The cottage food law buzz is a timely reminder: Not all good books come in glossy, high-dollar commercial packaging. Consider two new releases from Canadian publisher Firefly Books' "Made at Home" series, Curing and Smoking and Eggs and Poultry.
Both novel-sized paperbacks are written by Dick and James Strawbridge, who have appeared on BBC's It's Not Easy Being Green series. Just the sort of urban homesteaders you'd hope would write books like these. Only something about the odd color palette of both covers looks like they were -- How to say it politely? -- bound at Kinko's. We almost dismissed them on first glance (the cover images look much better online than they do on the books themselves).
But flip through the pages, and two fantastic little books with great step-by-steps -- and photographs -- are revealed.
In the poultry guide, the authors start with the pros and cons to raising each type of bird, with full chapters dedicated to chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. Among the duck pros: "Duck eggs are fantastic! They are very amusing birds with real character." Duck cons: "Ducks are fairly messy, particularly in a small area, and duck poo is slimy - very easy to slip in if you're not careful!" Duly noted.
From building coops, breeding and hatching chicks, and step-by-steps on how to humanely slaughter your poultry, it's all here. But unlike The Ultimate Guide to Home Butchering, the Strawbridges dedicate as much time to duck egg pizza, potted turkey and cider-braised goose liver recipes as they do to backyard poultry maintenance. If you're thinking about getting into the backyard poultry game, this is a great little book.
After a brief introduction on equipment and smoker construction, the Strawbridges get straight to the recipe side of Curing and Smoking. Chapters include how to brine, dry cure, air dry, hot smoke and cold smoke meat, seafood and produce. Salt cod, preserved lemons, capers, cold-smoked cheeses salami, salmon gravlax -- they're all here. Can't find a whole leg of pork to make that Prosciutto-style air-dried ham? They offer suitable substitutions.
Do note that most recipes make generous portions. All well and good, as if you're going to spend the time curing an entire leg of lamb -- and find the hall closet space to age it for up to 16 weeks -- you're going to want plenty to share.
The book also includes handy recipes that make the most of your efforts: Salami pizza, dry-cured duck and caramelized blood orange salad, creamy smoked salmon pasta, a smoked Stilton tart. Now would be a very good time to carefully choose the friends you invite over for that Saturday salami tasting. Our pick: the ones who always come with a keg of their homebrew.