Refined sugar is public enemy number one today. So, what's a home cook who loves to can and preserve summer fruits and vegetables to do? Can the natural way!
Author Marisa McClellan shows us how using alternatives to sugar such as coconut, maple and honey can produce delicious results in her new book, Naturally Sweet Food in Jars. The book featuring 100 recipes with natural sweeteners was just released in March, and we are excited to welcome Marisa into our kitchen this Friday, June 10 at 5:30pm for a free demonstration and cookbook signing at The Chopping Block at the Mart.
Marisa has taught canning and preserving classes for more than a decade. You may remember her from her wildly popular blog and cookbook of the same name, Food in Jars. She is known as one of the contemporary canning movement’s most visible heroines, and readers have come to count on her for manageable small-batch recipes ideal for home cooks or compact urban kitchens (she should know: she has an 80-square foot kitchen in Philadelphia!). The most a recipe from her latest book yields is 4 to 5 pints.
Naturally Sweet Food in Jars is a collection of canning and preserving recipes that use only less-refined sweeteners such as maple sugar and syrup, coconut sugar, dates, agave, honey, dried fruits and juices. These natural sweeteners can be more costly than refined sugar, but Marisa uses just enough of each ingredient to lend flavor to the recipe without contributing excessive sweetness. "To be fair, these natural sweeteners are expensive so you are investing a lot of money and time into the preserves. By doing them in small batches, it’s more manageable, affordable and accessible to people," said Marisa. She likens the transition to natural sweeteners to upgrading to organic produce: a small exchange in cost that contributes immeasurably to the nutritional value and quality of the food.
"When we focus on refined sugars, it makes us so much more aware of just how much we are eating in our daily lives. The beauty of the natural sweeteners I used in the book is that they taste really good. It’s not a book of sacrifices. These natural sweeteners really bring so much more to the finished product," said Marisa.
However, transforming her own recipes and creating new ones was a challenge that came with writing this book. "This was the hardest book I’ve written because there wasn’t established recipes. When you are working with sugar, you have lots of recipes as guidelines, and you generally know what works and what doesn’t. With natural sweeteners, I had to do a deep dive and research acid, shelf life, water activity and much more to make sure the recipes were delicious not only going into the jar but being consumed months later. There were lots of recipes that didn’t work throughout the process. I accepted that and moved on, so I’m really proud of the 100 recipes in this book," said Marisa.
Marisa says her favorite recipe is the Caramelized Red Onion Jam that is sweetened with maple sugar. "I'm somewhat embarrased to admit that the initial inspiration came while watching Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on Food Network. Guy Fieri was interviewing someone making a caramelized onion jam for a pizza. I wasn’t interested in the pizza, but I was in the onion condiment, so I went off and made it my own," she said.
If you'd like to meet Marisa and watch her make her Strawberry Cocoa Jam sweetened with coconut sugar as well as demonstrate how to use the boiling water bath method for safe, shelf-stable preservation, join us for:
Friday, June 10
The Chopping Block at the Mart
We'll have copies of all three of Marisa's books: Food in Jars, Preserving by the Pint and Naturally Sweet Food in Jars available for purchase at a 10% discount during this event.
If you want to delve even deeper into this subject, The Chopping Block's Summer Canning and Preserving classes begin in July. Sign up for Sunday, July 10 or Friday, July 29 at our Lincoln Square location. You'll learn how to make Classic Dill Pickles, Peach-Vanilla Jam, Red and Green Hot Pepper Jelly, Tomato Salsa and Pickled Corn and Fennel Relish in these canning classes.