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Cookbooks: Composing the Cheese Plate

I love cheese plate books, because in many cases, they’re really preserving books in disguise. Because what goes better with all manner of cheese that interesting jams, spreads, chutneys, mostardas, and jellies? Nothing, that’s what!

Published last fall, Composing the Cheese Plate is a perfect example of preserving-centric cheese book. Written by cheese evangelist Brian Keyser and pastry chef and condiment maker Leigh Friend, this book is bursting with an array of bright, creative, and unusual things to spread, smear, and dollop on cheese.

I have markers sticking out of this book in every direction. In addition to the recipes I’ve shared via photography here, I’m hoping to make the Balsamic Rosemary Cherry Mustard (page 63), Cardamom Poached Butternut Squash (page 89), Spiced Carrot Chutney (page 131), and the Pineapple Mostarda (page 198).

There is one downside to working with a book like this and that’s that none of the recipes are designed for boiling water bath canning. However, the batch sizes are small enough that you can easily tuck them into the fridge and use them up. I confess that I will probably borrow flavor elements from this book and will marry them with recipes I know to be safe for the canning pot.

One final note. This book comes to us from the same publisher that produces my books and as a result, this book shares the same size and binding as those in the Food in Jars series. It would fit quite nicely on a shelf next to my trio of books!

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Books to Take You Further on the Salt Preserving Path

Judging from the happy posts on Instagram and Facebook, most of you who are participating in this month’s Mastery Challenge are really enjoying your exploration of salt preserving (and for those of you who haven’t loved this month, March and its jelly and/or shrub topic is just around the corner).

I thought it would be really useful to recommend some books for those of you who are finding yourself really engaged with the salt preserving and want to keep going after this month is up. Here are the five books I turn to most often when I’m looking for inspiration and answers around the topics of salting, curing, and fermenting.

1. Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey. This book never lets me down. It turn to it any time I’m contemplating trying a new ferment, because I know that Kirsten and Christopher always share honestly about what works and what isn’t worth my time. I appreciate the step-by-step pictures for the basic ferments as well as the more exotic combinations.

2. The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz. If you only have space for one book on this topic, this is the one to have. It’s not limited to salty ferments, but covers the entire fermentation canon. It can be dense at times, but as long as you approach it with patience, it will never let you down.

3. Batch by Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison. The brilliance of this book is in its range. It’s got something for every food preserver, and there’s plenty here for those who want to zero in on salting. Joel and Dana also go beyond the preserves and show you how to make the most of everything you salt, cure, can, smoke, and infuse. The introductions to fermenting and salting are worth the price of admission alone.

4. Bar Tartine by Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns. The restaurant is closed, but the book lives on! The sub-title is Techniques & Recipes and it’s the combination of those two that makes this volume so useful. Within each section, they lay down a technique and then over up a handful of recipes that riff on that technique. This allows curious readers to crack open the offered skills and journey towards working knowledge.

5. Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry. This is an intensely beautiful book and the chapter entitled “Salted, Cured, and Potted” is particularly useful to those looking to deepen their salting knowledge (it includes multiple takes on gravlax). Diana is a UK-based author, and so does make storage recommendations that are in contrast with those we’re guided to in the states. In the case of her sweet preserves, I will often use her recipes and then apply a water bath.

If you have other books that you turn to for salt preserving instruction, please share them in the comments!

Disclosure: I got my copy of Fermented Vegetables as a free review copy. All other books listed here were ones I bought because I knew my library wouldn’t be complete without them. 

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Cookbooks: Eat It Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton

There is little in life I find more satisfying that making a meal that uses up things that might otherwise get thrown away. Leek tops? A batch of veggie stock, which then becomes risotto, soup, or a cooking medium for whole grains. Random, limp vegetables? Soup, fried rice, or egg scramble. Stale bread? Bread pudding, savory panade, meatball or meatloaf binder, panzanella, or toasted bread crumbs.

However, having spent some time with Sherri Brooks Vinton‘s relatively new book (it came out last June), Eat It Up!, I’ve come to realize that there’s even more I could be doing to use things up and prevent waste in my kitchen.

Sherri begins the book with an introduction that defines the problem of food waste and identifies reasons why so many are striving to reduce it. From there, she heads off into techniques and recipes for using up unloved bits and transforming scraps into delicious dishes.

In the produce section, Sherri focuses primarily on the parts that we most often toss into the trash or compost. She’s included recipes that make good use of apple peels, celery leaves, the stems from various greens, fennel fronds, and the tops of radishes, turnips and beets.

In the meat section, she shows you how to make stock, prepare bone marrow, render fat, and transform those things into tasty dishes. Hit the dairy section of the book to use up scraps of cheese, the end of a tub of yogurt, and make queso fresco. There are suggestions for the ends of condiments, leftover baguettes, and the olives that invariably remain after you’ve thrown a party.

If one of your resolutions for 2017 was to do better with food waste, I highly encourage you get yourself a copy of this book. It’s bursting with useful tips (potato peel croutons!) and is friendly, approachable, and fun.

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Cookbooks: The Perfect Blend by Tess Masters

The third book by Tess Masters, The Perfect Blend combines colorful produce, health-promoting boosters, and your countertop blender to create appealing, flavorful food.

I first met Tess Masters back in early 2013, when we were both guests on a Driscoll’s berries press trip. She was already The Blender Girl by then, but was just starting on her cookbook writing path. In the years since that first meeting, she’s written and published three cookbooks, the third of which came out just last week.

Called The Perfect Blend, this beautifully photographed book features 100 vegan and gluten-free recipes that all make good use of your countertop blender (don’t worry, it’s not just a book of soups and smoothies. There’s plenty here to crunch and chew).

I always like inviting a couple of vegetable-focused books into my library at the start of the new year. I never hew particularly close to any one eating modality, but I always appreciate being reminded that there is a rainbow of produce out there and that there are so many ways to make it interesting and delicious.

I’ve tucked nearly half a pad of sticky notes into this book by now, marking things like Kale Caesar (page 13), Cheezy Broccoli Soup (page 45), Sweet Potato & Macadamia Magic (page 97), and Thai Slaw (page 129). I do love a creamy soup made hearty and lasting with the addition of soaked and pureed nuts (I sometimes make this cauliflower soup and replace the cheese with cashew creme. So good!).

I also appreciate the chapter dedicated to promoting probiotics. Tess includes a salad dressed with a vinaigrette that includes fermented tofu, and offers her recipe for a finely shredded ferment that includes cabbage, leeks, carrots, apples, and parsley. I plan on picking up the necessary ingredients today and giving it a try.

My bottom line with this book is that it has inspired me to lever myself out of my regularly traveled cooking ruts and has me inviting more vegetables, seeds, and nuts into my kitchen. I’m looking forward to bringing a handful of the recipes to life. If you’re looking for a book to do something similar for you, I highly suggest you page through it next time you’re in a book store!

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The 2016 Class of Canning, Preserving, and Culinary DIY Books

In need of a new canning, preserving or DIY book for the holiday season? Look no further than this list of books published in 2016!

Oh friends, this last year was a very good one for canning and preserving books. I’ve done a thorough search of my shelves and stacks and have come up with 18 lovely volumes that came out in 2016. Let’s flip through the stack!

The Forager’s Feast – Written by Leda Meredith, this book contains everything you need to know about foraging wild edibles and transforming them into all manner of tasty things. If I can ever find enough rose hips, I plan on making the Rose Hip Freezer Jam. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Naturally Sweet Food in Jars – My third canning book, this volume features recipes sweetened with honey, maple, agave, coconut sugar, fruit juice concentrates, and dried fruits. It makes a fabulous gift for anyone who is looking to reduce the amount of refined sugar in their home cooking. (Amazon | Powell’s)

A Prepper’s Cookbook – While not specifically a canning or preserving book, this slim paperback by Deborah D. Moore is an incredibly useful volume for those of us who have a homemade pantry that we’re trying to put into better use.  (Amazon | Powell’s)

The Big Book of Kombucha – I’ve been a semi-regular kombucha brewer for years with mixed success. It wasn’t until a copy of this hefty book by Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory came my way that I actually starting having consistent success with my finished product. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Preserving Italy – This book by Domenica Marchetti is the best one on the market about canning, preserving, curing, and infusing in the Italian style. If you’re looking to make jams, cured meats, pickles, and liqueurs like the ones your nonna used to make, this volume should be on your shelf. More here. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Foolproof Preserving – Written by a team from America’s Test Kitchen, this book is a nice addition to the small batch canon. I don’t love that so many of the recipes aren’t safe for a water bath, but the flavor combinations are spot-on and recipe variety is appealing. More here. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The Art of the Cheese Plate – On the face, this book by Tia Keenan doesn’t much look like it belongs in this stack. But any cheese plate book worth its salt contains a trove of recipes for tiny batches of fabulous condiments and boy, does this one deliver. There’s sweet potato butter, apple chutney, pickled blueberries, and so much more. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The Modern Preserver – This charming book by UK-based professional preserver Kylee Newton bursts with appealing recipes and beautiful pictures. There is nothing in this volume that I don’t want make and many things I wish I’d thought of first. More here. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Food Swap – Whether you’re an active food swapper or not, there is so much in Emily Paster’s useful and clever book to like. It’s got jams, pickles, syrups, and baked goods, all that travel well, are easy to create, and make great gifts. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Beyond Canning – Smoky carrot coins. Banana ketchup. Hibicus lime jelly. You’ll find those things and so much more in this creative and varied book by Autumn Giles. If you’re tired of the same old thing, this book will breathe new life into your canning practice. More here. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The Cultured Club – I picked up this book while in Ireland in October. Written by fermentation expert Dearbhla Reynolds, it contains a wild range of ferments (fermented potato mash and lacto-fermented pestos!) and I can’t wait to explore it even more than I already have. (Amazon)

Batch – This massive book by Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison is the most comprehensive preserving book that we saw this year. It contains more than 200 recipes for jamming, pickling, dehydrating, infusing, and fermenting as well as  cooking, baking, using, and serving those varied preserves. It’s a must-have for avid canners. More here. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Not Your Mama’s Canning Book – This book by Rebecca Lindamood is totally brilliant. When I first opened it up and flipped through the recipes, I found myself wished fervently that I’d thought of the Instant Hummus-In-A-Jar or the Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie filling first. The recipes are unusual, approachable, and unlike anything else you have on your shelves. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Canning for a New Generation – The updated and expanded edition of this now-classic book by Liana Krissoff was published this summer and it’s even better than the original. If you don’t have the first edition on your shelf already, make sure to seek out this new one. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The Joy of Pickling – Another new edition of an old favorite, this volume by Linda Ziedrich is another must-have for an avid canner. An earlier version of this book was my first pickling primer and I’m delighted to have this edition, with its expanded section on pickling theory. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving – This new giant Ball book is gorgeously photographed and exhaustively tested. I’ll confess that I didn’t manage to use any of the recipes this summer, but everytime I flip through its pages, something catches my eye and I add it to my to-make list. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The New Milks – It’s a tiny bit of a stretch to include this book by Dina Cheney on this list, but its sneaking through on its DIY cred. I like it because I dig the non-dairy milks and I appreciate all the ideas for how to use them in my cooking and baking. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Fermented Foods at Every Meal – You’ve got a fridge full of fermented foods, but you struggle to use them up. Hayley Barisa Ryczek is here to help you weave those ferments into every meal of the day. So smart! (Amazon | Powell’s)

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The Cookbook Stall + Food in Jars = Signed Copies for the Holidays

Naturally Sweet Food in Jars spine

We are firmly in the season of wish lists, gift guides, and holiday shopping. If getting or giving a signed copy of one of my books is on your mind this year, I’ve got good news. I’ve teamed up with my friend Jill Ross at The Cookbook Stall (Philly’s only cookbook-only book shop) to offer a way for you all to buy signed copies of my books.

To get a signed copy, head over to The Cookbook Stall’s online shop and put a copy of Food in Jars, Preserving by the Pint, or Naturally Sweet Food in Jars into your cart and head to check-out.

In step five of the check-out process, there’s a field where you can add comments about your order. Use that space to tell us to whom you’d like the book to be signed and if there’s a specific message you’d like me to convey in my note (Happy Hanukkah! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Good Solstice! Happy Birthday!)

Deadline to order your signed book is December 9. I’ll head into the shop the following week to sign the books you all ordered and then she’ll get them into the mail for you guys, in plenty of time for holiday giving.

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