Times are tough and we crave security, old-fashioned values and comforts. We are more likely than ever to eat at home rather than going to a restaurant and it’s said that we are spending more time in the kitchen as a result of our changed eating habits.
There is a lot of interest in vegetable gardening, fruit growing and even foraging, but Mother Nature doesn’t always have our convenience in mind when she plans the timing of crops. Typically you will have a glut and your family can only eat so many tomatoes at one sitting. It’s difficult to incorporate rhubarb into every meal for a month.
So what to do? The freezer is full. No good giving food parcels to the neighbours who will likely be just as snowed under with exactly the same produce. A stall at the local market? Farmers have that sewn up. Time to reach for this one-stop preserving manual.
First Preserves will be a fixture in your kitchen. It offers everything a novice jam or chutney maker might need. It leads the cook through every stage of preserving, from buying or picking to bottling. There is a unique section that will be of particular interest to those with a WI leaning. It’s all about competition preserving: the author, Vivien Lloyd, gives the judging criteria that will be indispensible to those who want First Place at the summer fete on the village green.
There are all the classic jam and chutney recipes here but there are also a few unexpected gems. Tangerine and Lemon Marmalade is the one to pick for the holiday season. A simple recipe with a taste of Christmas, making jars of this ideal as stocking fillers and much more sophisticated than a Selection Box.
Lime Marmalade is tangy, sparkling and beautiful. It’s a classic spread and I have always preferred it to the more common orange marmalade. The simple recipe here takes advantage of this citrus fruit which is available at Asian grocers at bargain prices.
Damson Jam is traditional and one of my all-time favourites. It’s true that the stones are a pain to remove, so Vivien suggests leaving them in during the cooking process and scooping them out when they rise to the surface. Wish I had this book a few years ago – it would have saved countless hours of heart-ache. Who knew?
I never find pears very inspiring but First Preserves offers advice on what to do with a sack of that fruit: Pear and Ginger Chutney. The recipe uses both fresh ginger for punch and stem ginger in syrup for aromatic sweetness. Garlic and chillies add agreeable heat to make this an ideal condiment for cheese and cold meat.
First Preserves is an attractive and practical book and a must for anyone who wants to make the best of seasonal and good-value food.
Author: Vivien Lloyd
Published by: Citrus Press
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018