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Cookbooks for Canners, Picklers, and Preservers

preserving books spine

I am something of a last minute holiday shopper (I am deeply motivated by deadlines). It’s only in the last week that I’ve truly started applying my brain to the collection of gifts for my family members (thank goodness for the ease of online shopping). And so it makes sense that I’m only now getting around to sharing this list of books. Think of it as half gift guide, and half round-up of the recent good books that deal with preserving.

first five books

  • The first book in this pile came out in 2012, so including it in this list is a bit of a cheat. However, there is no better volume than Elizabeth Field’s book Marmalade on the topic of, well, marmalade. If you have a citrus lover in your life, I can’t imagine a more perfect gift than a copy of this book paired with a box of Meyer lemons (I order ten pounds from the Lemon Ladies every January).
  • If you’re curious about homemade hot sauce, The Hot Sauce Cookbook by Robb Walsh should be your starting point. This book has quick salsas, long-fermented sauces, pungent pickles, and lots of recipes to help you put those spicy condiments to use. And if the predicted sriracha shortage comes to be, don’t fear, just turn to page 109 and make your own.
  • For small batches with a Southern twist, seek out Southern Living’s Little Jars, Big Flavors. It’s a handy book bursting with dependable, heavily tested recipes. I devoted an entire post to back in July.
  • I make a goodly number of apple-based preserves each year, but Amy Pennington’s Apples: From Harvest to Table has me thinking about this autumn fruit in a whole new way. Think fresh apple relish spiked with kimchi brine and pickled apple slices with star anise.
  • Mayonnaise. Mustard. Steak sauce. Vinegar. Nut butters. The Kitchen Pantry Cookbook has it all. Written by Erin Coopey, this volume is destined to become a kitchen essential for home cooks who are committed to making instead of buying.

second four books

  • Emma Christensen’s True Brews is the best book available for people who want to start brewing their own beer, wine, mead, cider, and kombucha at home in small batches. I tested several of her recipes last summer for a Table Matters piece and was so impressed with the quality of instruction and the relative ease of the projects. It is a winner of a cookbook.
  • For devoted home canners who have moved beyond the basics of preserving, Kevin West’s gorgeous book, Saving the Season, is the way to go. It has depth, good storytelling, and deliberate pace that is rare in cookbooks these days. I find it a lovely book to read for inspiration, illumination, and pleasure.
  • So many canners fall into the same trap. They spend a summer and fall making exotic preserves like chokecherry jelly and zucchini relish. Once winter hits, they have a full pantry and no idea how to use what they’ve canned. Happily, that’s where Sherri Brooks Vinton comes in. Her book, Put ‘em Up! Fruit, will show you how to use up what you’ve put up. It’s genius and should be on your shelf.
  • Fermentation is all the rage these days. Between beer making, sourdough baking, and tangy brined pickles, everyone seems to be doing it. However, for those who can’t seem to move past a basic batch of kraut, Mastering Fermentation, is a fantastic volume for upping your game and making fermented foods a more regular part of your culinary life.

last four books

  • For people who want to preserve without much additional sugar, or who want to sweetened with honey or fruit juice concentrates, there’s no better tool than Pomona’s Pectin. The recent release of Preserving with Pomona’s Pectin by Allison Carroll Duffy has made it even easier for canners to explore low sugar jam and jelly making. I highly recommend the Ginger Vanilla Rhubarb Jam on page 58.
  • Preserving Wild Foods is a delightful book for foragers, hunters, people who fish, and those who like their food to taste just a little bit wild. You’ll find things like geranium-scented tomato jam, blueberry maple spoon fruit, and black walnut chutney. It’s a glorious volume that didn’t get nearly enough love when it came out in late 2012.
  • For those of us who like a bit of charm and twinkle with our recipes for red raspberry jam and traditional treacle bread, look no further than Irish Pantry by Noel McMeel. It came out just a few weeks ago and is already a welcome and oft-reached for addition to my library. The recipes are for sturdy baked goods that are so satisfying this time of year. If you crave warmth and cheer, this book should be yours.
  • Last on this list of books for canners, picklers, and preservers is Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese by Tenaya Darlington (disclosure – Tenaya is a dear friend). Some might find it strange to include a book about cheese here, but I firmly believe that every homemade preserve has a cheese soulmate just waiting to be found and this book can help in that search. For those canners who are intimated by the cheese counter, there is no better guide to bellying up to the cheese case than this excellent volume. It also has a carefully selected assortment of recipes and some truly stunning photography.

Disclosure: Many of the books listed here came into my life as review copies (there are a few that I bought). All the links are affiliate ones, I get a couple of cents if you click through and buy a copy. All that said, I only recommend books that I think are beautiful, useful, and well-written. These are my true opinions and nothing more. 

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Holiday Giving: Kitchen Tools for Canners

In my years of canning, one of the things I’ve found is that most of my favorite canning tools weren’t made specifically for canning. They are simply kitchen utensils that are well made, sturdy and just happen to serve a useful role in my preserving practice. From the bottom left corner and moving clockwise, here are some of my current favorites.

  • This six-piece set of stacking measuring cups by RSVP is fantastic. They are made from solid stainless steel and have a nice heft in the hand. I use the one-cup measure to portion jam into half-pint jars and the half-cup one fits neatly into my larger storage jars.
  • I’ve long been a fan of a serrated edge peeler. It’s particularly handy during marmalade season because it allows you peel off the outer zest from citrus without taking any of the pith along with you. What makes this particular peeler so nice is that it had dual blades, one smooth and one serrated. Makes for less clutter in a crowded utensil drawer. The one pictured above is from Williams-Sonoma. Kuhn Rikon also makes a version.
  • Thermapen is simply the best instant read thermometers out there. I’ve bought two in recent years and just love them for minding the temperature of my jams, jellies and curds. They’re pricy, but worth the money (and make sure to check the end of this post for a Thermapen giveaway!).
  • I first found this potato masher at a Tuesday Morning and it has supplanted all my other mashers. What makes it so awesome is that the tines are bladed. They’re not sharp, but they have just enough edge to make it perfect for breaking down cooking fruit. It’s a fantastic tool.
  • A good, fully encased silicone spatula. The one pictured above is from GIR and is quite nice. However, it also costs $22.50, which is more than most people want to spend on a spatula (disclosure! this one was sent to me for review purposes). For a more sensibly priced version (under six bucks), check out this one from Orka. According to Amazon, I bought mine in 2009 and it’s still going strong.
  • A good paring knife. I like the ones made by Kuhn Rikon, but couldn’t find one in the kitchen when preparing to take this picture. The most important thing is that it feels good in the hand and holds an edge.

  • If you’ve been reading this site for any length of time, you’ll know that I am crazy for my 4th burner pot. Also made by Kuhn Rikon (they don’t know I exist, I just like their products), this skinny pot has a spout, a heat-proof handle and is fitted with a rack. This means that it works as a small batch canning pot, a pot for heating pickling liquids and syrups for canning whole fruit and even as a tea kettle in a pinch. On Thanksgiving, I used it to heat up the gravy. It is a genius piece of equipment and I love it so much that I own two.
  • I bought this Cuisinart stainless steel wok at Macy’s last summer on a whim. It was on sale and I had a feeling that it might be a handy size and shape for making small batches of jam. And I was right. The flared sides encourage evaporation and it holds a bit more jam than a 12-inch skillet. It’s lighter than ideal for a true wok, but is quite nice for jams, jellies and chutneys (and it just costs right around $30, which makes it highly affordable).
  • Finally, flour sack towels. I finally got smart and started buying them in colors instead of in white. No matter how much I bleached them, the white ones just never get clean. The deeply colored ones don’t show the stains as much. Amazing the difference these little choices make in my quality of life.

As promised, I have an orange Thermapen to give away to one of you nice folks. Here’s how to throw your hat in the ring for chance at it.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about your current favorite kitchen tool.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm on Friday, November 30, 2012. Winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog over the weekend.
  3. Giveaway open to everyone (the shipping is on me, no matter where you live).
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post. I do not accept submissions via email.
Disclosure: Thermapen is providing the thermometer for this giveaway. GIR sent me one of their spatulas for review. Neither company paid to be included in this post. No one else mentioned here knows that I exist or that I’m writing about them.