There are many canning and preserving books out there, with new ones being published all the time. Some are new editions of old favorites, like the always popular Ball Blue Books. Some, like So Easy to Preserve, by the National Center for Home Food Preservation are utilitarian and practical. There are books that celebrate the unusual – Preserving Memories by Judy Glattstein comes to mind – and those that celebrate gourmet-style canning – including one of my favorites, The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant. But a new book to cross my desk, Saving the Season by Kevin West, includes a bit all the above traits and more.
First, the details: Saving the Season isn’t new-new. It was published last year. I remember hearing about it at the time, but didn’t actually get my hands on a copy until recently. The author, Kevin West, also writes the popular blog of the same name. Mr. West came to canning and preserving the same way many of us do, growing up enjoying his family’s home preserved goods, becoming an adult and trying to re-create the tastes of our childhood. As part of his journey he became a Master Food Preserver and an amateur science researcher to better understand the canning process.
Saving the Season isn’t a mere booklet. It is a hefty hardcover book, with an in-depth index, a bibliography, and informative appendices that provide information about popular fruit varieties, peak fruit and vegetable seasons by region, and a helpful pH guide. All the basics are here too; canning how-to, canning equipment, jam making directions and explanations, and pickling tips. And let’s not forget recipes! There are canning and preserving recipes here too, everything from a basic strawberry jam to lime curd to pickled cardoons. The book is arranged by season, proving once again that we are able to find something to can every month of the year.
One thing in particular I love about Saving the Season is how deep the author delves into the why of canning and preserving. Most canning books simply cover the how and what of canning, e.g. how-to make bread and butter pickles, what to include when making jam. But Saving the Season explains why canning requires certain steps too. Mr. West also delves into the culture of canning and preserving, why and how it connects us to our own families and family history. After all, what better way to understand just where we come from than to share family foods and food stories?
Mr. West, while pointing out that canning must be done safely, also points out just how uncommon it is to actually end up with a home canned product infected with botulism. I love his positive approach. Instead of focusing on the very real dangers of botulism, he focuses on the fact that anyone can safely can and preserve if they follow safe steps. It’s a point that we Master Food Preservers sometimes forget to impart, I know I have been guilty of it myself. We focus so much on the safety aspect that we sometimes scare off would-be canners. Thankfully Mr. West reminded me that I need to share my love of safe canning and encourage – not discourage – others to do so too.
Saving the Season deserves a place on your canning bookshelf. It’s a one-stop resource that you can use and enjoy all year long. Do yourself a favor and purchase a copy today. It lists for $35.00 and is available online and and bookstores.