Review: Preserving: the Canning and Freezing Guide for All Seasons

This 500-page tome is packed with more than just pickles.

Review: Preserving: the Canning and Freezing Guide for All Seasons
photo by Harper Collins

Pat Crocker's Preserving: The Canning and Freezing Guide for All Seasons (Wm. Morrow, $30, 552pp) is not your grandma's little blue staple-bound pamphlet of jam recipes. It's a five pound, visually stunning, modern behemoth worthy of putting a sag in any home canner's reference shelf.

Don't let the size intimidate you: beginner-level canners will find comfort in the step-by-step guides and photos that open the book, as much as veteran jar-sealers will find inspiration in unique recipes like the Mushroom Tapenade (p. 512). Both will appreciate the variety of seasonal fruits, veggies, and even herbs represented and the depth to which they are covered. In fact, in a town like ours - brimming with farmer's markets and productive urban gardens in every neighborhood - a book like this can prove downright indispensable. Take that infamous Central Texas CSA mainstay, kohlrabi. By now, every self-respecting locavore has found a go-to recipe for the tiny cabbage with a funny name, but variety can be hard to come by for the misfit veg. Fortunately, Preserving offers enough kohlrabi fun - eight full pages - to make Iron Chef's Chairman Kaga blush.

However decidedly comprehensive and beautifully composed it is, though, perhaps Preserving’s best and most unique feature is its refreshing clarity on one salient fact: even the best preserves aren't meant to be eaten alone. After all, those jars in your pantry are stuffed with non-perishable ingredients - not full-on MRE's. With this in mind, the book does double duty as not only a canning guide but also a cook book. Each chapter closes with the author's thoughts on how best to use a particular preserve, and in all, she offers over 80 different inspirations for 140 preserves. Wondering what to do with your home-made Raspberry Curd (p.44) - that is, other than eating it all with a spoon before you can sterilize even one jar? Looks like there's a well-earned Raspberry Tiramisu (p. 46) in your future. Did you just stumble across a forgotten jar of Pumpkin Chutney (p. 424)? My friend, you've got the perfect filling for some very special Three Sisters Enchiladas (p. 426) - and I'll be waiting for my invite.

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