Food & Drink

There's lots of help for food preservers

Canning preserves or jams takes preparation.   Lids,  jars, and fresh fruit are a good start.  July 8, 2008.
Canning preserves or jams takes preparation. Lids, jars, and fresh fruit are a good start. July 8, 2008. Modesto Bee

Publishers are updating titles and issuing new releases in an effort to satisfy home canners and food preservers.

This is great news for the legion of folks concerned about the quality of processed food or for home canners who simply want to reconnect with this most satisfying craft.

And there are quite a few out there, according to Terri Spezzano of the UC Cooperative Extension. Her office publishes brochures on canning, dehydrating, freezing, etc.

"A lot of people have been calling me with questions, and I'm here for their calls," she said about food preserving. She can be reached at 525-6800.

Interests have shifted from "preserve because we have to" to "preserve because we like to," according to Steve Dowdney in "Putting Up: A Year-Round Guide to Canning in the Southern Tradition" (Gibbs Smith, Publisher, $19.99).

"The art of 'putting up,' as it is still called in the South, doesn't take a chef. It doesn't take a cook, it doesn't take any schooling, and there are as many guys as there are gals knocking out the jars," he writes.

"Putting Up" details home canning basics and has a resource directory, glossary and canning tips. Recipes are divided by month and include green tomato chow-chow, garlic pepper jelly, green tomato chutney and sweet spreads.

Dowdney's book was released last month.

Coming in August is "175 Best Jams, Jellies, Marmalades & Other Soft Spreads" (Robert Rose, $21.95), by Linda J. Amendt. As do other authors, Amendt lists the equipment needed to get started, tells how to choose ingredients and how to trouble-shoot. But it's really the eclectic recipes that are the stars. For example, there are nearly two dozen recipes using peaches. Imaginative interpretations of other fruit include caramel apple jam, cabernet sauvignon wine jelly, candy apple jelly (featuring Red Hot candies), pineapple rum jam and drunken spreads (Champagne jelly, margarita jelly and mimosa jelly).

Storey Publishing is riding this "eat local" movement with a half dozen books. All have been updated to meet stricter USDA guidelines that call for the cooked food to be packed into sterilized hot jars and then "processed" -- or submerged in boiling water -- for a certain amount of time.

"The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest," by Carol W. Costenbader, begins with how to choose ingredients and handle produce. Illustrated step-by-step directions on canning, drying, pickling and freezing and ample illustrat- ions on techniques make the methods foolproof. At-a-glance charts and illustrated tips provide important information.

Each section also contains more than two dozen recipes, each with nutritional information, that reflect a modern and international palate. There's herbes de Provence, Southwestern spice mix, Asian seasoning blend, corn relish, onion relish, basil-shallot mustard, beef and turkey jerky, tomato leather, and favorite jams and jellies.

Originally released in 1997, Costenbaders book is $18.95.

Pick a common fruit, vegetable or herb, and Janet Chadwick will provide step-by-step instructions for freezing, canning, drying and an alternative method for storing.

"The Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food" ($14.95) answers that age-old question of what to do with all those tomatoes ripening at hyperspeed in the garden. Cold storage is the fastest method, followed by freezing tomatoes whole, peeled or unpeeled or as a strained purée or juice; canning as tomato purée or raw packed whole; drying as slices.

Chadwick explains the technique and evaluates it for suitability, ease, quickness and results. She also offers ideas on how to make kitchen work space more efficient and how to avoid common mistakes in canning and pickling. Completing this book are reference charts for determining yields, blanching times and recipes for pickles, relishes, sauerkraut, jams, jellies and vinegars.

For more than 30 years, countless gardeners and cooks have turned to "Keeping the Harvest" ($14.95) for instructions from authors Nancy Chioffi and Gretchen Mead on canning, freezing, drying, pickling and making jams and jellies.

While the book serves primarily as a guide, there are recipes for pickles and relishes and canning recipes for both long-cook and liquid or powdered pectin.

Recipes similar to the ones grandmother made and those grandmother never heard of fill "Pickles & Relishes: From Apples to Zucchini," 150 Recipes for Preserving the Harvest" ($9.95).

Andrea Chesman's collection of recipes from pickle makers from around the country was first introduced in 1983. From traditional kosher dills, sweet gherkins and dill pickles to the more unusual basil beans, freezer pickles and no-salt pumpkin pickles to the elusive chow-chow and piccalilli, there's something here for every pickle lover.

"Making & Using Dried Foods," by Phyllis Hobson, was originally published in 1983 as "Garden Way Publishing's Guide to Food Drying." This all-in-one reference and cookbook covers the process of drying more than 100 fruits, vegetables, herbs, meats and dairy products. Methods include the sun, the oven and home- built dehydrator.

Best of all, the more than 200 recipes for soups, snacks, entrees, etc., put the stockpile to good use. It's $14.95.

Mary T. Bell shares 30 years of food drying experience in "Food Drying With an Attitude" (Skyhorse Publishing, $14.95). Highlights are meat and vegetarian jerky and fruit and vegetable leathers.

Two books are encyclopedic in their scope of recipes:

"The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving" (Firefly Books, $19.95) contains 300 recipes for jams, jellies, pickles, savory and sweet sauces, salsas, fruit butters, conserves and curds, low-sugar spreads and flavored oils and vinegars.

An even bigger source, with 400 recipes and a section on pressure canning, is "Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving" (Robert Rose, $22.95). The two are indispensable for the adventurous cook.

Finally, there's "Preserving in Today's Kitchen," the winner of the James Beard Award for the best single-subject cookbook of 1992. Jeanne Lesem presents 168 recipes for the familiar, the exotic (cactus pear marmalade) and farmers market finds (quince, Damson plum).

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