Learn from and savor the stories in home canning book
‘Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Preserving and Pickling.”
Knowledgeable folks are saying that if you wish to buy a book on canning, it should be this one, written by Kevin West, a former editor for W magazine and author of the blog savingtheseason.com.
Of his blog, West writes: “This is a blog about home canning — or ‘putting up’ as one might say where I’m from (the South) — and it will cover jams and other fruit preserves, pickles and briny things, canned vegetables (above all tomatoes) and the complement of condiments that includes relishes, sauces, salsas and those related preparations that result when you chunk bits of seasonal produce and preserve them in a syrup either piquant or sweet.”
This aptly describes his cookbook as well, which is written in a similarly artful manner and packed chock full of stories, making it a delight to read as well as use in the kitchen.
“Recipes need stories,” West writes. “Anyone who has learned to cook by spending hours in the kitchen with an older relative or a close friend knows what I mean. You learn by watching but also listening, and the instruction imparted is not merely technical. In the kitchen and at the table, food and narrative go together.”
Now a master food preserver certified by the University of California Cooperative Extension, West learned the art of preserving by starting small, and he crafts his recipes (some 220) to produce small batches, the preferred way for any novice to learn.
He opens with a primer on canning and preserving, encouraging the reader that home canning is merely another form of home cooking and not to be feared. The book moves forward, dividing fruits and vegetables by the seasons.
“Nature’s bounty is abundant but fleeting,” writes West. “I wanted to save the season, and preserving is my way to do it.”
First up then is spring, and four jam techniques employing strawberries as the vehicle. West moves on to pickling and preserving, using spring’s profusion of onions, ramps, garlic, carrots, currants, cherries, rhubarb, and more. Should you already have a recipe file of basics, West will extend your palate and your expertise with new adventures. His Cherry Olives are pickled with vinegar and “Frenchified” with red wine and tarragon. Peaches are canned in syrup perfumed by lavender in a cold pack method or the bergamot of Earl Grey tea in a hot pack one. Tomato jam is warmed by smoked paprika. Relishes are made from corn or peppers, sweet onions or snap beans, fennel or squash.
At a price of $35, the book is a true bargain. The clear and concise instructions ensure canning success. The delightfully written introductions and essays ensure good reading.
“Saving the Season,” West tells us, “is almost like a course on the cuisine and culture of home canning. If you follow the seasons, it takes about a year to complete.”
Afterward, however, rest assured you won’t be simply shelving the book away. Its technical information is timeless. Hardcover, Alfred A. Knopf.
Reach Marion Sullivan at email@example.com.