My family on both sides is from rural Blount County in Eastern Tennessee, and they all put up produce every year. Growing up I ate a lot of pickled beets, canned Kentucky Wonder beans and strawberry freezer-jam, and I guess because of Gran and Pappaw's influence—they're my West grandparents—I've always been interested in the bounty of the garden and the alchemy of the stove.
I started cooking dinners at home when I was about 15 and after college spent time in Berkeley hanging around Chez Panisse. Later I lived in Paris as W Magazine's European editor, where I learned a lot about eating and cooking, and today I'm a confident cook. But wasn't until April 2008 that it even occurred to me to can anything. Then one Saturday I impulsively bought an entire flat of strawberries at the Santa Monica Farmers Market and realized there was no way to eat them all before they went bad. I wondered why I'd never made jam, and ever since I've been trying to figure out how to make preserves that taste exactly how I think they should.