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Marisa McClellan on How to Really Jam

Think you know how to jam? Meet Marisa McClellan, writer, teacher, blogger, and master canner. She’s got all the canning tips and tricks you could need, and if you’re in Philly you can catch her this Saturday March 29  for a free demo and book signing at Reading Terminal Market, 10 a.m. to 2!

Until then here’s the scoop from Marisa on jamming:

1.     What’s your story? How’d you get to be the queen of jamming?

I grew up doing a little bit of canning. We always managed to live in houses with fruit trees or berry bushes and so my mom would make jam and can it.  It was something that I grew up knowing and liking. Then, when I was in my mid-twenties, I went blueberry picking with a friend and came home with 13 pounds of blueberries. I made a big batch of jam with some of my berries and was totally hooked. I started making more and more varieties of jam and then eventually started the blog as a way to document my projects. I had no idea when I was first starting that it would explode in such a dramatic fashion or that writing about and teaching canning would become my career.

2. What about canning really gets you going?

I love the fact that it lasts. When you make a meal, you get a relatively short amount of pleasure from it. But when you make jam or pickles or can tomatoes you get to enjoy that work for a year or more. I also love the alchemy of it. You take a few relatively simple ingredients and transform them into something that is truly more than the sum of those parts.

3. Do you think teaching was your calling?

Yes, absolutely. I knew from the time I was 13 years old that some part of my life’s work was going to involve speaking in front of groups of people. At that time, I had no idea I’d be speaking about canning, but this innate inclination to learn the minutia of something and then share it with people has always been in me.

4. Anything new from you that we should be on the look out for?

Yes! My new book just came out: Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces. The book features lots of teeny tiny batches of preserves that are quick to make and use just a  pound or two of produce. My hope is that it will make canning accessible for people who have long believed it was too hard or messy.

5. Do you have a favorite preservation technique?

Well, a basic boiling water bath will always be my first love. That said, I’ve been getting more and more into fermentation lately and I’m finding it really satisfying.

6. Anything we should avoid preserving?

If you’re new to food preservation, the most important thing is to start with a reliable, tested recipe. Canning is both an art and a science and so you shouldn’t be inventing your own recipes. Stick with high acid foods like jams, chutneys and pickles.

7. How about a fool proof recipe for canning beginners?

As far as fool proof recipes go, there’s nothing easier than tomato jam. You just combine all the ingredients in a big pot and cook it down until it’s quite thick and sticky. It’s delicious with cheese, roasted meats or baked tofu. http://foodinjars.com/2010/09/tomato-jam/

8. What’s the dream?

The dream is to continue to do what I’m doing. I hope to start giving up some of my freelance work in order to concentrate more of my efforts on my own site. I also have plans to start making some videos and it would be cool if that led somewhere fun.

9. What’s your favorite thing to make?

That’s hard but when it comes to canning my favor thing it to go to a u- pick farm or farmers market and find a fruit or vegetable that’s in season and sparks an idea. I love the organic inspiration!

To find out where you can see Marisa live check out her upcoming canning classes.

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