmerstable.org.

Honey-sweetened Strawberry Jam

1 quart strawberries (approximately 1½ pounds)

1 cup honey

Juice of 1/2 lemon

5 to 6 sprigs thyme

Chop berries and place them in a bowl. Add honey and lemon juice and stir. Strip thyme leaves off branches and add them to the bowl. Stir to combine.

When honey has dissolved and the strawberries are quite juicy, scrape the mixture into a pan. Bring to a bubble and cook over high heat for 8 to 12 minutes, stirring regularly, until the jam is thick and sticky. It is done when you can pull a spatula through the cooking fruit and it doesn’t immediately rush in to fill the space.

Funnel jam into 2 prepared half-pint jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. Makes 2 half pints.

Notes: Once opened, preserves sweetened with honey don’t last as long as those made with sugar. If your household can’t eat a half pint of this jam within 2 or 3 weeks, consider canning it in 4-ounce jars.

-- “Preserving by the Pint” by Marisa McClellan (Running Press, March 2014, $23)


Rebecca Sodergren: pgfoodevents@hotmail.com or on Twitter @pgfoodevents.

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