Modern Day Preserving

Suzanne Klein
Chief Yummy Officer
Savory Spice Shop

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Modern Day Preserving

“Anyone can make delicious jams and jellies. Even city dwellers.” – from The Spice Cookbook by Avanelle Day and Lillie Stuckey.

Anyone can make delicious jams and jellies. Even city dwellers.” – from The Spice Cookbook by Avanelle Day and Lillie Stuckey, published in 1964.

I discovered this great reminder in a vintage cookbook that sits on my desk. While I don’t cook much out of the book, I often thumb through it for spice inspiration or a good chuckle. It’s like stepping back in time reading recipes on how to preserve crab apples, gooseberries, quince, mayhaws (a type of hawthorn berry), and scuppernong (a large muscadine, which is a species of grape)—I had to Google those last two.

I used to think of preserving as something only grandmothers do. Mostly grandmothers who grew up on or live near a farm. Maybe it’s because my first experience with preserving is so closely tied to my own grandmother, who lived in a rural northern Michigan town that was surrounded by farms. Summers at her house often involved trips to a local strawberry farm, where we would fill crate after crate with the sweet, fragrant berries we’d pick by hand. We’d lug the crates back to her house and spend hours in her small kitchen washing and hulling the strawberries that she and my aunt would miraculously turn into the best strawberry freezer jam I’ve ever had—it’s still my favorite to this day.

For many years, I left the preserving to the grandmothers. But I finally discovered that there’s nothing stopping us “city dwellers” from preserving when I attended my first food swap event a few summers ago. A local group organizes these monthly events, where people come to talk food and swap their homemade goodies for others’ homemade goodies. I brought a loose leaf herbal tea that I blended from scratch. I came home with pickled blueberries, Concord grape jam, habanero jelly, rhubarb syrup, and green tomato chutney. It was better than a trip to the farmers’ market! Most of these preserved products originated in the swappers’ own backyards or plots in urban community gardens. And most of the swappers, as it turned out, were not grandmothers. These were folks of all ages and experience levels that just wanted to get together and share their small harvest with other food lovers.

A HUGE haul from my local food swap.

That swap inspired me to start taking on my own canning projects at home, practicing my preserving skills for future swaps. As a result, I was thrilled when we got into the canning, pickling, and preserving portion of our Savory Spice Seed to Seed promotion this summer. Mike shared some of his favorite Pickling Spice Memories and Sam gave us some Quick Pickling 101 tips. And now I’m continuing the canning conversation by looking at recipes that preserve all types of fruits and vegetables in different ways.

When I say “preserving,” I’m basically talking about everything other than pickling, which includes these different techniques of cooking down fruit or vegetables with sugar:

  • Jams: Crushed (or mashed) fruit and sugar, cooked down to thicken into a spread.
  • Preserves: Similar to jams, but the fruit retains more texture, e.g. the fruit pieces remain chunky.
  • Jellies: Made from the juice of the fruit, so it is smooth in texture with little or no bits of fruit, skin, or seeds remaining.
  • Marmalades: Typically made with chopped citrus fruit and containing sliced or chopped citrus peel.
  • Chutneys: A type of condiment that involves a savory and sweet combination of vegetables, fruit, sugar, spices, and vinegar.

Depending on the recipe you’re following, you won’t always have to spend a full day hand-picking bushels of fruit and another day in the kitchen canning your harvest. A lot of modern day preserving recipes work just as well with grocery store produce and can yield just a few jars of preserved goods instead of a whole pantry full.

Below are some of my favorite preserving recipes the test kitchen made during this years’ canning season. Each one of these is a great beginner-level recipe that yields just enough to get you comfortable with what you're canning before you commit to doubling or tripling a batch to take to a food swap or wrap up as holiday gifts.

Apple Butter
To make this fruit butter, you cook apples (spiced with a healthy dose of cinnamon) for several hours to yield this spread that is somewhere between an applesauce and a jam.

Derby’s Spiced Plum Jam
I’m a huge fan of cardamom, which is why I’m a huge fan of this recipe. Depending on how ripe your plums are and how much you crush them while cooking, this can end up as smooth jam or chunky preserves.

Tomatillo Mole Jam
I like this one because it’s savory and because it’s different. It’s basically a jam version of our traditional Mexican mole sauce recipe. It’s delicious with roast chicken or as a sauce for quesadillas.

Jalapeño Jelly
This is one of my favorites to make for holiday parties. With three flavor options (Urfa + Aleppo chiles, Mulling Spices + cinnamon sticks, or raspberry extract), you can please a variety of different palates. Serve over a block of cream cheese with crackers on the side.

Red Onion Marmalade
An onion jam is often referred to as marmalade because the slices of onion resemble the citrus peel slices found in a traditional marmalade. This one is both savory and sweet and makes a great burger or flatbread topping. (Or eat it straight from the jar—it’s that good.)

Smoked Serrano Cranberry Chutney
Spice up your traditional holiday cranberry sauce with an easy chutney instead. This addictive sauce is delicious alongside roast pork or turkey.

Have any spiced preserving favorites of your own? Or your grandmother’s? Submit your recipe so we can share it! For more of our favorite canning recipes, visit the

Comments on this Article

(guest), on October 01, 2015

Can't eat most prepared food from the grocery store - too much sugar - am going to give this a whirl - feeling inspired - thank you!

suzykklein (registered user) on October 01, 2015

Hi Meredith - So glad you're inspired! I can speak from experience that all of the recipes in this post are easy for beginners. And you adjust the sugar levels in most of them to adapt to your taste. Have fun! - Suzanne

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