Over the years, America’s Test Kitchen has become known and respected for their tireless pursuit of the very best recipes and techniques for home cooks. In their newest cookbook, Foolproof Preserving: A Guide to Small Batch Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Condiments, and More, they’ve turned their attention to the art of putting up.
Like the other America’s Test Kitchen books that have come before, this volume is thoughtfully constructed, clearly written, beautifully photographed, and features a number of recipes that will have both new canners and seasoned preservers leaping up to gather produce and pull out their cookware.
The introduction to this book is particularly useful, because it answers so many of the questions that people typically have about canning. They clearly go into the issues around acid content, achieving set, adjusting for altitude, and, in the case of fermentation, the relationship between salt and temperature.
As I see it, there exists a fairly large flaw with this book. To my imperfect count, of the 111 recipes included, 42 of them cannot be processed and made shelf stable. To be fair, there are 16 recipes for quick and fermented pickles, which are things that never go into a boiling water bath in the first place. But that still leaves us with a goodly number of recipes that will require space in the freezer or fridge.
I can see why the authors made the choices they did. They were developing recipes where the topmost priority was flavor, texture, and freshness. Those are all noble and worthy goals. However, as someone who preserves primarily to create good-tasting food that can live on the shelf until needed, I find myself frustrated to be confronted with a tomato jam recipe that can’t be processed (particularly since a small amount of citric acid would make it safe for the canner and would have very little impact on the finished flavor).
Reading the introduction, I have a sense of why this book came to be as it is. The authors confess from the start that they approached this project as canning novices and that the testing was a process of discovery for them. I can see how that shaped the book I hold in my hands, because they were not driven by the primary goal of having shelf stable preserves to last the year. However, it doesn’t stop me from wishing they’d better addressed the fact from the start that 38% of the book focuses on short-term, rather than long-term, preserving.
With all of that off my chest, let me say that again that this is a beautiful, well-designed, useful book. If long-term shelf stability isn’t your primary goal, you will find much to love here. I plan on exploring this book throughout the summer and fall, just taking care not to fall in love with too many recipes that demand space from in my limited fridge and freezer.
Thanks to the kind folks at America’s Test Kitchen, I have one copy of this beautiful book to give away, along with a jar lifter and stainless steel wide mouth funnel. Here’s how to enter.
- Leave a comment on this post. Tell me about something you’ve preserved lately, or a preserve you opened and enjoyed in recent days.
- Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Sunday, May 8, 2016. A winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Monday, May 9, 2016.
- Giveaway open to United States only (so sorry!). Void where prohibited.
- One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.
Disclosure: America’s Test Kitchen sent me the copy of the paperback you see here, along with a box of jars, two wide mouth funnels, and a jar lifter. I’ve included the jar lifter and one of the wide mouth funnels in the giveaway, they’re also providing the second copy of the book. All this has been done at no cost to me. No additional compensation has been provided. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.