Tag Archives | cookbooks

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.

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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.

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Giveaway: New Joy of Cooking iPad App

Joy of Cooking shelf

When it comes to large, all-in-one cookbooks, I will forever be a Joy of Cooking loyalist. It was the book from which I learned the very basics of cooking and is where I turn when I want to make banana bread or crepes, or to determine how long to roast a turkey.

JOY app

I’ve long had six editions of JOY on my shelves and late last week, I excitedly added another version to my collection. Happily, this edition doesn’t take up a lick of space and I can take it anywhere I want. It’s the brand new Joy of Cooking app!

JOY keeping and storing

The new app includes thousands of recipes and all are contained in the app (that means that you don’t need to be connected to the internet in order to access the content). You can mark recipes as favorites so that you can return to different dishes easily. You can set the app so that it prevents your device from going to sleep while you’re cooking. And it’s programmed to include substitutions, so that you can easily swap ingredients with what you currently have in your kitchen.

JOY canning etc

One of the things I love about this app is that it helps bring recipes to my attention that I’ve passed over in the print versions. Every edition of JOY has contained a preserving section, but it wasn’t until exploring the app that I started getting excited about some of the jams and pickles it contains (tart corn relish! curried apricot chutney! golden cherry tomato and ginger jam!).

JOY rhubarb juice

I’ve marked this rhubarb juice recipe to make at some point this season. I love the thought of having a few jars of pink possibility.

This week, I have five downloads from the nice folks at JOY to give away to some lucky Food in Jars readers. Though, if you can’t wait, the Joy of Cooking app is available on the Apple App Store at the discounted price of $5.99 right now (the regular price will be $9.99). It’s great deal and a fabulous resource to carry around with you.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about your cookbook habits. Do you use an iPad or other tablet in the kitchen, do you drag a laptop in with you, or are you a cookbook devotee? Or is there some other method that you favor?
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm on Saturday, May 17, 2014. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, May 18, 2014
  3. Giveaway open to all.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: The people behind the Joy of Cooking app gave me a free download so that I could explore the app and write about it. They are also providing the downloads for the winners. That said, I was mere moments away from buying a copy when I got the email offering me free review access. It is a great product and I’m thrilled that it’s in the world. 

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!

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Cookbooks: Power Hungry

Power Hungry cover - Food in Jars

These days, my brain is entirely occupied by thoughts of my upcoming book tour. Next Friday, I head to Boston for a weekend of demos and book signings at the Eat Boutique Pop-Up Market. Soon after that, I’m road tripping my way through Charlottesville, Asheville, Atlanta, Birmingham, and Memphis.

I have page after page of to-do lists in my notebook, covering topics like demo supplies, book sourcing, day-to-day logistics, and even road snacks (because while I’ll have a back seat full of pickles and jam, preserves do not a filling meal make).

Power Hungry title spread - Food in Jars

Happily, thanks to Camille V. Saulsbury and her book Power Hungry my car snacks are in good hands. Released last fall, this book features recipes for granola bars, energy balls, and super healthy brownies that are the perfect thing to reach for when you’re driving from one state to another.

The book opens with an introduction to the pantry staples used in the recipes. From there Camilla moves into the section she calls “Super Natural Knock Offs.” If you have a favorite store bought bar, look here first, because chances are good that you’ll find a recipe that will get you something perfectly similar here.

Power Hungry Friend Bars - Food in Jars

From there, you move through chapters for Activity Bars (these are original recipes that are bursting with flavor to get you through a workout or a busy day), Endurance Bars (these are higher in protein and fat, for even more energy), Protein Bars (they get their protein from beans, or from whey or vegan protein powders), and Raw and Almost Raw Bars (these are the easiest bars in the book, because you just combine ingredients and pack them into shape).

So far, my favorite recipe in the book is the one for Friend Bars. They’re Camilla’s version of Kind Bars and the coconut almond variation has helped me kick my habit of picking up three or four at Trader Joe’s each time I grocery shop.

Power Hungry back - Food in Jars

This week, one of the things on the ever-lengthening to-do list is to make a couple batches of these bars, wrap them individually and stash them in the freezer. I’ll grab a few for next weekend’s trip and even more when I head south.

I’m so looking forward to the fact that I won’t be dependent on expensive store bought bars for all this upcoming travel. What’s more, there’s really nothing better than having something homemade when I’m on the road. It becomes an edible touchstone for home and the life I’m so happy to lead.

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Cookbooks: Baking Sourdough Bread

Baking Sourdough Bread cover

I acquired my sourdough starter just over two years ago. I was moved to get myself a bit of natural yeast thanks a cooking challenge laid down by Tara Austen Weaver on her blog, Tea and Cookies. I’d always been interested in learning more about how bread baking worked the old fashioned way and it seemed like just the opportunity to give it a shot.

The Mystical Sourdough

A friend gave me a bit of her starter and I began to feed it and bake with it. Thing was, I never quite got the hang of sourdough. I baked a couple successful loaves and made some good waffles, but had more clunkers than successes. I obsessively read blog posts and recipes from other bakers and it still never entirely clicked for me.

I had a vague inkling that my desire to add as much whole grain flours as possible caused some of my issues and that success would come with more practice. Sadly instead of persevering, I tucked some of the starter away in the fridge and just pull it out occasionally for a quick feeding to ensure it doesn’t die.

Oats, Potatoes, & Lentils

Happily, a new book landed in my mailbox recently that has given me hope that I am not destined to be a sourdough loser for all time. Baking Sourdough Bread has a number of recipes for breads, buns, and crackers that are clear and prescribed. This is not a book that waxes poetic about the beauty of sourdough. It spells out a simple recipe and tells you to get to work. It also includes a number of recipes that utilize sweets, treats, and whole grains, which pleases me.

Sourdough back

If you’ve been similarly perplexed by sourdough baking and need something a little more basic than Tartine Bread, this book is refreshingly straight forward. I am happy to add it to my bookshelf.

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