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 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.”
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.
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.
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.
The line cap and cool for two hours before processing according to the jar manufacturer’s directions is a big red flag for me personally since you do not let the food cool in the jar before processing. And the book’s design looks extremely awkward as well to me. I love making pickles but will have to pass on the first book just based on the way it is put together.
Just how I felt! I picked it up in a bookstore and I wanted to like it, but it was too frustrating to even browse, and not having specific processing instructions was a big problem for me.
I thought sweet potatoes were not safe to (water bath) can, or is that only pumpkins I’m thinking of?
Sweet potatoes aren’t safe for boiling water bath canning, but that butter is a refrigerator recipe.
I bought pickles and preserves the day after I went to your book tour stop in Asheville. I got a signed copy from Malaprop’s bookstore. I was so thrilled I got two signed canning books while visiting Asheville.