Book Review: Ana Micka’s "The Fresh Girl’s Guide to Easy Canning and Preserving"

I grew up in rural Minnesota, where my parents have a big back yard with an abundant vegetable garden, and where every summer brings a plethora of tomatoes, peppers, and onions. My mom is a canner, and she taught me there's really only one way to deal with all of these summer foods: canning. My mom spends plenty of time in the kitchen in August and September, peeling, chopping, and stewing the season's bounty. After all is said and done, several clean, hot jars of salsa sit on towels on the kitchen counter. My mom waits in the other room, listening for the sealing “pop,” counting to be sure each jar has properly sealed itself.

I’ve never associated canning with city living, but thanks to local author and canner Ana Micka’s book, The Fresh Girl’s Guide to Easy Canning and Preserving, I am reminded that preserving Minnesota’s delicious summer flavors is not just for those with big back yards. Canning and preserving can be for city and suburban dwellers, too, including anyone who has enough room for a garden or buys in bulk at their local farmers’ market or co-op. The Fresh Girl’s Guide even starts with tips for planting your canning garden, purchasing produce at farmers’ markets, or picking your own at a local farm.

Micka’s how-to-guide cautiously takes readers through both the hot water bath and the pressure canner methods. The book taught me that different foods require different methods -- since the pressure canner can reach higher temperatures, it is meant for preserving foods with lower acidity levels, while the hot water method is perfect for high acid foods, such as tomatoes and fruits.

Throughout the book, Micka repeatedly reminds readers of the things to keep in mind while canning, including rules of sterilizing, adjustments that need to be made for altitude, and being sure not to store any jars that don’t seal properly (you should eat those quickly instead). For more visual learners, the package even includes a DVD that shows you how to do just about everything in the book, from shopping for supplies to using your pressure canner. (Parts of the DVD are actually filmed in The Wedge’s kitchen -- that’s how locally grown this book is.)

The Fresh Girls Guide is really intended for those who have never canned before (like me) -- Micka  wrote the book because friends were asking her for help. If you are experienced in the art of canning, the majority of the "how-to" information in this book will not be new to you, but the recipes might be -- the author includes a slew of them from all over the world for every meal course. (There’s even a lemon grass syrup recipe that can be used for cocktails!) The book also includes the Minnesota State Fair prize-winning apple sauce recipe from Paula Pentel and Callie Wilson.

Although I am still skeptical of my own ability to can -- and of my ability to grow the produce needed to put into the can -- The Fresh Girls Guide has inpired me to try growing my own canning garden next year. That way I won’t have to steal salsa from my mom -- I can make my own.

Canning photo above by Kate NG Sommers.

Dorothy Wickens is an aspiring writer/editor who enjoys cooking, baking, and eating delicious things. This is her first article for Simple, Good, and Tasty.