Each spring, I like to pick up a few new books in anticipation of the coming canning season. Though my preserving library is already pretty darn extensive, I find that I’m still always casting about for fresh inspiration. Seeing how different authors approach the art of jamming, pickling, drying, and infusing opens up my mind in the most useful and interesting ways. I thought I’d share three of my most recent acquisitions, just in case some of you are also looking for delicious new things to make.
I first spotting Fine Preserving last summer while teaching a pair of canning classes at The Pantry in Seattle. This first book is not a new release, but is still well worth the addition to the bookshelf. Essentially, it’s a classic preserving book that food writer M.F.K. Fisher loved so much that it was republished with her comments on many of the recipes. It’s like discovering your grandmother’s old kitchen notebook, complete with chatty notes and guidance about what works and what doesn’t.
As you can see, the main body of the book is the recipe as it was written Catherine Plagemann, and then Fisher’s notes appear in red. I think this sort of thing should be done more frequently. It’s just so fun! This book is only available used, but there are a number of inexpensive copies floating around out there.
Next is Diana Henry’s book Salt Sugar Smoke. It came out last fall and is seriously gorgeous and full of lovely, approachable recipes. It’s a book that isn’t just sweet preserves, but also includes cured meats and smoked fish.
Of course, there are also plenty of sweet things too, like this earl grey tea jelly (sounds intriguing, doesn’t it!). I’ve often infused tea flavors into my fruit-based preserves, but it never occurred to me to make a spread that just featured the flavor of tea. Once I get this book project of mine off my plate, this will be one of the first things I make.
There’s just one thing to note here, and that is that Henry is a UK-based food writer. That means that the recipes are a bit more relaxed than the ones written expressly for the American market. If that makes you nervous, simply apply a boiling water bath to the high acid recipes, even if it’s not specifically called for. I often do that when working with jam and jelly recipes written for international audiences. It just makes me feel better about ensuring I’ve got a perfectly safe, shelf-stable finished product.
Last on in my little stack is Whole Larder Love by Rohan Anderson. I’ve long been a reader of Anderson’s blog of the same name and so was quite excited when I heard he was writing a book because his site is intensely beautiful. He is dedicated to eating the foods available around him in Australia and so is regularly hunting, fishing, and foraging (in addition to tending a garden).
The book is just as lovely as the blog and is filled with so many inspiring photos. While I’m not sure that I’ll ever cook directly from it, I keep coming back simply to leaf through and refill my energy stores for the many acts of preservation I tackle during the growing season. And to my mind, that’s a plenty good reason to keep a book on my shelf.
What books have been inspiring your cooking and preserving lately?