Tag Archives: Review

Review: Beyond Canning by Autumn Giles


The other day I received a copy of Beyond Canning by Autumn Giles, who writes about home cooking, gluten-free goodies and preserving (among other things) at the beautiful blog, Autumn Makes and Does. I am thrilled, as I’ve been following her for years, and it’s so nice to see all of her work in an amazing book. Said book has been joining me all over the place, as I like to have something to read wherever I go. Waiting to pick up my kid at school? You won’t find my nose in my phone, I like a book, thank you. And this companion was so chock full of information that I was entertained for hours, like a kid with a box of Legos. Fruits and vegetables, spices and herbs, sugar and vinegar, jars and bubbling ferments? I’m in!

The feel of a book is important to me, and I like the size and feel of this book–very much like a workbook, and I loved the very sturdy paperback construction of it. It travels well and can be trotted into the kitchen, perching neatly on your cookbook stand. (You don’t have one?) I’m a stickler for how cookbooks are organized, and if it isn’t intuitive, I get a little cranky. I love how balanced this book feels, with three main sections providing structure for the techniques explained within. These three sections are sweet preserves, pickling and fermentation, and each one has detailed instructions on how to navigate the various procedures necessary. The photography is beautiful, and the over all feeling of the design is bright and airy, like a sun-soaked kitchen.

You can tell that Giles has poured all the years she has spent fine tuning her obsession for local foods and preserving the bounty into this book. One of the maybe not so obvious bonuses about this book is that a few years back  Giles moved from New York to Arizona, so that both coasts are represented, with a special shout to the southwest. She uses her journalistic chops to really explain all the processes, and I don’t think she has left anything out. For the beginning preserver this kind of obsessive attention to detail is paramount. Yet, the book remains relaxed and friendly in tone, and is never boring or stuffy.

I had a glut of cherries from last year sitting in my freezer, so I decided to make the hot and sour preserved cherries which sounded delicious. My cherries were frozen, hence they deflated a bit, so I turned the preserve into a jam pureeing it a bit, so that the texture was less stewed cherries and more of a spread. I am in love with adding a kick of cayenne to cherries. It’s my new spicy sweet spread, and was just perfect on buckwheat toast with Greek yogurt. I also see it as a spicy sandwich spread, maybe with sliced chicken and melted cheddar cheese.


There were many recipes that caught my eye, in particular, the radicchio and sunchoke kraut. As soon as I dig up my sunchokes, I will try this out. Who would have thought to marry radicchio and sun chokes? There’s so many surprising combinations, like celery and black pepper shrub, alongside more comfortable ones, like pear cardamom butter. Enough so that this book can keep you interested for a long time. There is also a lot to like about the small batches theory that Giles works with: to can or not to can is a decision totally left up to you.

I know I’ll be keeping this one in the kitchen for the whole summer, in preparation of all the fruits and vegetables that will soon be coming my way! This review is part of a virtual blog tour for Beyond Canning, so don’t just take my word for it. This list is the group of cooks and preservers who are also enjoying and discussing the book. There are also a few giveaways, so make sure you check them all out to see if you can snag a copy of the book, gratis! Otherwise, you can always buy a copy for your favorite preserver here.

3/7: Food in Jars
3/8: Punk Domestics
3/9: CakeWalk
3/10: Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking
3/11: Snowflake Kitchen
3/14: Good. Food. Stories.
3/15: Heartbeet Kitchen
3/16: Brooklyn Supper
3/17: The Briny
3/18: The Preserved Life
3/21: Hitchhiking to Heaven
3/22: Hola Jalapeno
3/23: Cook Like a Champion
3/24:  Local Kitchen

Disclosure: A copy of the book has been furnished for review by the publisher, Voyageur Press.

Review: Fermented Vegetables By Kirsten and Christopher Shockey


Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey came in the mail to me, thanks to Storey Publishing, at a perfect time. The ferments I made in late summer are almost finished and I have room for new batches. Fermenting vegetables is such an easy thing, right? Add salt and let it sit! Well, even simple things are complicated, just more subtly so. So many little questions pop up that it’s nice to have someone there who’s done all the experimenting for you, which is just what the Shockeys have done. Many years of experimenting with their own business selling local vegetable ferments led to the making of this book. You can check out their website and hear more at The Fermentista’s Kitchen.

The book is laid out in an orderly fashion: the basics and mastering techniques followed by recipes according to vegetables alphabetically, then recipes that use up those ferments. I’m particularly interested in the flavor-packed fermented pastes, like Thai basil paste. I also like that the authors note vegetables you really don’t want to ferment. The tone is always informed and never condescending. The book is seasoned with great quotes, personal stories and sidebars about admirable fellow fermenting peers who run small businesses. The section on recipes that incorporate ferments is very creative and well thought out. There are several things I already have bookmarked, among them a savory sauerkraut quiche. One of my first experiments using this book as a guideline is a sunchoke ferment that I have started. We’ll see how it goes–I’ll keep you posted!

(Disclosure: I received this book from Storey Publishing to review. All of the opinions here are my own.)

Review: Put ’em Up! Preserving Answer Book by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Future pub pickles.

I’ve had this book,  Put ’em Up! Preserving Answer Book by Sherri Brooks Vinton, sitting next to my left elbow on my desk for quite a while now. It’s an in-depth Q&A book on preserving in all it’s forms: canning, freezing, drying, fermenting and infusing. It seems fitting to review this book now, at the beginning of my canning season. Brooks Vinton, author of two previous Put ’em Up books (Put ’em Up! and Put ’em Up! Fruit) is a tireless advocate for preserving local foods. She’s a long time believer, and it seems evident to me that she is on a mission to educate people about preserving.

This might sound obvious, but spend some time with the table of contents when you start this book. I’m a jump to the middle kind of reader and with this book you might get confused by an overload of (good) information. The contents really nicely organizes all the parts and chapters, so that it’s all very clear and easy to follow. Then you can jump to the fun stuff like recipes for Pub Pickles made with malt vinegar, and Avalanche Sauce, for when you have a ton of tomatoes to process, both earmarked in my copy for August.

I really like that this book tackles questions–there are so many questions with preserving, and canning in general. It’s great to have all those answers in one place, pleasantly addressed in a conversational tone.  It’s a book that provides a real service, and if you don’t have access to classes in your area, this is a great place to begin a preserving journey that usually starts with lots of questions.

I also feel it has a lot to offer the seasoned preserver. Sometimes you know things, but can’t quite articulate them. Although I have been doing jam-making demonstrations for years now (I will be jamming at the Rhinebeck Farmers Market this July 13), I am beginning to teach canning classes this year at Ulster BOCES, and it will be nice to review all of the questions I might have to field before I teach my classes!

Do you have any preserving questions?

Back in March!


Review: Modern Pioneering by Georgia Pellegrini


A few years back I got the sincere pleasure of meeting Georgia Pellegrini. I recall reading her first book, and I thought for sure this woman is going places. I’m not the only one who sees that. Indeed, only a few years later she’s written three books, and I see her all over the place, for example, as I flip though a hunting magazine at the garage while I wait for my car to get an oil change. I was very excited to get her newest book, Modern Pioneering. Her first two books, Food Heroes and Girl Hunter leaned towards literary and serious, whereas this book is lots of fun. It feels like the book that she’s been wanting to make. It’s colorful, delicious and easy-going. And it’s chock full of recipes, ideas, and know-how.

One of the things I like about this book is the small details. The little bonus bits, like advice from a friend, that are nestled in the sides of the pages. I like the feel of the book–does that sound crazy?–it’s light but solid, and the pages bend like a guidebook. There are lots of easy recipes, like the herb frittata I adapted to include my recent score of ramps, or the amazing sounding (and easy) fig and honey vinegar,  but then there are more challenging things like salmon jerky and bacon. All of these recipes take into consideration that you might not have all the gadgets that professional kitchens have and that you just may live in a tiny apartment. On a shoestring budget.

Though the book is mostly about food, and the bulk of it is recipes, there is also a lot of space devoted to preserving, gardening, foraging and projects for the home. Heck, there’s even directions to make a DIY survival tool kit housed in an Altoids tin. How to read a compass and change a tire, too. These are some of my favorite things. Sometimes if you have the really basic information, then you are truly free to improvise and learn for yourself. Whether it’s knowing which way is north, or how to preserve fruit, Georgia Pellegrini wants to help you find your way.


(Disclosure: I received this book from Random House to review. All of the opinions here are my own.)

Preserving By The Pint: Review


I’ve been following Marisa McClellan’s blog, Food In Jars, for many years now. Her blog was one of the few I found when I first started my first blog, What Julia Ate, and began canning in earnest. At that time, I didn’t even know food blogs existed! And lo, not only did they exist, but a handful of them even talked about canning, preserving, and following the seasons. I was home. Thankfully, I’ve stayed in the preserving game long enough that Running Press sent me a review copy of Marisa’s newest book: Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces. I must say I was thrilled!


I think what’s interesting about people who are deeply interested in preserving, is that they are first and foremost food people. Sometimes that gets lost when you are pegged as a canning expert. I think this book really shows Marisa’s true colors as some one who is thinking about the bigger pictures of food: the bond it creates with our family and friends, and the bond it creates within our community when we cook seasonally all year round. And the love of food in all its delicious glory! There are so many recipes in here–sweet, savory, fermented and canned, to name a few.

Preserving by the Pint is wonderful for a few reasons. One, is that it is all about small batch preserving, and each recipe is only for a couple of small jars at maximum. Which is great for an urban preserver, but also for a country gal like me who wants to try something out before I have twenty jars of something.  Two, because of the seasonal approach, you can start working your way through the book right now. Which I plan to do. And three, that this book is not just about canning! It’s about preserving. It’s about savoring the bounty of the seasons.

Seeing as how the rhubarb is only just now breaking through the dirt, I still have some time before I can explore a lot of these recipes. Luckily, the other day I found a small ziploc bag of my very own garden strawberries in the freezer. They were so tiny that I thought they were cranberries. But I opened the bag and even frozen they smelled intensely of a hot, late-spring day, reminding me of the abundance my small patch provides our family. I turned to a recipe in Marisa’s book for Quick Pickled Strawberries that had a little tarragon in it. They are lovely: the vinegar not too dominant, and the tarragon works well with the strawberries. I served these alongside some shredded duck confit and a kale salad for a few visiting friends. It was a resounding hit!


There are so many recipes I can’t wait to try out! Grapefruits have been on sale, so I was thinking of making a grapefruit curd, and there is a recipe in the Winter section for just that. Orange tomato and smoked paprika jam? Yes, please! Spicy apple cider and mustard glaze? Lacto-fermented green tomato pickles? Yes, yes and yes. It will be a delicious year.

 Disclosure: Many thanks to Marisa and her publisher, Running Press,  for sending a copy of Preserving by the Pint for the purpose of this review. All opinions stated above are entirely my own.