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Winter is an excellent time to learn about preserving food. If you wait for the rush of spring and summer produce, you may find yourself unprepared. For example, if you want to start canning, now's the time to start stocking up on supplies. Now's also the time to peruse new canning and preserving books, which is why I was excited to receive Lyndia Brown's Preserve It! from DK Publishing.
First of all, I've never seen a DK book that wasn't beautiful. Preserve It! is no exception. It's packed with full color photographs to make you wish you could spend all your time preserving food - just because it looks so pretty. But what I also appreciate about DK books is they originate in England and therefore usually approach subjects quite differently than we do in the United States. This makes for interesting reading.
In Preserve It! Brown covers just about every safe method for preserving fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, and fish - and a few other food in between. She begins with the most basic method: Keeping the food in the ground. She shows, step-by-step, how to bury certain produce (like potatoes) under the earth. Then she moves on to root cellaring, or storing produce (like carrots, winter squash, apples, onions, and garlic) in a cool, dark location. You don't need an actual root cellar to do this; a cool, basically dry location like a garage works, too.
Drying foods is covered, too. There is no mention of using dehydrators here. Brown sticks to more old fashioned techniques like oven and air drying, which typically don't work as well unless you live in quite a dry environment. The basics of freezing are also covered, with a handy chart on the steps involved in safely freezing various types of food. There are some recipes included in this section, including frozen fruit bars, freezer pickles, and freezer jams.
Making jam, jelly, and marmalade is covered pretty extensively. Brown teaches how to make your own pectin (a necessary ingredient for jam making) from apples, gives basic instructions on using a boiling water bath canner, and offers plenty of recipes, including standard favorites (like mixed berry jam) and less common recipes (like black currant jam, cherry jam, fig and vanilla jam, pumpkin and orange spiced jam, tomato and hot pepper jam, hot pepper jelly, rosemary jelly, red onion marmalade, and clementine and whiskey marmalade). There are also instructions on making candied fruit peel and crystallized fruit. Chutneys, both sweet and savory, are up next, with instructions and recipes like mango, green bean and zucchini, tomato and roasted pepper, and apple, raisin, and date chutney.
How to can pickles and relishes is covered, along with recipes like lime pickles, pickled walnuts, pickled shallots, cucumber pickles, and beet relish. The basics of canning fruit comes next, with some really interesting recipes like figs in honey syrup, clementines in caramel syrup, cherries in brandy, kumquats in vodka, mulled pears, apricots and almonds in amaretto, berry syrup, chestnuts in vanilla syrup, various cordials (non-alcoholic drinks), mushroom ketchup, hot pepper sauce, and pesto.
Preserving food in oil is something I've never seen in an American book. And while this method has been used since ancient times, the author correctly states it's now considered safe only for short term, refrigerated storage. But her recipes for garlic confit, dried tomatoes in oil, artichokes in oil, and more look positively scrumptious.
Near the end of Preserve It!, Brown covers salting and curing produce, poultry, meat, and fish. Here, you'll learn the basics of making sauerkraut, preserved lemons, salting and curing fish, wet curing meat, dry curing meat, making sausages, and smoking foods. Finally, Brown offers the basics of making cider, beer, and wine (including grape, beet, plum, pea, parsnip, and elderflower).
While Preserve It! may not be ideal for beginning canners, it is a source of inspiration for both novice and experienced canners and food preservers. Novices can use this book alongside a more complete canning manual (like the Ball Complete Book of Preserving) to expose themselves to more than just standard recipes. And experienced canners will love the new and interesting recipes, for sure. I can't wait to try some!
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