So many food preservation books, so little time to comb through them. Let me help.
I started canning casually three years ago. Got more serious about it two years ago. Went full-tilt boogie this past year when I became a Master Food Preserver through the Purdue University Extension.
Those who know me are aware of my cookbook addiction. This extends to food preservation books as well. If there’s a book out there on the topic, I have likely done one of the following:
- purchased it
- borrowed it from a friend
- checked it out from the library
- tried sundry recipes from it that are available online
What has all of this taught me about food preservation books? There are lots of them. Many great ones. Some OK ones. And a few that will sit on your shelf and collect dust because they’re too complicated, too tedious, or too something else that causes you to leave them alone.
With that in mind, I’m passing along the ones I’ve found to be well worth the time and money. Consider these when you’re making your list for Santa or visiting the local library. You might also take to Twitter or Facebook to see if any friends or neighbors have them and would be willing to share. If you want to try your hand at food preservation, but want to start RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND, scroll down to the end of this post for the scoop on three websites that are open around the clock for your reading pleasure, and should be bookmarked on your computer.
But first, THE BOOKS, THE BOOKS, THE BOOKS!
Below are my ten favorites, in no particular order. (Although I have given them nicknames, since they’re all special in their own way. Awwwwww.) Note: if you hover over the author’s name, you’ll find a link to the book on Amazon. I don’t receive compensation for this referral to the website… just trying to make it easier for those who share my instant gratification tendencies.
Alright then. Here we go:
1. Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
Nickname: The Workhorse
Why: This book has everything. Any basic recipe you’ll ever need or want is in there. Just starting to preserve food? You need to get your hands on this, one way or another.
2. So Easy to Preserve
Nickname: The Sheriff
Why: This is the official book of the National Center for Home Food Preservation, located at the University of Georgia. Every recipe in here has been rigorously tested for safety, and has the blessing of the United States Department of Agriculture. It’s not the easiest thing to get your hands on (since it’s only sold by the University), but if you plan on doing serious canning, or want to help others learn to preserve food, this should be on your bookshelf.
3. The Joy of Jams, Jellies, & Other Sweet Preserves
Nickname: The Gospel According to Linda
Why: Though I’ve never personally met Linda Ziedrich, I worship her from afar. (Thus, the fawning nickname I’ve given the book). I just love her work. The recipes are delicious, and the instructions are clear and easy to follow. There’s something about Ziedrich’s approach that makes me feel like food preservation is a worthy endeavor, rewarding in all of its occasionally messy glory. It’s easy to see why she has cult status in the food preservation community.
4. The Joy of Pickling
Nickname: The Gospel According to Linda, Pickle Edition
Why: See above for why I’m such a fan of Linda Ziedrich. Her pickles rock, just like her jams and jellies.
5. Food in Jars
Nickname: The BFF
Why: You know how BFFs are. They’re reliable. Good with advice. No drama. That’s how I feel about this book, which grew out of McClellan’s wildly popular blog of the same name. It’s clear and concise, and brimming with the reassuring advice of a gal who just knows you can do it. I really like the format, which is divided into categories of preserves (jams, fruit butters, pickles, etc.). This can be especially helpful for beginners, but still appealing to experienced preservers (a tough balance to strike).
6. The Art of Fermentation
Nickname: Elvis is (fermenting something) in the Building
Why: Sandor Katz is to fermentation as Elvis is to rock ‘n roll…THE KING. A self-described cultural revivalist, Katz travels the world teaching, and learning, about fermentation. His new book is equal parts history lesson, manifesto, and instruction manual. If you want to try your hand at fermentation (ranging from bread, wine, pickles, and more), this is where you should start. It begins with a stirring introduction by food journalist Michael Pollan, and keeps you hooked until the end.
7. Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods
Nickname: Elvis is (fermenting something) in the Building, The Prologue
Why: This is the first book Katz wrote on fermentation. It’s shorter, and filled primarily with recipes. (As opposed to the broader goals of his follow-up.) This is a great one to have on the shelf for go-to fermentation projects.
8. Put ‘em Up! A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook
Nickname: A Lil’ Bit of Everything
Why: This book is comprehensive without being overwhelming. It covers a variety of food preservation techniques, including drying, freezing, canning, and pickling. Instead of photographs, everything is illustrated with detailed drawings. Though it may sound a little odd, it works. The book is organized by type of produce (corn, onions, blueberries, beans, etc.), which is really convenient if you come home from the farmers market or grocery store with an abundance of one particular item. (Lots of good-looking corn at your disposal? Choose from oven-dried sweet corn, corn salsa, or frozen corn.) Brooks Vinton also has helpful hints at the beginning of each recipe for putting your preserves to work. I took her advice and paired the spicy pickled carrots with a gooey grilled cheese, and it was as yummy as she promised.
9. Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods
Nickname: The Sophisticate
Why: This book differs from some of the others because each preserves recipe is followed by two or three additional recipes incorporating your preserved goodies. For example, the canned tomatoes are the key component in a marinara sauce that will change your life. I mean, really folks. CHANGE. YOUR. LIFE. This marinara dish alone is the reason I plan to preserve more tomatoes next year. It’s a fairly straightforward sauce, so I can’t really explain why I fell for it so deeply. But I did. And you will, too. I nicknamed this book The Sophisticate because a fair number of the recipes are decidedly ‘fancy-pants’ (fava bean cream, butterflied quail with farina sauce). But like I said… the marinara revelation. Believe.
10. Mes Confitures: The Jams & Jellies of Christine Ferber
Why: Christine Ferber is a legendary french pastry chef, known for her artisanal jams. Her preserves recently became available in the United States for the first time, and at $18 a jar, I’m assuming they come with fairy dust and a winning lotto ticket. I figured I had two choices if I wanted to understand what the Ferber fuss was about: spend a lot of money on several jars of jam (plus shipping!), or get my hands on her book and make some myself. I came up empty at the library, so I bought it on Amazon after reading all of the reviews. I just got my copy, so I haven’t been able to make anything yet. But I am beyond curious about some of the recipes (white peaches with saffron, orange with chocolate, and many others.) So, although her book is new to my collection, I can report that its mere presence on my shelf has added an extra spring in my step. I’ll report back with results.
And that completes the book list.
Now… dying to scratch your food preservation itch immediately? Here are three great online resources that can help you get started right away. They are loaded with great information, and best of all… FREE! Click on over.
- Punk Domestics- A content aggregation site for for the DIY food crowd. Canning, pickling, curing, fermenting… it’s all there. You may want to set an alarm if you need to be somewhere, because it’s easy to lose track of time perusing all the great material.
- Food in Jars- Easy recipes and helpful hints from Marisa McClellan, who famously does all of her canning in a small kitchen on the 20th floor of a high-rise apartment building in Philadelphia. If you think you need a farm and acreage and gadgets-out-the-wazoo to be a preserver, you don’t. Read Marisa’s blog if you don’t believe me.
- The National Center for Home Food Preservation- The online home for the latest information on U.S.D.A. food preservation guidelines, including recipes and instructions for all types of food preservation techniques.