Archive | cookbooks RSS feed for this section

Cookbooks: Pick a Pickle and Pickles & Preserves

two pickle books

We are in the thick of the canning season now. Pickling cucumbers are appearing in heaps at the farmers markets and orchards are selling summer stone fruit by the bushel basket. If ever there was a time to add a new recipe or two to your repertory, now is it.

This summer, there have been a few books that keep floating to the top of my stack as I search out a fresh crop of preserves. Two that I haven’t yet mentioned here on the blog are Pick a Pickle and Pickles and Preserves.

pick a pickle splayed

Pick a Pickle comes to us from celebrity chef and regular Top Chef judge, Hugh Acheson (he’s also a spokesperson for Ball). This charming but unwieldy paint chip-style books contains 50 recipes for a wide array of pickles, relishes, condiments, and vinegars.

I like the looks of many of the recipes in this book, but I find it so hard to physically maneuver that I keep getting frustrated and surrendering before ever managing to cook from it. I also find one element of the recipes slightly strange, in that he never gives processing times. Instead, we are told for all canning-safe recipes to, “Cap with lids and bands, cool for 2 hours, and then either refrigerate or process according to the jar manufacturer’s directions.”

classic chow chow

Knowing that processing time varies depending on density, acid content, and the size of the jars, it seems impossible to me that the jar manufacturer would have processing times available for the specific recipes Acheson has included in this book. It’s as if we are not actually expected to preserve from it.

Still, I find the ideas compelling enough that I regularly pick it up, read a few cards (just until inspiration strikes), and then head for the kitchen with a kernel of an idea that was born thanks to Pick a Pickle.

pickles & preserves

Next up is Pickles and Preserves by North Carolina-based food writer Andrea Weigl. Published by the University of North Carolina University Press, as part of their Savor the South series, this slim hardback book offers a carefully edited array of beloved southern preserves. You’ll find everything from sweet potato butter to a flexible batch of vegetable relish, designed to help use up odds and ends from an end-of-season garden.

corn sweet pepper relish

The only flaw that some might find in this book is its lack of photography. However, I found that Weigl is such an able writer that her words painted images enough to illustrate this collection. For lovers of southern preserves, as well as those looking for accessible recipes with a no-nonsense attitude, this book is a good one.

Comments { 5 }

Giveaway: Handmade Gatherings by Ashley English

handmade gatherings cover

I have long been of the believe that when it comes to entertaining, people break down into just two groups. There are the dinner party people and potluck people. The dinner party folk like to have a certain amount of control over the menu and flow of the evening, whereas potluck people are fully content to put out a stack of plates and just see what happens.

handmade gatherings interior

However, with her new book, Handmade Gatherings, Ashley English offers up a middle way. With 16 seasonal gatherings, including recipes and crafts, these festive events give the dinner party people some structure while encouraging them to involve their guests in the process. For the potluck people among us, the book serves as encouragement to up the game ever so slightly.

handmade gatherings cake walk

Ashley opens the book with a little peek into her own entertaining history and then offers some insight about how to communicate with your guests, how to pick a location, and how to plan so that no one goes hungry (always have a back-up plan!). She also offers useful instruction on how to be a good guest, including a most helpful reminder to bring a serving utensil with your dish.

handmade gatherings canning

Because the parties are seasonally grounded, you’ll find things like egg-centric events, canning afternoons, ice cream socials, and even cookie swaps. The recipes, activities, and crafts are delicious, engaging, and fun (and manage never to cross the line into overly cutesy territory).

handmade gatherings morocco

What I find so nice about this book is that it is written so that every reader can take what they need from it. Some folks will recreate Ashley’s parties down to the very last dish, while others will use it for the inspiration it has to offer. I do like an entertaining book that adapts to the reader.

handmade gatherings spine

Thanks to Ashley and the team at Roost Books, I have one copy of Handmade Gatherings to give away. Here’s how to enter!

  • Leave a comment on this post and share a tale of a favorite party or potluck
  • Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, July 12, 2014. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, July 13, 2014
  • Giveaway open to United States residents only.
  • One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review and photography purposes. All opinions remain entirely my own. 

Cookbooks: Asian Pickles by Karen Solomon

Asian Pickles cover

I have been looking forward to the release of Karen Solomon’s new book, Asian Pickles for at least two years now. Karen is a friend and I stayed with her when I came through San Francisco during my first book tour back in 2012.

During my brief visit, we spent a goodly amount of time talking about our upcoming projects. I told her about Preserving by the Pint (which at that point was nothing more than an idea and a list of possible recipes) and she talked about Asian Pickles.

Asian Pickles spine

At that point, the book was actually mostly finished, because her publisher was trying something new with it. Instead of simply publishing the physical version, they were going to periodically release smaller ebooks, featuring approximately half of the recipes from the five main chapters.

Asian Pickles intro

I saw each of the ebooks as they came out. They were gorgeously designed, bursting with useful recipes, and made me ridiculously excited to get into the kitchen and start pickling. I made her Pickled Asian Pears with Lemon for the blog and tried a couple other things that were wonderful but just never made it into post form (it happens).

Asian Pickles water kimchi

Back in early January, I spent a solid two days reading through a xeroxed manuscript of the book, dog earring pages and trying to craft a quote for the back cover. It’s was nearly impossible to squeeze every complimentary thing I wanted to say into two sentences, but I think I managed. Happily, this blog post gives me the opportunity to gush just a little bit more.

Asian Pickles cucumber kimchi

What I find so delightful about this book is that it gives me the chance to dive into a world of pickles that had previously been veiled and mysterious. Karen starts each section (Japan, Korea, China, India, and Southeast Asia) which an introduction to each region’s unique pickle culture (truly, it makes the North American pickle tradition look puny).

Asian Pickles chutney

Once the stage is set for the flavors and techniques you’ll encounter, she leads you into the recipes. The headnotes are both entertaining and full of useful information, and the recipes themselves are clearly written but not so deeply technical that you have to read and reread to unpack the instructions.

Asian Pickles glossary

One adjustment that most North American preservers will have to make with these pickles is that for the most part, they are not safe for boiling water bath canning. Many of the pickles are ferments, which will lose both their texture and happy bacteria when heat processed. While there are others that are made with vinegar, the concentration of acid is typically not high enough to make them safe as a preserved pickle.

I do think you’ll find that the recipes make pickles delicious enough that you won’t begrudge the refrigerator space necessary to keep them.

Asian Pickles back

The final word is that I recommend this book for anyone who loves pickled things and wants to move beyond the array traditionally found in western cultures. I have a long list of things I plan on making from it and love that it has both recipes that can be made quickly and longer term projects. If you think of yourself as a homemade pickle aficionado, this book should be on your shelf.

Comments { 7 }

Cookbooks: Put ‘Em Up, Love Your Leftovers, and Starting from Scratch

cookbook stack

One of the things I haven’t been doing enough of lately is sharing some of the excellent books that regularly land in my mailbox. The stack next to my desk is getting precariously tall and so I’m going make a concerted effort to bring the Friday afternoon cookbook feature.

This week, there are three books that I want to share. One is a book that contains the answer to every canning question you’ve ever had. The next is a paen to the humble leftover. And the third wants to inform young cooks and help them get excited about getting into the kitchen.

Put 'em Up answer book

First up is the final book in Sherri Brooks Vinton’s excellent canning trilogy (the first and second books were Put ‘em Up! and Put ‘em Up! Fruit). Called The Put ‘em Up! Preserving Answer Book: 399 Solutions to All Your Questions, this spiral-bound volume packs a mighty punch when it comes to useful canning knowledge.

While you’ll find a few recipes in this book, it’s not designed to be the book you turn to for inspiration on what to make. Instead, it plays the role of reliable canning teacher, who is always there with a helpful suggestion to make your preserving process better, faster, and more fun. You’ll find everything from tips on how to improve the quality of your seals, to the design for Sherri’s ideal canning porch (I want one!).

I think this book should be a required resource for all new canners, as it dives deep while also managing to be accessible and unintimidating.

Love Your Leftovers

Next up is Nick Evans’ book, Love Your Leftovers. Some of you might remember an earlier version of this book, called Cornerstone Cooking. The core of Nick’s concept is that instead of making meals from scratch every single day, once or twice a week, you make a large amount of something (like a couple roast chickens or a braised pork shoulder) and then use those items as central players in any number of other dishes.

I thought it was a great concept in Cornerstone Cooking and I’m so pleased to see that Nick got a chance to expand on the idea in Love Your Leftovers and make is even prettier and more user friendly. If you’re in the market for some fresh culinary inspiration, check this one out.

Starting from Scratch

The last book on today’s stack is Starting From Scratch. Written by food journalist Sarah Elton, this book wants to teach kids everything they need to become informed home cooks in today’s dizzying culinary landscape.

While the book does include some basic recipes, the emphasis is more on building knowledge about the properties of flavor, how to read a recipe, and even how to pick the right tool for the job. There’s even a short section devoted to various food preservation methods, which delighted me.

This is the kind of book that I would have devoured when I was seven or eight years old and I plan on buying copies for all my friends who have kids in that age group.

Comments { 2 }

Cookbooks: The Hip Girl’s Guide to the Kitchen

HGGTK Cover

I first met Kate Payne in early 2010. She was living in Brooklyn at the time and was making a day trip down to Philly to explore a little and see what delicious things the city had to offer. We met up for drinks and dinner and spent a solid three hours talking non-stop. It was one of those instant friendships, where you go from being strangers to being friends, without any intermediate stops along the way.

HGGTK spine

In the years since, I’ve helped to lead a canning workshop in Kate’s kitchen and hosted a book party potluck for her when she was traveling around the country and sharing tips and tricks from her first book, The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking. She and her wife put me up when I was in Austin a couple years back, waiting for my sister to give birth to Emmett and served me a scrumptious meal when I was in town back in January.

equip your ship

Today is the release day of Kate’s new book, called The Hip Girl’s Guide to the Kitchen: A Hit-the-Ground Running Approach to Stocking Up and Cooking Delicious, Nutritious, and Affordable Meals. It is a sturdy paperback that is bursting with everything you need to know to rock the most important room in your house.

knife honing

Though I call it a cookbook up in the subject line, this volume isn’t really a cookbook as we traditionally see them. There are plenty of recipes, to be sure, but the bulk of the book focuses on skills, techniques, and helping you build out your knowledge so that you can become a culinary problem solver. When you think about it, that ends up making it far more useful than any one cookbook could ever be.

pantry staples

The book is divided into three equally important sections. Part one is called Stocking Up and contains everything you need to know about cookware, pantry staples, maintenance of your tools, how long things last, how to store everything, and even details about the labeling you’ll most often find at the grocery store (conventional, organic, and GMO free, to name a few.

feeding others

Part two is called Feeding Yourself and digs into the nuts and bolts of how to make good, approachable, and affordable food, day after day after day. You’ll learn the basics (homemade vinaigrette! mayonnaise! soup from scraps!), some simple substitutions for when you’re out of eggs, buttermilk, or sugar, and some very useful tricks for baking up a wide array of muffins, cookies, and breads with what you have in the pantry. I promise, you will return to this section again and again.

hip tricks

The final portion of the book is called Feeding Others. It’s in this section that you’ll find information on canning and preserving (because we do that as much for our friends and family as we do for ourselves).

There’s also some really great laundry lists in this section that are simply titled, “Things to do with…” She digs into vegetables, fruit, dairy, eggs, herbs and spices, and more. It’s a ridiculously useful resource for those moments when you’re staring at the bundle of oregano that came in your CSA share and wondering how you’re ever going to make the most of it.

HGGTK back

From the time I was very young, I had a deep interest in food and cooking. Because of that, I paid a great deal of attention to my mom as she grocery shopped, packed lunches, and cooked dinner.I thought I knew everything I needed when I finally acquired my own kitchen, but I quickly realized that there were a number of details upon which I was a little fuzzy. Through trial, error, and lots of phone calls home, I was able to fill in the gaps. However, had Kate’s new book with me in the kitchen, things would have been a whole heck of a lot easier.

My bottom line? Whether you’re an experienced home cook or someone just starting to get to know your stove, you should have a copy of this book within easy reach of your kitchen.

For more stops on Kate’s online book tour, visit the following blogs:

May 21 – Healthy Green Kitchen
May 22 – Local Kitchen
May 23 – Autumn Makes and Does
May 27 – Punk Domestics
May 28 – Spinach Tiger
May 29 – Local Savour
May 30 – Love and Lemons
June 2 – Kitchen Ecosystem

Comments { 8 }

Homemade Ketchup, Mayonnaise, and Mustard from Haute Dogs

condiments on Haute Dogs

Some months back, I got an email from my friend Eric. Ages ago, Eric and I were co-workers and our desks were right next to each other. This was in the days when I was just starting this website and would often go off on a tear about my latest batch of jam or pickles. Now Eric is successful writer who also happens to do all kinds of fancy marketing and social media stuff for Quirk Books.

cover of Haute Dogs

Thanks to those days spent as co-workers, Eric was well aware of my deep obsession with homemade spreads and toppings and so, was writing to invite me to participate in a blog tour for a book called Haute Dogs: Recipes for Delicious Hot Dogs, Buns, and Condiments.

The idea behind the tour was that each participating blogger would make one or two components necessary to assemble the Ecuadorian Street Dog, so that at the end of the tour, a reader could hop from site to site in order to prep and build the entire dog on their own. If I chose to accept it, my assignment was condiments. Mustard. Mayo. And Ketchup. I was in.

condiments overhead

While I was all excited to try my hand at someone else’s condiment recipes (when you spend a goodly chunk of your life inventing recipes, it’s always nice to take a break and let someone else do the heavy lifting), I’ll confess right now that I wasn’t particularly jazzed by the idea of a hot dog book.

However, when this one arrived, I could immediately see that Haute Dogs wasn’t just a book about hot dogs. It is a love letter to the humble dog in its many forms. And that’s something I can get behind.

condiments together

So, let’s talk recipes. My assignment was to make three of the most classic summertime condiments around. Yellow mustard. Mayonnaise. And ketchup. No summer cookout is complete without this triad and for the diehard DIY-er, it just makes sense to make your own.

These are easy recipes that are meant to be made and used within a few days or a week. Though you’ll see them pictured in jars throughout this blog post, do know that those are simply the vessels I chose to stash them in. I don’t have canning instructions to offer for these recipes. With that, let’s get on to the condiments!

Continue Reading →

Comments { 16 }