Tag Archives | cookbooks

Cookbooks: Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Han

Wild Drinks and Cocktails - Food in Jars

When I was very young, my family lived in Los Angeles. There weren’t any kids my age on our block, and so I spent a lot of time on my own, exploring our multi-leveled backyard. I’d gather twigs, unripe plums, leaves from the jade plants, and a bark from the towering eucalyptus, heap them in a little plastic bucket, and steep them in water from the hose. I’d offer my “tea” to my mom, claiming it could cure whatever ailed her.

Wild Drinks Rose Water - Food in Jars

Fast-forward 30 years, and Emily Han and her new book, Wild Drinks and Cocktails, are here to teach us all that with a little bit of knowledge, there is much to be found in the natural world (both in LA and elsewhere) to be turned into a vast array of infusions, syrups, squashes (her creations are superior to my childhood concoctions in every way).

Wild Drinks Citrus Squash - Food in Jars

The book is divided into seven chapters. It starts with an introduction to wildcrafting, and offers insight into being a responsible and safe collector of roots, berries, seeds, nuts, and flowers. That section also includes useful information on how to process, preserve, and protect the things you gather.

Wild Drinks Claret Cup - Food in Jars

From there, the book proceeds into the recipes. In Chapter 2, you’ll find the Teas, Juices, and Lemonades (I’ve got Emily’s recipe for Meyer Lemon and Bay Leaf Syrup marked for my annual meyer lemon extravaganza). Chapter 3 is devoted to Syrups, Squash, and Cordials (Rose Hip Whiskey Smash on page 65!).

In Chapter 4, Emily digs into Oxymels, Shrubs, and Switchels. The unifying force of this section is the balance of sweet and tart, and these recipes are for everyone who wants to start using their collection of exotic vinegars.

Grapefruit and Sage Water Kefir - Food in Jars

All of the Infusions, Bitters, and Liqueurs are in Chapter 5. There’s so much in this section that I want to make, but I think I’m going to start with the Winter Gin on page 115 (the thought occurs that it would make a mighty fine holiday gift for a certain subset of my friends and family).

Chapter 6 is all about Wines and Punches. As the weather cools, there’s nothing like a fortifying mug of Mulled Wine (page 157). And finally arrives Chapter 7, with it’s Fizzy Fermentations (yes, please!). Once my travel schedule quiets down again, I’m going to try to start my own Ginger Bug Soda Starter (page 162).

Wild Drinks and Cocktails Back - Food in Jars

Emily has kindly allowed me to reprint her recipe for Classic Switchel and you’ll find it after the jump. It combines molasses, apple cider vinegar, ginger, and water for a bracing tonic. I like to dilute a little in a mug of hot water when I feel under the weather, but it can also be combined with cold water, fizzy water, or used in a cocktail. It’s a most versatile creation.

Oh, and one last thing. I’ve got one copy of this book to give away. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share a favorite homemade drink.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, November 14, 2015. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, November 15, 2015.
  3. Giveaway open to United States residents only. Void where prohibited.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: Fair Winds Press sent me a copy of this book for review purposes, and is also providing the giveaway unit, both at no cost to me. All opinions remain my own. It’s a good book.  

For more about Wild Drinks and Cocktails, as well as her classes, follow Emily Han on social media.

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Cookbooks: My Pantry, Brew Better Beer, Homemade Vegan Pantry

three book stack - Food in Jars

I have been gazing at this particular stack of three books for at least a month now. I set them on the edge of my desk sometime in early October, thinking that they made a nice little collection, and then got lost in a hurry and busy of life. Read nothing into my delay, all three of these books are worthy contenders for your eyeballs and wish lists.

cover of My Pantry by Alice Waters

Alice Waters is a woman who needs no introduction. As the founder of Chez Panisse and the author of many, many cookbooks, her influence on our culture’s understanding of food has been vast.

My Pantry is her newest volume and is relatively slim in comparison to some of her earlier works. However, as someone who takes great pleasure from making my own pantry staples, I am entirely charmed by this book. It is a trip through Alice’s favorite homemade condiments, simple soups, preserved meats, sweet preserves, and simple cheeses. It’s like a peek into her fridge and cupboards, and there’s much here that I’ve bookmarked for future days of making.

cover of Brew Better Beer by Emma Christensen

I’ve never brewed beer. There are a couple things that have stopped me from trying my hand at it. First is the issue of storage (I’m already at capacity with my preserving habit). Second is the fact that my body hates it when I drink more than a few sips and tortures me with headaches if I venture beyond my paltry tolerance.

And yet, despite all that, thanks to Emma Christensen’s Brew Better Beer, I still want to give it a shot someday (I’ll just have to give most of it away, which should make me very popular with my neighbors). Her instructions are clear, the flavor combinations are hugely appealing, and I so appreciate the fact that the recipes are scaled so that you can brew your batches in either 1 or 5 gallons. If you have a burgeoning home brew enthusiast on your list this holiday season, you should get them this book.

cover of Homemade Vegan Pantry by Miyoko Schinner

In a sea of books devoted to making pantry staples from scratch, Miyoko Schinner’s Homemade Vegan Pantry, is unique for its plant-based approach. I know several vegans who have already come to depend on this volume for the nut-based cheeses.

However, don’t think you should skip this book if you take a more omnivorous approach to your diet. There is still plenty here for you. The soup concentrates (tomato! mushroom! cream of broccoli!) alone earn this book a spot on my shelf. The crackers are pretty special as well. And I’m really curious about the flax seed meringues!

Are there any cookbooks that you guys have been enjoying lately?

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Books: Stir, The World on a Plate, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, and Orchard House

four books August 2015

Between canning classes, multiple cross-country trips, and processing piles of produce, I’ve managed to read my way through a tidy stack of books this summer. Here are four food-related volumes that I really enjoyed and think some of you might also like.

Stir by Jessica Fechtor – This memoir-with-recipes is the story of Jessica Fechtor’s brain aneurism at the age of 28, and her grueling but hope and love-filled recuperation. An avid cook and joyful eater prior to the aneurism, the book is the story of her recovery and the ways in which food brought her back to herself as her wounded brain and body healed. Jess is a honest, thoughtful writer and I devoured the book in just a day and a half back in July.

The World on a Plate by Mina Holland – A fun and well-researched volume, The World on a Plate isn’t a book to read straight through. Instead, it’s one to dip into when you crave fresh flavors and a easy visit to another land. Every time I open it up, I add another recipe to my to-make list.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal – This novel wraps around Eva Thorvald (a girl and then woman with a singular palate), home cooking, foodie culture, and (of course) the Midwest. The characters are well-defined, quirky, and human. It was a delight to read.

Orchard House by Tara Austen Weaver – On its surface, this is a book about rebuilding a neglected garden. But really, it’s about building community, healing a family, and embracing life as it comes. It is beautifully written and contains moments that will break your heart with sweet sharpness of life. When I opened up my copy to write about it here, I found myself pulled back into its pages and found myself again lost in Tara’s words.

Now, for some disclosures. The first is that all four of these books were sent to me for review. However, I only share the really good things with you guys, so know that the opinions expressed here truly are my own. 

The second disclosure is that I know both Jess and Tara. We’ve shared meals, talked shop, and swapped preserving tips. Still, the kind words I’ve written are deserved. These two women have written truly remarkable books. You should read them. 

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Four Cookbooks I’ve Been Enjoying This Summer

four cookbooks July 2015

I’ve fallen very behind in sharing some of the terrific new cookbooks that I’ve liked recently. In an attempt to get some of them off my desk and into the blog, I’m going to post them in groups. This first group consists of four books that I think are useful, interesting, and delicious.

Steeped by Annelies Zijderveld – This slender volume contains recipes designed to help you see tea as more than something to drink hot or iced. Annelies was in Philly back in the spring and I saw her give a presentation about this book and it started my brain buzzing about all the ways to use tea to add flavor. I’ve made her Lapsang Souchong salt and love using it to add smokey flavor to tomato salads.

Summer Cocktails by Maria Del Mar Sacasa – The title might lead you to believe that this book starts and ends with liquid refreshment, but that’s not true. Sure, it’s got plenty to offer in the beverage department, but it also contains frozen treats, pickles, and even a recipe for fried chicken. A more descriptive title might have been, A Love Letter to Summer.

Yogurt Culture by Cheryl Sternman Rule – This genius book will make you deeply hungry. Cheryl spent years researching and experiencing the ways in which yogurt is made, used, and eaten all over the world, and then brought all that knowledge together. She shows that there is no time of day when yogurt is not an appropriate thing to eat. So complete is her excitement for yogurt that this book could not fully contain it. Find her continuing yogurt passion over at Team Yogurt.

Rose Water and Orange Blossoms by Maureen Abood – This deeply personal book features the food of Maureen’s Lebanese family. There are spreads, salads, vegetable-heavy main dishes, pastries, and a most glorious selection of pickles and sweet preserves. Nearly every other page of my copy is marked with sticky notes and if I didn’t have to head out soon to teach a class, I would be making her Garlicky Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard and Lemon (page 136) for dinner tonight.

What have you been cooking out of this summer?

Disclosure: All four of these books were received as review copies. However, I still mean every word I said! 

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Cookbooks: Real Sweet

Real Sweet cover

Despite the spotlight we’ve all been shining on them lately, naturally sweeteners are still something of an undiscovered country. I’ve spent the last year finding ways to use these flavorful sweeteners in preserving, and I’m always excited to see how other authors use them in baking, cooking, and canning.

liquid sweeteners

One recent book that takes on a wide swath of natural sweeteners is Shauna Sever’s Real Sweet. It’s an engaging look at baking using coconut sugar, muscovado, turbinado, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, and more. As someone who regularly pulls apart recipes for things like quick breads and muffins in order to make them with these natural sweeteners, having this book on my shelf has been wonderful.

homemade graham crackers

The recipes in the book are organized by the events where each item might be most appropriate. This means that instead of classic categorizations like cakes or cookies, you’ll find sections that are entitled Bake Sales and Edible Gifts, Picnics and Potlucks, and Dinner Party Fancies. I think this is a brilliant method, because it ferrets out how most of us are really cooking and baking.


Because I am someone who is always dashing out the house without planning ahead for the next meal, I like to have a few quick snacks tucked into a jar in the fridge or freezer. Shauna’s Breakfast Cookies on page 29 (sweetened with date paste and maple syrup!) are on my list of things to make this weekend.

maple and vanilla roasted fruit

I hear that stonefruit are going to be coming into season any day now around these parts and I’ve got the recipe for Maple and Vanilla-Roasted Fruit on page 236 marked with a sticky note for the moment I have some in my hot little hands. I can’t wait to stir a freshly roasted apricot or peach half into a bowl of yogurt.

Real Sweet back cover

And next time I’m asked to bring a dessert to dinner with friends, I’m making the Maple Chocolate Cake on page 101. It’s a one bowl cake that can be frosted or served with a dollop of barely sweetened whipped cream. I’m ready for a slice right now!

If you’re someone who is looking to use less refined sweeteners in your baked goods, make sure to seek out a copy of this book. It’s a worthy contender for space on your bookcase.

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Be a Recipe Tester for my Natural Sweeteners Book

plum jam

Friends, I am delightfully honored and just slightly overwhelmed by your excitement and interest in being recipe testers for my new book. Over 300 of you have signed up since I published this post earlier today. Thanks to this abundance in volunteers, I am closing the tester sign-ups.

If you missed your chance, please know that I will be sharing a few new, naturally sweetened recipes here on the blog this summer, so you’ll get a chance to preview some of the types of recipes you’ll see in the book. 

One of the things I came to understand while I was writing the recipes for my next book is that they were going to need more external testing than I undertook with my first two books.

Because there’s been so little work in the area of naturally sweetened preserves, I didn’t have nearly as deep a well of knowledge on which to draw when developing these recipes. Additionally, just because something works in my kitchen doesn’t always guarantee that it’s going to work in yours.

So I’m asking for your help. There’s a form at the bottom of this post where you can sign up to be a recipe tester. Tell me what sweeteners you’re interested in working with, how many recipes you’d like to test, and if there are any fruits you avoid. In about a week, I’ll send you some recipes to try.

Recipe testing is a volunteer gig for which you purchase the supplies (but also get to keep the results). When I send you the recipes, I’ll also include a short questionnaire that you’ll complete for each recipe you try. Of course, I will thank all the recipe testers profusely in the acknowledgements of the book!

I have no idea what kind of response I’ll receive to this request, but I will do my very best to include as many people as possible. All recipe testing will need to be completed by August 15, 2015, so please do take that into account before signing up!

Thanks to you all!