When my husband and I first started canning more than 20 years ago, I picked up a copy of the Ball Blue book, and it became our canning Bible. When we got married, we gave the guests Bread and Butter Pickles as favors. The pickles came from our garden and the recipe from the Ball Blue Book. While I’ve picked up a few more canning books over the years, my dog-eared Ball Blue book is my go-to for recipes and answers to canning problems.
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When I was asked to review the 37th edition of the Ball Blue book, I gladly agreed. Our garden may be gone this year as we get ready to move, yet we still can and preserve food. The techniques and recipes in the Ball Blue book are not just for home gardeners. They’re for anyone who wants to eat garden-fresh flavor year-round without the extra chemicals found in processed food. They’re for anyone who wants to stretch their food as much as possible by making pickled watermelon rinds and canning stock. They’re for anyone who appreciates homemade strawberry jam filled with chunks of strawberries on freshly baked bread.
What’s in the 37th Edition of the Ball Blue Book?
Expanding more than 50% from the previous edition, the 37th Edition of the Ball Blue book has more than 75 new recipes. I found lots of tips for creating your own versions of the canning recipes, step by step basic canning instructions with pictures, and the most up to date information on canning.
Scanning through the recipes, I found our favorite grape jelly, cranberry conserve, and several sweet relishes. One chapter is devoted solely to tomatoes. While we’ve only canned meat stock, I was intrigued by the recipes for canning rabbit, squirrel, and game birds, perfect for families living off the land.
Every year, my husband insists on making jams and jellies to give to neighbors, friends, family, and coworkers. If you like to do the same, check out the Something Extra chapter. From Apple-Maple jam to Roasted Red Pepper spread to Blackberry Liqueur Sauce, each recipe is a small batch made specifically for half pint jars. While you could double these recipes when making them for gifts, it’s usually best not to since the recipe may not perform as expected.
Canning Basics for Beginners
The most important part of the Ball Blue Book is the What You Need to Know section at the beginning of the book. Canning fresh food properly ensures that you keep your family safe and prevent their exposure to molds, yeasts, and bacteria that can make them sick. This section walks you through the fine details of following a canning recipe with tips like measuring headspace and removing air bubbles. Photographs are included to illustrate the points to ensure you know exactly what to do.
Not sure why your batch of jelly failed? Check the Problem Solver at the back of the Ball Blue Book. When you first start canning, you’ll find yourself referring to this section constantly. Mark it with a sticky note to make it easy to find when you need a fast answer.
Save Money with Freezing Food
I freeze food all the time. Since we’re a family of 7, we buy in bulk when we shop. Properly freezing food ensures that money we spend on food is not wasted. With our current situation of no garden this year, the freezing section is the most important part of the Ball Blue Book for me. I have all the information I need in 20 pages to freeze whatever I make for my family.
The Freezing section outlines the types of containers to use for freezing, along with information on freezer storage expectancy. Freezing extends the life of food, albeit frozen food does have a shelf life. If you want special recipes for the freezer, you’ll find them in this section. If you need to know how to prepare green beans and other vegetables for freezing, you’ll find it here.
Tip: When our harvest started, the amounts of vegetables I could pick was small. To ensure the freshness of the vegetables and create an easy side dish for my family, I would steam several vegetables and mix them together in quart freezer bags. Always lay the bag flat when you place it in the freezer. Once it’s frozen, stack the bags to maximize your storage.
At $13.59, the Ball Blue book is a bargain for a canning recipe book. This book has all the information you’ll need to get started on preserving food – canning, freezing, and dehydrating. The back has a home canning planning guide with information on the seasonal availability of fruits and vegetables and weight information. A beginner can go a long way with this book, and a veteran will appreciate having reference information in one place.
While I would have liked to see more photos in the book of the recipes, I know this would have added to the cost of the book. I’d much rather see the book remain below $15. I’d prefer to see a spiral bound edition of the book which could lay flat on the kitchen counter. I don’t want to see a Kindle version of the Ball Blue book. To me, one of the beauties of canning are the little tweaks in flavor we can give to recipes to make them our own. Those tweaks need to be written down on the recipes just like Grandma did. An Kindle version just isn’t the same.