It was midsummer. Both my garden and local farmer’s markets were overflowing with succulent fruits and vegetables. Yet even as I enjoyed the bounty of the season, I felt anxious. How many more days would we have together? The peaches would be done in a week. The cherries were already long gone. And in a month, I’d be back at the supermarket grudgingly buying hothouse tomatoes. The answer, I felt, was in food preservation. Canning would allow me to cling to summer, to stretch out that all-too-brief period of riotous plenty.
I wasn’t alone in this belief, of course. If the recent surge in new books, websites, workshops and tweets related to food preservation is any indication, canning (and pickling, freezing, and drying) is hot. You might say food preserving is the new gardening. The trouble, of course, was that I didn’t actually know how to can food. Well, that’s not entirely true. Starting when I was pregnant with Lila, I’ve made a couple batches of jam every year (quince, strawberry, green tomato-raspberry). But preserving something other than a sugary fruit slurry was intimidating. Any fool could make jam, I thought, but canned peaches seemed complicated (spoiler: I needn’t have worried).
Enter Put ‘em Up: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling by Sherri Brooks Vinton (Storey, 2010). Aimed at folks like me—the locavores, the food gardeners, the foodies, the crafters, the DIY set—Put ‘em Up (the title nods to “putting up” or preserving food) is an accessible, thorough guide to preserving the harvest.
The book is divided into two parts. The first covers food preparation and preservation techniques with clear, easy-to-follow instructions and illustrations. The second provides over 150 recipes, organized alphabetically by edible—from apples to watermelon. (Faced with a flat of quickly-withering blueberries, I loved being able to flip to the Bs and find a half-dozen simple recipes.) The book covers all the basics—and then some—in both sections. Recipes range from classic (strawberry jam, bread and butter pickles) to adventurous (berry-spiked bourbon, wasabi beans).
Author and real food advocate Sherri Brooks Vinton writes with a casual, straightforward tone instills confidence and inspires you to drop everything and make a batch of kimchi. With this book in hand, I’ve canned peaches (so not difficult), oven-dried tomatoes, and made blueberry fruit leather. And I can’t wait to keep going.