Are you a food preservation expert looking for a new challenge? If you are ready to branch out and try more creative canning and preserving recipes and methods, The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant is the book for you. Full of gorgeous photos and unusual pickles and preserves recipes, The Preservation Kitchen, is a coffee table like book for foodies. At least the kind of foodies who lovingly prepare their own food from scratch.
The sub-title warns us up-front that this is no cookie-cutter canning book. The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves, and Aigre-doux will have us “Googling” in no time. Aigre-doux, for the uninitiated, is a sort of sweet and sour preserve more commonly found in France. You’ll find recipes for several different aigre-doux, including white asparagus, blueberry, grape and butternut squash. Another unusual pickled preserve found here is mostarda. Actually, my quest for a mostarda recipe is what first attracted me to The Preservation Kitchen. Mostarda is an Italian fruit concoction mixed with mustard and vinegar.
There is a whole section on pickled veggies that goes beyond dill pickles to include Lemon-Pickled Turnips, Pickled Snow Peas, and Red Wine Pickled Beets. I guarantee that your gift recipients won’t be returning these food gifts because someone else got them the same thing!
The jam section is equally creative with recipes for Beer Jam, Vanilla Melon Jam (absolutely delicious, and easy to make), and Maple-Black Walnut Butter, which is on my list to make this year. There’s even a section for making sauerkraut or curing meat.
The second half of the book has all kinds of recipes and meal ideas for using your homemade pickles and preserves. There’s the Mixed Berry Crisp with Goat Cheese Mousse and Mulberry Aigre-Doux for a perfect summer afternoon respite, Pan Seared Chicken with Celery Sauce and Tomato Jam-Roasted Potatoes, and even a recipe for Dill Pickle Vinaigrette.
The author is a chef and owner of the restaurant, Vie, in Western Springs, Illinois, and it is obvious that he has a great understanding of umami and flavor combinations, along with the desire to share that knowledge with home cooks. The recipes are very creative. In fact, some might find them a bit intimidating as they sometimes call for ingredients you won’t find at the local grocery store like champagne vinegar, white asparagus, or mulberries. Pickling vegetables in the suggested champagne or red wine vinegar can quickly turn those baby carrots into a rather expensive dish also. Despite these drawbacks, I highly recommend The Preservation Kitchen. In fact, it may be these perceived drawbacks that lend this book its special charm, as they turn everyday pickles and preserves into gourmet fare.
This is a beautiful book. One of those books that calls to you, even if you never make any of the recipes. It celebrates fresh, homemade food from an old-world, artisan perspective. From a time when we knew where our food came from because it was grown and nurtured by our friends, neighbors or selves. It should be on the shelf of every creative food preserver – or aspiring preserver.