Cookbook Review: Tart and Sweet Can Get A Touch Too Sweet

The latest (another?) cookbook on the preserving and pickling front, Tart and Sweet: 101 Canning and Pickling Recipes for the Modern Kitchen by Sweet Deliverance founder Kelly Geary and writer Jessie Knadler, hit online bookstore shelves earlier this week. As a jam and pickling resource guide, it falls somewhere in between The River Cottage Preserves Handbook, a concise but thorough British primer with fantastic traditional and modern twist recipes, and The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, Rachel Saunders' endearingly obsessive thesis on what she has learned during her professional jamming days.

Is Tart and Sweet the perfectly positioned balance between these two resource guides? Overall, this is a well-executed and charming little book, but the answer may very well come down to how you feel about adult cookbooks with recipe ratings doled out via cute symbols like Mason jars.

Geary (Left) And An Employee At Sweet Deliverance
Geary (Left) And An Employee At Sweet Deliverance

While we consider those cutesy end-of-recipe difficulty ratings perfectly suited to children's cookbooks, they quickly become annoying when "grown-ups" are the targeted audience. Last we checked we really did graduate from middle school, so you can simply tell us in the recipe header that a particular recipe requires a little more attention, or perhaps takes an extra hour or two to make. Nor do those Mason jars smiling back at us really fit with our vision of Geary, who is touted as a green/organic chef in Brooklyn who graduated from the National Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts on the book jacket. She simply sounds like entirely too good of a cook to bother with cute.

There's also something about the "Party Themes" chapter at the end of the book that feels a bit off the mark. Maybe it's Geary's pixie charm, or the pretty killer tattoo that covers half her upper arm. But that make-your-own-jam bridal shower party complete with soundtrack suggestions sounds like something that would happen in Martha Stewart's Manhattan test kitchen set, not in a down-to-earth Brooklyn catering kitchen. Makes us wonder whether the publisher suddenly realized they were walking into a jam-packed cookbook market of canning and preserving books, and they needed some "Caliente in a Can" party ideas (roasted tomatillo salsa, carrot habanero hot sauce) for that book party launch. Pronto.

Still, those are relatively minor qualms. Frustrations, really, as it's clear that Geary knows her jams and doesn't need tired marketing gimmicks. The book is packed with recipes for candied and preserved fruit (canned peaches, cherries), both basic and more off-the-cuff jam combos (blackberry, blueberry-lemon-honey) and vegetables and relishes (pickled curried cauliflower, baby beets with juniper berries, carrot jalapeño relish). There are also useful hints for what to do with all those jars of maple-sweetened apple butter that you canned over the weekend (make Geary's whole-wheat apple spice cake) or those candied kumquats with star anise (stir them into Prosecco cocktails a la Rustic Canyon).

A few bites into our dandelion green salad with homemade pickled fiddleheads, and no doubt we'll forget all about those dreaded bridal showers.

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