It’s always exciting when people you know (like, in real life), do something amazing. When I heard a couple of years ago that Joel and Dana from Well Preserved were writing a book, I had no doubt that it would be nothing short of amazing. Joel and Dana are two people I’ve admired for a long time – I first knew of them years ago back when I started blogging and we’ve met in person at a few events too. These are two of the hardest-working people I know in the food/writing industry – case in point: Well Preserved contains more than 1800 articles (including 1,500 consecutive daily blog posts!) and over 700 recipes on preserving, local food, small farming, food security, sustainability, food politics, hunting and more. A book was the next logical step and in Batch: Over 200 recipes, tips and techniques for a well preserved kitchen, released last week, their goal is to show how easy it can be to transform fresh ingredients into preserves and use those preserves in your everyday cooking. Ah… “Preserving,” I hear you say. “It’s not for me.” Hey, trust me – I was that person a year or so ago as well. I only really got into making jams and jellies last summer so I hear you on “not doing that”. But Joel and Dana wrote this book for people who think “I can’t preserve because….” so Batch might make you think again.
Yes, you can (couldn’t resist!)
First of all, Batch is a gorgeous book. Nothing like your grandma’s preserving manuals. The photography is stunning and the layout is more like a funky magazine than a cookbook (think, Lucky Peach or Jamie Magazine). It’s also written in a very conversational (yet informative) style which makes it feel like Joel is right there in the kitchen with you, talking you through the steps. Whether time, money, safety or knowledge are your concerns when it comes to getting into preserving, every aspect is covered. There’s a LOT to read in these here 300+ pages. It’s very comprehensive, covering everything you might want to know about preserving, even down to what seasoned preservers might think are silly things like explaining conversions and jar sizes (in a chart with images, thanks Dana!). This is the type of knowledge that is often taken for granted (and I know, you can totally Google things like this but let’s face it – if you are already undertaking what is an intimidating process, who needs another step, another source to consult?) but Joel and Dana leave nothing to chance. All the information you need is in here and written in a way that you feel you can do it!
So, what is preserving anyway?
Some of you might be under the impression (like I was!) that “preserving” is limited to canning and mostly jams, jellies and vegetables. Batch actually covers seven types of food preservation including some you may not have considered.
Batch covers such a wide range of preserving styles that there really is something for everyone. The book includes techniques for a variety of skill levels (yes, even absolute beginners!), explaining how to “batch” your recipes to make two preserves at once, and gives multiple options for preserving in ten minutes or less. Case in point, a few of us received Batch less than a month ago and were tasked with choosing a recipe to make. There were plenty to choose from that did not require waiting 6 weeks before you can eat them – the wait times for many preserved foods is sometimes a little off-putting especially in this day and age of instant gratification but Batch covers you with enough recipes that produce “quick” results that you feel both capable and accomplished without having to wait weeks! Each chapter contains an explanation of how this method works to preserve food, tips and tricks, “Dos” and “Don’ts”, basic equipment (as well as “nice to have” items) and costs involved and fundamentals you need to know before getting started. It’s very comprehensive and it may have you rethinking what you previously believed is “do-able” in your kitchen.
What sorts of things can I preserve?
Ever returned from the market with a load of something because it was too gorgeous to resist or simply because it was too much of a bargain? Maybe you got lucky at the end of the market and scooped up a whole load of some produce in a fit of enthusiasm. But the reality in your kitchen looks different. What on earth will you do with all those strawberries/ apricots/ beets mushrooms etc…? Batch takes you on a trip to the market in 25 ingredients. In each ingredient chapter, you’ll find multiple preserving recipes using a variety of methods. Covering not just fruits and vegetables but also a variety of meat and fish, Batch teaches you everything you need to know to get the most out of your kitchen and “eat locally” year round. It’s the book you’ll be turning to as market season approaches and you are sick of making the same old recipes with your produce (or have run out of room in your freezer – probably most people’s “go to” preserving method!). Each preserving recipe gives you an idea of hands-on time, total time to make but also tells you how long these will be good for which is so helpful (and a useful thing to perhaps record on the jar somewhere as you store them away).
What do I do with all those preserved foods, then?
Batch is not just a book about technique. It also includes personal anecdotes about how Joel and Dana got hooked on all the various methods of preserving (this was really cool because I remember a lot of these moments in their food preserving career, at least since 2008 when they started their blog!), as well as recipes that take your preserved food from the pantry to the table, making it the star of the plate. You’ll find the recipes a blueprint – some starter ideas to try if you’re unsure what to do with all your beautifully preserved food – that will help you as you start out, but eventually, you’ll have the confidence to figure out other uses on your own. Joel and Dana offer plenty of ideas that will get you thinking!
So, what did you make from the book first?
Asparagus relish! I chose it because I ended up with extra asparagus in my organic food delivery one week and honestly was bored with steamed asparagus (much as I love it!). This is a great way to preserve the flavours of spring to enjoy deep in the winter (as are so many of the recipes in the book). This took no time at all to make, then just 10 minutes’ processing in a water bath et voilà! Relish just like nana used to make (except she didn’t use asparagus, I’m pretty sure!). It might not look like much but it’s so flavourful (with just a handful of ingredients). Every time I preserve something then taste it, I’m always blown away by the “I made this!” factor. This was no exception!
I’m happy to know my two small jars will be good for up to 2 years – it’s the perfect accompaniment to a ploughman’s lunch (though there’s a gnocchi recipe that uses the relish in the sauce in Batch that I have my eye on when the weather turns cool again!) and will brighten any charcuterie or cheese board. Plus, I made it!
Batch is definitely a “must buy” for the home-preserving enthusiast although it should come with a warning that you’ll close the book with a big wish list… Starting with more space to store all your preserves, moving on to perhaps a (larger) chest freezer or a smoker then, even a cellar. Why not, right? Though the book does outline preserving in all its states, from the most simple techniques requiring little-to-no special equipment, there are others you might not be quite ready to tackle due to lack of equipment. Joel and Dana do a heck of a job convincing you that eventually, if this is the lifestyle you wish to pursue, you can make it work even in an urban (i.e. where space is a luxury) setting. But if you’re just starting out, Batch has plenty to offer you as well.
Canadian giveaway! I’m giving away a copy of Batch! Details here.
#BatchCookbook across Canada!
This week a group of bloggers all around the country are talking about Batch (and there’s a chance to win a copy on each post!). Check them out!
Monday May 9th 2016
Getty at http://www.gettystewart.com
Tuesday May 10th 2016
Wednesday May 11th 2016
Amy at http://www.familyfeedbag.com
Thursday May 12th 2016
Friday May 13th 2016
Renee at http://www.sweetsugarbean.com
Canadian giveaway! I’m giving away a copy of Batch! Details here.
Please note: The product links from Amazon and The Book Depository are affiliate links, meaning if you click over and purchase something, I will receive a very small percentage of the purchase price which goes towards maintaining eat. live. travel. write. Thank you in advance!
Disclosure: I received a copy of Batch from the publisher for review purposes. I have not been further compensated for writing this post or hosting a giveaway. All opinions are 100% my own.