Spring Book Reviews – Preservation Society Home Preserves

Canned

I received a review copy of Preservation Society Home Preserves from Robert Rose Inc. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

Canning and preserving aren’t what they used to be. It’s a lost art for many, only some of whom have memories of parents or grandparents putting up dilly beans or pickled beets, strawberry freezer jam or orange marmalade. Those recipes seemed preserved in amber themselves, passed down from one generation to the next without variation.

Not that that’s a bad thing – I love the taste of old fashioned pickles, jams, and preserves. But now, there’s been a a revival of the preservation arts and it’s come with a lot of experimentation. I may love those old school tastes, but it’s the modern flavours that inspire me to get into the kitchen and fire up the canner.

If you feel the same way, Camilla Wynne’s Preservation Society Home Preserves is the book for you.

Her whimsically heart-shaped pickled beets have a juniper berry and peppercorn kick. Her strawberries mingle with currants and rose petals or tequila and triple sec. And her marmalades travel the road from purity to downright decadence.

Many of her recipes are inspired by cocktails and she brings the same kind of attention to flavour and inventiveness that you’d see in a bar that specializes in handcrafted drinks. The range of recipes is nice, too, including syrups, refrigerator preserves, and dishes that use some of the products of the earlier recipes in the book.

Jamming

This book isn’t a comprehensive guide to canning, though. There is a chapter up front that covers canning basics clearly, but if you’re new to it you might want to have a canning reference guide (or even better, an experienced canner) by your side.

I made Wynne’s Piña Colada Jam yesterday and it filled the kitchen with the most wonderful tropical aromas. I tasted it today and it was delicious. Wynne recommends using it as a cake filling, an ice cream topping, or swirled into mascarpone. I could also see it as a surprise at the bottom of a crème brûlée or a tart like this one. To be perfectly honest, it’s great on its own. I sort of ate a small…ish quantity of it with a spoon while I was supposed to be photographing it.

Robert Rose Inc. has been kind enough to allow me to share the recipe with you. If you make it, promise me you’ll follow safe canning guidelines (you could start here, for instance) and read up about how to determine the setting point for jam.

Piña Colada Jam

Makes about five jars (8 oz/250 mL each)

2.9 lbs (1.3 kg) pineapple flesh (from 2 pineapples)
2-1/2 cups (500 g) jam (gelling) sugar
1-2/3 cups (100 g) unsweetened flaked coconut
Grated zest and juice of 2 limes
6 tbsp (90 mL) dark rum, divided

  • Chop the pineapple into fairly small dice.
  • In a large pot or preserving pan, combine the pineapple, sugar, coconut, lime zest and juice and about half the rum. Cover and let stand to macerate for 30 minutes.
  • In the meantime, prepare the jars and lids.
  • Bring the pineapple mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often. Boil hard, stirring often, until the setting point is reached. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the remaining rum.
  • Ladle jam into the hot jars to within 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) of the rim. Remove any air bubbles and wipe rims. Place the lids on the jars and screw the bands on until fingertip-tight. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

Canning

For me, the best cookbooks are ones that send me in directions I’d never imagined, whether it’s techniques, cuisines, or ingredients. In this case, it’s combinations and juxtapositions of flavours. Having a pantry full of these homemade ingredients will lead to a more delicious life.

Tasting

Come back next Thursday for the last book in this season’s review series. You’ll be dreaming of Paris and you’ll also have a chance to win one of two copies of Jill Colonna‘s latest book.

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Spring Book Reviews – Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry

Quickles

Today’s review is for a cookbook from my own shelves, Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, and no consideration was received for this post.

I first came across Cathy Barrow’s blog when she started Charcutepalooza with Kim Foster. I followed along, fascinated by the accomplishments of the group of bloggers working their way through Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing. There’s no way meat-curing is going to happen in this apartment, between the tiny dog and M. Vegan, so experiencing charcuterie-making vicariously was just my speed.

I was particularly happy to find Cathy’s blog, Mrs. Wheelbarrow, because she makes better use of the best of each season than just about anyone else. Charcuterie might be the high-wire act of home preserving, but she also engages in earthier pursuits like canning, baking, and cheese-making – well, cheese-making is a bit on the wild side for most of us, too. I know it was pretty exciting territory for me, when I tried it.

I especially liked the way she demystifies home preserving and cooking for people who didn’t grow up with those traditions. My mother made pickles and jams, but home cheese-making and meat-curing weren’t on the radar of anyone we knew. The most exotic thing she made was canned trout, with my grandmother. Reading Mrs. Wheelbarrow made all these things seem possible and even part of a routine in the kitchen. This sensibility follows in Cathy Barrow’s cookbook, too.

In her introduction, she explains that it was a growing concern with food systems, waste, and health that led her first to canning, then to home preserving on a broader scale. Preserving has become a part of her everyday life and her cookbook is filled with the kind of information that makes it seem possible to accomplish that, too.

There are sections on safety, technique, and troubleshooting, but what really makes me want to get into the kitchen are her bonus recipes and her suggestions for using the preserves, pickles, cheeses, and charcuterie you’ll produce. There’s nothing worse that looking at a shining row of freshly canned preserves and wondering what you’re going to do with it all now.

Her base recipes for jams and pickles are worth the cost of the book, alone – they aren’t merely repeats of traditional ones. And once you have the book in hand, who knows? You may work through the meat-curing and cheese-making sections eventually. The gorgeous photos and intriguing descriptions might have you experimenting with gravlax and ricotta, then finding yourself setting up a smoker out back or creating a cheese cave.

At the very least, you can get some nice bacon from the butcher’s and try her Bacon-Onion Jam.

I’m looking forward to trying more of her jams, preserves, and pickles over the course of the summer. And I know I’ll try a simple recipe or two from the other sections. For now, though, I’m anxiously awaiting tomorrow, when I can start dipping into the jar of carrot, red pepper, and onion Quickles I made tonight (a version of which you can find here).

Come back next Thursday, May 7th for a review of a book full of heavenly aromas.