This is a bumper volume of well over 200 pages of recipes, and the stunning photographs by France Ruffenach make this a coffee-table-quality book. Its American authors Rick Field and Rebecca Courchesne offer a slightly different perspective on preserving from our traditional British one.
Bottling and preserving has enjoyed something of a revival over the last decade. Perhaps we are trying to embrace the old-fashioned values of waste-not-want-not, which was the fore-runner of eco-friendly and lets-all-be-green. Those of us who grow fruit and veg are driven to the craft by necessity. What does one do with a glut? You could try and give it away but chances are your friends will have a similar overabundance. Preserving is the answer.
The Art of Preserving is a book suitable for both new preservers and well-preserved preservers. There are the basics and of course recipes for the bottled goods, but also others to help you use the aforementioned preserves. The recipes are easy to follow but a few bits of equipment will come in handy – nothing very expensive though. Save your old jam jars and buy just new lids. You’ll feel noble about re-cycling.
Lemon Curd is a classic favourite but a taste of homemade lemon curd will spoil you for the commercial versions. There is a recipe for the curd and for tartlets. Lime curd is a vibrant alternative to lemon. The colour is fresh and verdant and would make a remarkable contrast to the other sweet berry-based spreads for a smart afternoon tea. Tangerine curd will be my gift to friends and family this year. This citrous fruit is the very taste of Christmas. The fruit is cheap and abundant at the end of the year, and tangerine curd on toast for Christmas breakfast could become a tradition.
A unique recipe is that for Dijon-style Mustard. Yes, it’s cheap to buy, but a jar of shop-bought mustard isn’t anything to linger over and savour. This is a simple preparation with a base of dry mustard powder. Just the addition of a few ingredients transforms that which is more usually left on the side of the plate into something that will elevate your cold cuts into gastronomic sandwich-fillers.
Apple Butter has nothing to do with any dairy products. Think of a very thick and flavourful apple sauce. The colour is rich and golden from caramelised sugar and it’s a very forgiving preserve. It has a tendency to scorch and weld itself to the pan in the latter stages of preparation but a watchful eye will avoid such disasters. I layer this with crème fraiche for a simple but delicious dessert.
Hot-Pepper Jelly is a bejewelled sweet and sour gem. If you are not keen on heat then replace some of the chilli with sweet pepper. The visual impact will be the same but the end result will have a milder flavour. Try the original recipe before tinkering though. You will be surprised how delicate this can be.
The Art of Preserving – from jams and jellies to chutneys and pickles is going to be a welcome gift for any keen cook, and even for gardeners who want to make the best of the fruits, or vegetables, of their labours. It is great value for money.
The Art of Preserving – from jams and jellies to chutneys and pickles
Authors: Rick Field and Rebecca Courchesne
Published by: Apple Press
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018