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Cookbooks: The Preservatory

Want a book with truly unique preserve recipes, along with good ideas to use them up? Then make sure to get a copy of The Preservatory!

Back in late June, I spent a day in New York at the summer Fancy Food Show. While there, I met Lee Murphy. She’s the owner and head jam maker at Vista D’Oro Farms and Winery in British Columbia and the author of The Preservatory, a lovely new preserves cookbook that was published this spring.

This gorgeous, hard cover book contains 80 recipes. Forty preserves and another 40 dishes, drinks, and baked goods that you can make with the contents of those glowing jars. The contents are organized by season, which is a structure I always appreciate.

I am so intrigued by the various preserves in this book. I’ve written a whole lot of recipes for jams, chutneys, butters, and spreads in my day and there are things in these pages that I’d never, ever thought of attempting. Three that particularly catch my attention are Sweet Corn with Espelette and Chardonnay (page 65), Spicy Sweet Charred Onion and Figs (page 86), and Olive with Orange and Lemon.

These recipes are all highly acidified with both lemon and apple juice and are given instruction for processing in a boiling water bath canner (though inexplicably, she gives a range of times for the boiling water bath). Still, that onion and fig jam speaks to me. I’m going to try and get my hands on some figs this week.

As far as the recipes designed to use up your preserves, there’s so much I want to make. I’ve bookmarked a number of them, and have my eye on the Savory Dutch Baby (page 130) for this weekend.

Bottom line on this book is that it contains some really interesting, creative recipes, unlike anything I’ve seen before. If you’re looking to bring some new inspiration into your homemade pantry, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Cookbooks: The Essential Book of Homesteading

Before she was writing books about picnics, parties, and beverages, Ashley English wrote a series of books about homestead. Published in 2010 and 2011, these books focused on food preservation, chicken keeping, bee keeping, and the art of home dairy.

It was an endlessly useful quartet of books that I’ve had on my shelf for years and referenced with some regularity (though admittedly, I didn’t have quite as much use for the volumes on bees and chickens as I did for those on canning and dairy).

A year or so ago, I noticed that Ashley’s series was getting harder to come by and I was sad to see such a useful resource drop out of print. Happily, I learned a few months back that my concerns were entirely unfounded. Her four books have instead been gathered together into a single edition.

Called The Essential Book of Homesteading, this edition is now one of the most thorough reference points for 21st century homesteader. It opens with a section on chickens and then marches through canning and preserving, bees, and home dairy.

The photography is vivid, useful and in full color. The recipes are approachable and the instructional details are clear and easy to follow. If you’ve been meaning to add a homesteading-themed book to your library, the release of this one could not be more well-timed!

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Cookbooks: Homegrown Pantry

People often ask me if I grow the things I preserve, mostly in the hopes that I’ll be able to share with them favorite varieties for growing and canning. I always end up disappoint them when I confess that other than a couple seasons with a mediocre community garden plot, I almost no gardening experience.

Happily, there’s a new book that is the resource that people have always wished I could be. Called Homegrown Pantry and written by Barbara Pleasant, this book should be on the shelf of everyone who likes to garden and preserve what they’ve grown.

The book is designed to help you choose the best varieties to plant, determine how much you’ll need to grow, and the best ways to preserve the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that are the result of your hard work.

This book digs into canning, drying, fermenting, freezing, root cellaring, and even wine making. There are tips, tricks, recipes, and a world of useful recommendations.

It’s even useful for those of us who don’t garden, but occasionally find ourselves in possession of a bushel of apples, a big bundle of herbs, or a fresh potatoes from the farmers market. It’s a really terrific resource!

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Cookbooks: Bread Toast Crumbs

I first discovered that it was possible to bake bread without kneading (along with much of the English speaking world) in 2006 when the Sullivan Street Bakery recipe ran in the New York Times. I embraced the concept wholeheartedly and have been something of a no-knead recipe collector ever since.

Four or five years ago, I stumbled across a recipe for peasant bread on Alexandra Stafford’s blog, Alexandra’s Kitchen, that didn’t need to be kneading, was baked up in some of the Pyrex bowls I already owned, AND could be ready to eat in just a couple of hours. I made a batch immediately and became a fan for life. It became THE thing I made to serve with leftover soup, to bulk out a meal for unexpected guests, or on weekends when we wanted sandwiches but didn’t feel like leaving the apartment.

As a food writer, it’s rare that I return to the same recipe over and over again (because I am always looking for new, interesting things to write about), but this one is simply too good and too reliable to leave behind (though I almost always make it with half whole wheat pastry flour and half white. I am what I am).

So, when Ali announced that she was writing a cookbook that used her peasant bread recipe as a starting place, I was delighted. More ways to make use of this recipe and its tasty results? Yes, please!

Bread Toast Crumbs came out back in April and is everything I hoped it would be. The title also serves as the organizational structure for the book. It opens with the master peasant bread recipe and then offers up more than 35 variations. I’ve only made the original recipe, but have plans to make the hamburger buns this weekend and have half a dozen other versions earmarked.

In the Toast section, you’ll find an array of soups, salads, starters, sandwiches, main dishes, and sweet things. I’ve got my eye on the Summer Vegetable Strata for the near-term and the Cabbage Soup with Gruyere-Rye Toasts for the fall (if you listen to Local Mouthful, you’ll know that my love for cabbage knows no bounds).

The Crumbs section takes the heels of your loaves, grinds them down, and makes delicious use. Someone needs to invite me to a potluck so that I can make the Sheet Pan Mac and Cheese or the Baked Pasta with Mushrooms, Fontina, and Crumbs. Seriously. How good do those dishes sound?

My bottom line on this book is that if you’re looking to up your bread baking game in an approachable way and then find some new ways to make good use of every last morsel of the bread you made, you should check it out.

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Cookbooks: Savory Sweet

When I wrote my three preserving cookbooks, I spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to organize their content. For Food in Jars, we went with type of preserve. In Preserving by the Pint, the recipes are grouped by season. And I opted to group recipes by sweetener type in Naturally Sweet Food in Jars. During all that plotting and planning, it never occurred to me to group recipes by primary ingredient. However, having now spent some time with Savory Sweet by Beth Dooley and Mette Nielsen, I see how useful and approachable a structure it is.

This book, which focuses on simple, approachable preserving with a northern sensibility (both authors currently live in Minnesota, and Nielsen was raised in Denmark), is a lovely, thoughtful, and useful addition to our collective preservation library. It is guided by a principle the authors call The New Northern Approach, the tenets of which mirror my own approach to preserving. Here they are, in order:

  • Organized by ingredient
  • Small batch
  • No tricky preserving methods, everyday equipment
  • No artificial ingredients
  • Little sugar, big taste
  • Healthy preserved foods
  • Bright, interesting flavors
  • Year round
  • Quick ideas for using them up

When I read that list for the first time, I wanted to hop right up, book a plane ticket for Minnesota, and go off to meet the women who created this book. With such similar approaches to preserving, I believe we’d be quick friends. Plus, look at all the glorious food they make. I have no doubt that we’d eat well!

There are so many things in this book that I’ve marked to try. The Roasted Beet and Tomato Relish speaks to me (and I’ve got beets in the crisper as I type). The Danish Pickled Carrots call out my name (perhaps I could even convince my husband to eat them, since he loves both carrots and caraway). Eggplant Chutney! Indian-Spiced Garlic Chutney! Squash and Apricot Chutney! It’s a glorious time to be a chutney lover.

There is one thing to be aware of with this book. They don’t preserve anything for shelf stability. The recipes are designed to be stored in the fridge or freezer. This will be a boon to some preservers who like to skip the boiling water bath step. However, if you’re like me and find yourself really short on cold storage at the best of times, this might make you curse the authors’ names and toss the book across the room.

There are things that COULD be processed for shelf stability (many of the fruit preserves appear to be plenty high in acid), but if that kind of gray zone makes you uncomfortable, this may not be the book for you.

Personally, I really like this book and plan to borrow plenty of inspiration from its pages. The design and the culinary sensibility speak to me. It just makes me wish I had more freezer space!

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Tartine All Day Jam Bars

From the very first moment I picked up Tartine All Day, I liked it a whole lot. My initial flip was at my local cookbook shop and after just a moment or two with the book, I raised my head and said to the owner, Jill, “I want to make everything in this book.” Were I an emoji, I would have been the one with hearts for eyes.

The thing that speaks to me so much in this book is that it is offers both easy, everyday things you can make with the things already in your fridge, along with the fun project cooking you might trot out on a unscheduled Sunday. Plus, there are a handful of approachable recipes for jams and pickles. Author Elisabeth Prueitt seems to really understand how many of us cook.

For those of you who pay attention to the world of cookbooks (or live in the San Francisco Bay Area), you will have heard of Tartine. It’s a cafe-turned-brand that has spawned multiple books, locations, and much frenzy among the food-loving set. However, unlike previous volumes, this book isn’t about recreating restaurant food. It’s about the cooking we do at home.

Because I knew that this was a book I wanted to write about, I reached out to the PR folks handling its publicity. They sent me a review copy and gave me permission to share a recipe from the book. I made a few suggestions and together we settled on the Jam Bars. Because a another method for using up jam is always (ALWAYS!) welcome.

This recipe functions in the same way most other jam bars do. You make a simple, crumbly dough, press about two-thirds into the bottom of the pan, spread it generously with jam and then scatter the remaining bits on top.

However, the beauty of this particular jam bar is in the details. Elisabeth offers gram measurements along with the cups, so you can plunk your bowl down on a scale and heap in your ingredients without dirtying lots of measuring cups. The dough is built in a single bowl. And she uses a combination of vanilla and almond extracts to flavor the base, which is somehow so much more delicious than a jam bar with just vanilla.

Another clever element is that she has you mix up the jam with some lemon juice and salt. This helps temper the sweetness of the finished cookie, and also helped thin out the jar of slightly overset jam I used nicely.

I’ll confess that I didn’t follow the directions perfectly. I used cashew butter rather than almond, because I have a jar I’ve been endeavoring to use up. And I somehow I managed to top the jam with an even layer of cookie dough, rather than scattering it prettily (it was just before dinner and I was hungry). But even with that small substitution and smaller error, they are still quite delicious (they’ll be going with me to a picnic tomorrow, so that I don’t end up eating them all).

If you feel moved to make a batch of Jam Bars from Tartine All Day, the recipe is below.
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