Sometimes you can tell a book by its cover. And the subtitle.
Those are dried tomatoes on the cover, unmistakably red and densely delicious. The subtitle for Preserving Everything is: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk and More.
Author Leda Meredith learned preserving with early sessions at her great-grandmother’s side. She has crafted several books and is the Food Preservation Expert for About.com. “Expert” is just the adjective to describe Leda for her expertise is reflected in this tight and tidy book from Countryman Press.
This book is a compendium of recipes and primers on a dozen techniques for preserving food:
- Boiling Water Bath Canning
- Vinegar Pickling
- Sweet Preserves
- Pressure Canning
- Salting and Smoking
- Cold Storage
- Dairy Culture: Yogurt and Simple Cheeses
- Preserving in Oil, Butter and Other Fats
- Preserving in Alcohol
No, this is not a chemistry book so don’t be afraid of that “lacto-fermentation” technique at the top of the stack. That’s the technical term for how we create good old pickles, and sauerkraut and kimchi. And beer and wine. While this technique is often called “pickling” there are some preservations aficionados who demand the term “pickled” only be used for the Vinegar Pickling of Chapter 3. You can debate the terms and techniques, but the foods are indisputable delicious.
And Leda does take you through the nuances, differences and similarities of those two techniques plus all the others. I did not realize, for example, that there are really three kinds of vinegar pickling:
Refrigerator pickles that use less vinegar and have more crunch in the product
Canned pickles that have much high acidity and a far sharper bite to the tongue
Sweet pickling incorporating sugar or honey to give you sweet-and-sour pickles and other addictive treats.
Each technique is both described and applied. The book abounds with recipes, some that will sound familiar and some that will probably be sparkling new. Here’s a sampling:
Fermented Apple Salsa
Quick Refrigerator Dill Pickles
Green Tomato Chutney
Sweet Red Pepper and Cucumber Relish
Fig Preserves with Wine and Balsamic Vinegar
Candied Grapefruit Peels
Dehydrator Method Kale Chips
Jerky from Ground Turkey
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
These are lovely recipe ideas and there are enough here to keep you “preserving” through the year. More importantly, these are templates for you. Switch from one fruit to another, from one veggie to another but still apply these lessons and techniques. You can mix and match at will, generating your own private concoctions. Adding a sprig of dill or thyme is another way to customize your delight.
Preserving at home is a tradition that seemed close to being lost. Few of us lead the lives of our great-grandmothers. But now, the tradition is back. There is a bevy of information on preserving available on the web and on book shelves. Preserving Everything is an excellent way to start. It’s informative, encyclopedic and fun to read. If you are serious about preserving, then Preserving Everything is volume you’ll put to weekly use.