Knee deep in the canning and preserving cookbook trend, do most of us really need Saving the Season: A Cook's Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving by local author Kevin West?
Maybe not, if you're far enough along in your online recipe search career to already have favorite apple jelly and strawberry jam recipes, although West offers plenty of variation fodder on his “core” recipes (that fig jam easily morphs into a Syrah, Indian-spiced or Lapsang Souchong tea version). But we hope you'll reconsider. It's earned a permanent spot on our cookbook shelf. And we're definitely trying those pickled eggs in Sriracha.
Regardless of your homemade cornichon and peach jam making experience, it's the stories here that will make you want to try West's versions. Tales of road trips to a small Appalachian town (to tag along on a family's annual ramp dig) and sidebars peppered with quotes through the ages of sugar discovery. But mostly, we we love how genuine West's personal reflections feel in an age when recipe headers often read like they came straight out of a “branding 101” blog convention seminar.
Get more, including West's recipe for Canadian-style ketchup by way of this therapist, after the jump.
The book reads in part like a Master Food Preservers curriculum; West is a graduate of the local UC Davis-affiliated program. And so if you're looking to perfect your marmalade technique or learn how to make “canned” salmon (in the classic sense, packed in olive oil in jars), West will show you how. More interested in scavenging for pyrachantha berries on common L.A. sidewalk ground to make a jelly? You'll find useful tips here, too. Once you master those basic recipes like one for apple jelly, West will send you in various Chardonnay-cloves, apple-mint, Southern hot pepper, and “thrifty applesauce” directions (using the leftover cooked fruit from making the jelly).
And yet, even within that relatively basic curriculum, West manages to make the book feel less like a reference guide, more like a live classroom as he “talks” to you (a lot!) while you make each dish.
He writes of how he “Frenchified” a pickled cherry recipe (“cherry olives”) from Helen Brown's West Coast Cook Book by using red wine vinegar and tarragon, but “kept the nifty name, which I think conveys the spirit of a swinging postwar suburban cocktail party.”
And how he grew up on crème de menthe and mint jelly in rural Tennessee, lingered around Berkeley for a few post-college years hoping for a personal food revolution, and eventually wound up in Los Angeles.
We're not quite sure how West managed to pack in a lifetime's worth of road trips in these pages. Or get through the hundreds of palettes of produce required to make so many ingredient heavy — literally — recipes (as he notes, it literally pays in Southern California to have friends with backyard fig trees). We'll credit his Scotch marmalade (p. 465) stamina. Or maybe his therapist, as he does in this Canadian-style ketchup recipe header:
Not long after moving to Los Angeles, I hit a rough patch and began to feel what fellow Southerner Truman Capote described in Breakfast at Tiffany's as 'the mean reds…' After five years on Dr. P.'s couch, I felt much better. One day, after a session in which I'd talked about canning, Dr. P asked me if I knew ketchup – the Canadian version. She explained that in her native Québec ketchup is a chunky chutney of tomatoes and late-summer fruit. She brought me a jar of her homemade ketchup so I'd know what it was supposed to taste like.
Now, if only we could all find therapists who hand out jars of their homemade ketchup.
From: Saving the Season by Kevin West
Note: Per West: “For this recipe, you can make an authentic chunky style, or a smooth purée that Mr. Heinz might recognize.”
Makes: 4 pints
5 pounds Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 ½ pounds firm peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped
1 ½ pounds firm pears, peeled, cored and chopped
1 ½ pounds tart apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped red onions
1 ½ cups sugar
2 cups white-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 cardamom pod, lightly crushed
1-inch cinnamon stick
3 allspice berries
5 black peppercorns
8 coriander seeds
1. Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced to a thick sauce, about 2 hours.
2. For a chunky Canadian-style ketchup, discard the cinnamon stick, and ladle the hot mixture into eight prepared ½-pint jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Seal, and process jars in a boiling-water bath for 14 minutes. For a smooth American-style ketchup, pound the mixture through a chinois or run it through the fine blade of a food mill. Return the puree to the pot, and bring back to a boil. Ladle into prepared jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Seal, and process as usual.
Wednesday, June 26: Kevin West will be discussing his book signing copies and serving up jams for tasting at Skylight Books, 1818 N Vermont Ave. 7:30 p.m.
Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.