New cookbooks show way to preserving, pickling and from scratch

The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making.

We're so fortunate in Charleston to have a big farmers market downtown on Saturdays, in Mount Pleasant on Tuesday afternoons, as well as a number of smaller ones around the area. Take advantage of this prime time for fruits and vegetables and “put up” for the dreary winter months.

“The Preservation Kitchen: The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves, and Aigre-doux.”

Michelin-starred chef/owner of Chicago's Vie and Perennial Virant restaurants Paul Virant wrote this book with IACP Award-winner Kate Leahy. Both made, as Virant writes, a huge commitment to “being immersed in brine.” And they deliver. With flavor profiles that are both intriguing and sophisticated, such as peach and saffron jam or vanilla melon jam. With innovations that could change conventions, such as dehydrating strawberries for strawberry jam to increase the flavor and reduce the amount of sugar needed, or make a blueberry aigre-doux to use in a vinaigrette or with a cheese. And most important of all, with instructions that are impeccable and delivered in a clear and concise manner.

There is a second part to the book, the “Cooking with,” in which Virant delivers seasonal menus incorporating what he puts up in the first half. It also is very good, as befits a chef with a Michelin star. However, Virant and Leahy have done such an extraordinary job with the preserving that I would love to have a whole book on it from them. Let's hope for a volume two. Hardcover. Ten Speed Press. $29.99.

“The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making.”

At first glance, I thought this to be another book on putting up. There is some preserving, but author Alana Chernila's wider mission is to cook the basic groceries from scratch. Many pantry staples not only taste better when homemade, but also cost less. Chernila divides her chapters by grocery aisles, beginning with No. 1 Dairy (ricotta, creme fraiche, yogurt, mozzarella, butter, buttermilk and cream cheese) and ending with No. 11 Candy and Sweet Treats (peanut butter cups, caramels, fruit roll-ups, the cream-filled snack cake, fig bars, marshmallows, the sandwich cookie). Along the way you'll find things like mustard, ketchup, fish sticks, pop tarts and lovely essays. Semi-hard cover. Clarkson Potter/Publishers. $24.99.

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