Anyone’s who’s been in my home knows I’m a a bit of a bibliomane…an entire wall in our living/dining room is devoted to books (and just as many are shelved in the basement). Cookbooks and books about preserving abound, and especially this time of year, you can hardly find a flat surface that doesn’t have a recently perused preserving book on it. Here are the ones you’re most likely to find lying around right now:
Well Preserved by Eugenia Bone was my favorite find from last year. Many of her Italian-influenced, mostly savory preserves found a place in my pantry, including Marinated Artichokes, Roasted Red Bell Peppers, Tuna in Olive Oil (my first pressure canning project), and Smoked Chicken Breast. Bone has a no-nonsense, anyone-can-do-this and it’s-gonna-be-great attitude and her book has delicious recipes for using every preserve. Be sure to visit her blog.
Fancy Pantry by Helen Witty covers an amazing variety of preserves. Her head notes are mouth-watering and completely draw me in every time. Some of her methods–like no-added-pectin preserves, are traditional, yet within the realm of USDA safe canning guidelines. I especially like that many recipes call for the by-products of other recipes. For example, Sweet Pickled Bing Cherries yields vinegar from which you can make Cherry Vinegar, while the seeds and pulp leftover from making Raspberry Jelly get a second life infusing a lightly fermented European-Style Raspberry Syrup. The book is out of print, but used copies are usually available at Amazon.
For Southern style canning, I like Putting Up, by Stephen Downdy. Sunchoke Relish (just add to cooked potatoes for amazing potato salad), Corn Liquor BBQ Sauce, and Peach Chutney are good examples of what you’ll find in there.
If you are at all interested in lactofermentation, check out Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation. He’ll teach you to make mead, kraut, miso, cheese, beer, sourdough…if it’s made with the encouragement of microscopic life, Sandorkraut has got it covered. He encourages a no-fear sensibility that is refreshing against the “follow USDA food preservation guidelines or die” attitude found in many conventional canning books.
Lastly, my favorite all-around preserving books, especially for beginners, is Preserving the Harvest by Carol Costenbader. Clear instructions on all preserving methods, charts for things like how long to steam or blanch vegetables before freezing, tips galore–kinda like having an experienced food preservationist at your side, reminding you to do things like get all your gear washed and ready to go the night before heading out to pick berries or buy a couple bushels of tomatoes, so you can get right to it while your produce is still at its peak.