Cookbooks: Fine Preserving, Salt Sugar Smoke, and Whole Larder Love

April 21, 2013(updated on October 3, 2018)

three books

Each spring, I like to pick up a few new books in anticipation of the coming canning season. Though my preserving library is already pretty darn extensive, I find that I’m still always casting about for fresh inspiration. Seeing how different authors approach the art of jamming, pickling, drying, and infusing opens up my mind in the most useful and interesting ways. I thought I’d share three of my most recent acquisitions, just in case some of you are also looking for delicious new things to make.

Fine Preserving

I first spotting Fine Preserving last summer while teaching a pair of canning classes at The Pantry in Seattle. This first book is not a new release, but is still well worth the addition to the bookshelf. Essentially, it’s a classic preserving book that food writer M.F.K. Fisher loved so much that it was republished with her comments on many of the recipes. It’s like discovering your grandmother’s old kitchen notebook, complete with chatty notes and guidance about what works and what doesn’t.

notes on grapefruit marmalade

As you can see, the main body of the book is the recipe as it was written Catherine Plagemann, and then Fisher’s notes appear in red. I think this sort of thing should be done more frequently. It’s just so fun! This book is only available used, but there are a number of inexpensive copies floating around out there.

Salt Sugar Smoke

Next is Diana Henry’s book Salt Sugar Smoke. It came out last fall and is seriously gorgeous and full of lovely, approachable recipes. It’s a book that isn’t just sweet preserves, but also includes cured meats and smoked fish.

earl grey tea jelly

Of course, there are also plenty of sweet things too, like this earl grey tea jelly (sounds intriguing, doesn’t it!). I’ve often infused tea flavors into my fruit-based preserves, but it never occurred to me to make a spread that just featured the flavor of tea. Once I get this book project of mine off my plate, this will be one of the first things I make.

sweet fig vinegar

There’s just one thing to note here, and that is that Henry is a UK-based food writer. That means that the recipes are a bit more relaxed than the ones written expressly for the American market. If that makes you nervous, simply apply a boiling water bath to the high acid recipes, even if it’s not specifically called for. I often do that when working with jam and jelly recipes written for international audiences. It just makes me feel better about ensuring I’ve got a perfectly safe, shelf-stable finished product.

Whole Larder Love

Last on in my little stack is Whole Larder Love by Rohan Anderson. I’ve long been a reader of Anderson’s blog of the same name and so was quite excited when I heard he was writing a book because his site is intensely beautiful. He is dedicated to eating the foods available around him in Australia and so is regularly hunting, fishing, and foraging (in addition to tending a garden).

pickled olives

The book is just as lovely as the blog and is filled with so many inspiring photos. While I’m not sure that I’ll ever cook directly from it, I keep coming back simply to leaf through and refill my energy stores for the many acts of preservation I tackle during the growing season. And to my mind, that’s a plenty good reason to keep a book on my shelf.

What books have been inspiring your cooking and preserving lately?

Disclosure: I received a review copy of Whole Larder Love at no cost to me. I bought the other two books with cash I earned by stringing words together. My opinions remain, as always, entirely my own. 

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14 thoughts on "Cookbooks: Fine Preserving, Salt Sugar Smoke, and Whole Larder Love"

  • Terrific round-up of books! My latest favorite is Paul Virant’s “The Preservation Kitchen” — elegantly approachable, love the Sweet Pickled Cherry Tomatoes. Also Eugenia Bone’s “Well-Preserved”, we make the Marinated Red Bell Peppers every season.

  • I decided to order my own copy of “Well Preserved” as I grew tired of waiting to check it out at the library. Each year I drag out my copy of “Preserving the Taste” by Edon Waycott. There may be no photography but I delight in reading the recipes!

  • i’m a hopeless preserver, but a huge diana henry fan. i mean, how can you not love a lady who titles a book, crazy water, pickled lemons?

    1. Oh no! Now I will find myself compelled to visit your blog on a frequent basis since it is exactly my cup of tea!

  • MFK’s annotations in Fine Preserving are great. Try the chermoullah! My favorite recipe in there… although no one else seems to call it that.

  • I have the first two books, and love them both. Salt, Sugar, Smoke was an amazing find–the recipes are so simple, but the results are unbelievably elegant. I really hope you post your results/modifications for each of these–I’m sure they will be interesting!

  • Two of my earliest cookbooks were the Better Homes and Gardens and Searchlight. There was a woman in Anchorage, Alaska who gifted me with those two and several others. At that time I was a newly wed and very pregnant. She took a real shine to me and those cookbooks were passed down from her mother to her. Because she didn’t have a daughter and no hope of grandchildren, she gave them to me. That was over 25 years ago and I still use the Searchlight. The Better Homes and Garden literally fell apart from so much usage.

    The other books she gave me were about canning and preserving and a pie cook book published by Farm Home Journal. These books are a real treasure trove of information that also get a lot of use.

    I am always grateful to Mrs. Angel for the books that she gave me and every time I use them I always think of her.


  • I’m so glad you happened to mention this! I’ve been trying to find blogs based in Australia, and it seems much harder. I think they hide or something! I look forward to reading Whole Larder Love, now!