One of the things I find intriguing is that when I’m deep in the process of writing a book, I have a very hard time digging into cookbooks by other authors. I’m not sure if it’s fear of inadvertently borrowing a line or concept, or if it’s simply that my brain is so entrenched in my own ideas that there’s no room for others.
Whatever the reason, over the last six months I’ve really struggled to engage with new cookbooks. However, as I come to the end of the editing process with Naturally Sweet Food in Jars, I’m suddenly once again hungry for the words and recipes of others. These four preserving books have all come out during this foggy period of mine, and now that I’m seeing more clearly, I’m so delighted by them. I think you’ll be as well.
The book is divided by kind of preserve and includes delicious sounding things like Lemon Raspberry Jamalade (page 54), Coconut Lime Marmalade (page 93), and Chipotle Cherry Tomato Relish (page 130). Every recipe has its own picture and Amy shot all the images herself (a feat I could never dare replicate).
Preserving was originally published in France in 1948 under the title, Je Sais Faire les Conserves (I Know How to Make Preserves), by famed French food author Ginette Mathiot. The book has been updated and translated by author and food blogger Clothilde Dusoulier and is now accessible to a new generation of home cooks.
This comprehensive volume offers its readers guidance on how to dry, salt, cure, jam, confit, and otherwise put up the fruits of the growing season for the colder months. While there are some recipes that might be seen as relics of an earlier age, like the Stuffed Goose Neck (page 90), even the quickest glance through the book reminds me how much of the book’s knowledge is still relevant today.
One particularly useful technique is the one for Flattened Apples (page 220). It instructs the reader how to prepare, dry, and store whole apples, so that they can later be rehydrated and included in stews and tarts. I am confident that there are many out there in possession of an apple tree who would find it incredibly useful.
It is always interesting to see the differences between preserving books written by home cooks and those written by folks who make a living by making jam. Preservation Society Home Preserves is a book firmly in the latter category. As far as I can tell, having a wider audience for their preserves often leads the professionals down a more varied range of culinary trails and I’m often surprised and delighted to see where those paths lead.
Written by Preservation Society founder and head preserver Camilla Wynne, this book definitely pushes well beyond the traditional array of flavor combinations and leaps right into the edible creative fray. The book features an array of intriguing things, including Fig Jam with Secrets (page 22), Sea Buckthorn Jelly (page 68), pickled Maple Chile Onions (page 117), and Pickled Raisins (page 118).
Another nice element of this book is that it includes a small section towards the back that offers insight into how Camilla likes to put her preserves to use. Onion Jam Poutine, anyone?
Last up in the stack of books is the beautiful and immersive Preserving the Japanese Way, by Nancy Singleton Hachisu. Nancy is a native Californian who married a Japanese farmer and has spent the last two and a half decades living, raising children, and feeding a family in rural Japan.
Over her years in Japan, Nancy has made a point to learn many of the traditional making and preserving skills, both to preserve the knowledge and because the resulting sauces, pickles, pastes, and other preserves are so much more flavorful and delicious.
As I type these words, I feel like I’m only just skating around the edges of this book, as it is a huge volume, both in the number of pages and in the sheer mass of information it offers. When I approach it, I feel much the same as I do when I open one of Sandor Katz’s books. I know that I can dip in and find the information I need to proceed in that moment, but that the words and concepts on the page deserve more than a quick visit. I look forward to finding the time to dive more deeply into this one.
Disclosure: I received copies of The Canning Kitchen, Preserving, and Preservation Society Home Preserves for review. Preserving the Japanese Way, I bought.