Christina Ward, Preservation: The Art and Science of Canning, Fermentation and Dehydration

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Blogger, lecturer, podcaster, writer, critic, reviewer, researcher (in no particular order) in and on British literary history. Christina Ward, Preservation: The Art and Science of Canning, Fermentation and Dehydration (Process media 2017), 11 July 2017, ISBN 97819341700694, $24.95
 
 
 
Share this:TwitterFacebookPinterestEmailPrintGoogleLike this:Like Loading… Or air pressure. Some recipes do not sound appetising: the ‘slippery jims’ sound like decayed cucumbers, but since the whole point of canning / preservation is to arrest decay, I’ve no doubt got the wrong impression. That’s because their authors expect their sensible readers to do this as a matter of course, unlike the anticipated readers of this book. I now have a quince jam recipe that Nostradamus first published (‘updated for modern safety’), and I know that it will take longer to boil jam for setting in Denver than in Milwaukee because Denver is 5000 feet further away from the centre of the earth and that’s got something to do with specific boiling points. There are several excellent chapters on the science of food preservation, and a lot of detailed guidance on what equipment is needed and how to choose and find it. I now know what fruit cheese is (had often wondered), and how it’s made, and why fruit butter is so intense. Once you get past the exclamation marks, this is a fine reference work for the kitchen in which just making jam has become a bit boring and needs inspiration to be exciting again. The publishers don’t want to be sued by some idiot not canning or preserving correctly and then coming down with botulism, so they have to trumpet these caveats at the opening of every section of the book. Pear walnut conserve! But almost all the recipes sound entrancing. There is a lot of extremely useful information about pepper hotness, and how to avoid this in the preparation stage: wear latex gloves, do not touch any part of your face, and wash the knife in cold water, otherwise the pepper oil will aerosolise in hot water and produce pepper gas. By this stage the readers still on board are probably really committed preservers, who already know what a pressure canner looks like. Caponata! Christina Ward, Preservation: The Art and Science of Canning, Fermentation and Dehydration
This is a hefty Mid-West cookbook and instruction manual on how to preserve your fruit and veg in jars. (OK, maybe not.) Blueberry Guinness jam! What pepper gas will do is not explained, but it sounds dangerous. Mango salsa! The one thing missing from the book are photographs of the essential and indispensable canners, to aid easy identification in the shops. This book is indeed a treasure-house and a master-class, if you put ear-plugs in first. Peaches in brandy syrup! I also object to the slur on ‘European’ and British preserving cookbooks (all of ‘em) that apparently don’t warn their readers to boil their jars before sloshing in the fruit. It’s most definitely written for North Americans, by a Master Food Preserver no less, as there are many remarks about what ‘Europe’ does (the Finns and the Italians and the Croatians are all alike in their preserving practices, it seems). View all posts by Kate → Pickled Brussels sprout halves! They seem to be tall stockpots with lids and a rack to stand the jars on, but it would be a lot more helpful to have actual photos rather than the single schematic diagram demonstrating ‘head space’. The lists of resources are invaluable for further investigation, and the Center for Home Food Preservation blog is very good. Many other tools are mentioned. Preferred occupation while listening to podcasts: cooking or knitting. Cranberry mustard! Green tomato pie filling! I now wish to own a ‘kraut hammer’, which is apparently a three-foot wooden mallet with which to beat the juice out of shredded cabbage before fermenting it. I don’t blame them, but the warnings are relentless, and just a bit shouty. The recipes are the really good part, and have introduced me to a completely new form of cooking: fruit leather, anyone? It also has a near-hysterical attitude to Food Safety and pathogens (‘rinse your preserving tools in a dilute solution of bleach before using’: are you KIDDING?), that I think must be a product of litigious US culture. Preferred soundtrack while reading: the sound of silence. I don’t like being told I’m doing things wrong when I haven’t done them at all, but perhaps this is what the readers of this book expect.