Cookbook Review: Canning For A New Generation

As food trends pick up momentum, cookbooks on the topic inevitably follow. Often entirely too many cookbooks (you can almost hear the frantic publishing house phone calls down to the legal department -- is it too late to cancel so-and-so's contract?). Such was our reaction when we picked up Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff, as we were less than enthusiastic about seeing yet another canning and preserving cookbook on the market (with promises of even more coming soon). But it turns out the book is a great starter guide to canning and preserving for those intimidated by the idea of making homemade strawberry preserves. Particularly when you have no idea what to do with all those crimson jars now lining your pantry shelf (you're certainly not going to use the cheesy gift tags in the back of the book and just give them away after putting in all that work).

Krisoff solves that typical canning book dilemma by offering easy-to-follow canning master recipes as well as suggestions for how to use your preserved ginger and red onion marmalade bounty. The strawberry preserves and fruit syrup recipes are followed by recipes for strawberry butter and fruit dumplings; a recipe for making grape and plum pie and cobbler filling with your summer bounty is followed by recipes for both the pie and cobbler.

The book is divided into four chapters by season, which are each subdivided into fruit and vegetable sections, with the final chapter aptly dubbed "Baked and Creamy Things to Put Preserves On" (a rustic almond cake, French baguettes, oat scones, homemade yogurt). The focus is on readily available fruits and vegetables, like apples in the fall (recipes include homemade applesauce and an apple spice cake that uses the sauce as an ingredient) and tomatoes in the summer (homemade canned tomatoes are used in a chili recipe, tomato and basil jam is to be slathered on those English muffins in the final chapter). Sure, the recipes aren't as interesting as those in The River Cottage Preserves Handbook (ale chutney, green gooseberry jam with elderflower), but sometimes a simple Kosher dill pickle is what you're after.

In other cookbooks, offering recipes to use up whatever you created in the preceding recipe can feel like a Thanksgiving dinner that never ends -- too many recipes for leftovers, not enough focus on the original dish. But here, at least for a generation of eager canners who didn't learn all about preserving pans from their mothers, including an actual recipe, as opposed to the more standard serving suggestions, to use up all those pickled jalapeños that you made on a whim one lazy Saturday afternoon (why you didn't go with the candied pickled apples with star anise is anyone's guess) feels like a kind gesture.

Nor are all of the base recipes for canning and preserved foods. Krisoff suggests freezing pureed asparagus if you happen to have enough fresh spears leftover from her pickled asparagus recipe (or simply don't feel like pulling out the canning jars), and then using the puree as the base for making asparagus flans. The book might as well be called Canning and Preserving For An Eager But Sometimes Lazy (Or Just Plain Busy) Generation. And that's exactly why we think it's pretty great.


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