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I have been canning for more than 30 years. So, I have water bath canners, pressure canners, and a food dehydrator and a vacuum sealer already. I am already familiar with the correct USDA methods for canning meats, which is required for many of the main dishes. So I was thrilled with this book which takes things a step further and combines canned meats with other ingredients which you get ready ahead of time and combine in a meal kit. Essentially, you are making ready-to-eat meals at home that are shelf stable. It's a good way to stock a pantry, prepare for emergencies, or have home-made convenience food on hand. However, you don't have to be an expert to use this book. The basics are right there, and the author does remind people to check the USDA guidelines as well. That statement made me trust the recipes all the more. If you are a beginner and want to use this book, please be aware that you should learn to pressure can, and gather up the proper equipment.
This book is not for the type of person who wants to toss a few ingredients in a jar and call it a meal. This book is for those who want to truly create meals ready to eat, from scratch, at home, and are willing to put in the work it takes to do that. These will be convenience foods later, but you do have to prepare them first. The thing is, you are often making 16 meals at once with these recipes. It's going to take some work in the kitchen--but on the day-to-day basis when you come home late from work and don't have time or energy to mess--you have it all done and food prep will just take minutes. So put in the time at the beginning, have short work of it later.
If you already are the kind of person who stores food for emergencies, like I do, then you may already have a lot of the ingredients needed for some recipes on hand. For example, I have things such as dehydrated asparagus and carrots and onions in my pantry already. I also have a food dehydrator and can make my own. But people not used to using these things may be put off by the recipes in this book. Those who store dried foods, however, will find this book a treasure trove of ways to use and rotate their food storage. This is not just book a for "preppers," though. It's designed for people who like to do a lot of food preparation at once so they don't have to do it later. That you can also stock your pantry is a huge side benefit.
There are dozens of recipes that appeal to me and that I plan to try. I will update my review later when I try some of them. I am in the process of getting together some ingredients I need first. My only disappointment with this marvelous new book is that there are no gluten-free alternatives. However, that's a minor complaint because I am capable of converting recipes and plan to do so with some of them. For example, instead of wheat pasta, I will use rice pasta. Instead of regular flour, I will use gluten-free flour and xanthan gum.
There are recipes for everything from omelets made from dried eggs and canned or dried sausage to beef jerky, and some potential favorites look like the turkey pot pie and the pulled pork. The book includes advice about ingredients, and suggestions on where to begin if you are overwhelmed. If your goal is stocking your pantry, it is suggested that you start with vacuum sealing some sides such as noodles, rice or polenta first, then when you have canned your meats, these are ready to add to your meal kit. Recipes for beverages and desserts are included, too.
My family enjoys camping and I can see that having meal kits already prepared that we could just take with us would make the whole trip more fun for me, the cook. While I don't anticipate having to flee my home because of a flood or tornado, I do live in New Hampshire and ice storms have knocked out our power for up to two weeks at a time. The recipes in this book will fill my shelves with meals that can be heated up on my wood stove if I had to.
I feel that the title of the book might make people think it's simply a matter of tossing dry ingredients in a quart jar to create a meal, but it truly is more than that. You must be able to store the jars properly, and be able to seal them so ingredients don't spoil. This is the basic premise of any kind of food preservation, which is what canning, dehydrating, and vacuum sealing is all about. I think that when some see the title "Meals in a Jar" they are remembering that fad awhile back for gifts in a jar where you just layer ingredients and stick on a bow with instructions. This is more involved, but as a seasoned canner, this book excites me, inspires me, and I can't wait to get started. THANK YOU Julie Languille for this concise, clever book. I am absolutely thrilled with it. (and if you've read my reviews, you will see I am not easily impressed)