Sunday, August 25, 2013

Put 'em Up! Fruit: A Preserving Guide & Cookbook

Put 'em Up! Fruit: A Preserving Guide & Cookbook
Publisher: Storey Publishing, LLC (2013)

There is nothing like cracking into a jar of homemade jam. For years, we have been able to enjoy the bounty of the Spring and Summer year-round thanks to the ancient practice of preserving berries, tomatoes, stone fruit and more. While today it seems like produce has no seasonality thanks to imports and greenhouses, canning has the unique quality of being able to consistently provide the taste and nutrition of fruit and vegetables in their prime. This, and the ever-stronger movement towards frugal and honest food, is perhaps the reason canning is enjoying a resurgence with a new generation of professional and home cooks. Nobody understands this “young love” better than author Sherri Brooks Vinton, whose previous work Put Em Up! introduced preserving both fruits and vegetables with approachable, decadent style. Now she’s back with another installment – Put 'em Up! Fruit: A Preserving Guide & Cookbook: Creative Ways to Put 'em Up, Tasty Ways to Use 'em Up – and it is just as packed with tempting goodies.

As it’s name implies, Put Em Up! Fruit is exclusively about the home preservation of, well, fruit. Beyond berries and applesauce (though there are those too), Brooks Vinton also includes recipes for more unusual varieties such as grapefruit, quince and rhubarb. Each of the 17 types of fruit have a few options for preserving, from canning and freezing to drying, plus suggestions on how to really make them your own. While many of the preserves in Put Em Up! Fruit are jams, the book also has a wealth of savoury sauces and gastriques, cordials and cocktails too. It’s easy to picture using parts of this book at every meal, not to mention proudly giving away jars of your work over the holidays!

Of course, there is no point in canning all these glorious things if you have no idea what to do with them all afterwards. Brooks Vinton solves this issue too, providing an array of 80 “use up” recipes. From Broiled Pork Chops with Apricot Glaze (p. 71) to Pear Soup (p. 197) and (my personal favourite) Flourless Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (p. 242), there is no excuse to have any of the preserves languish in your pantry!

As casual and friendly as Put Em Up! Fruit is on the surface, it should be noted that Brooks Vinton takes her craft seriously and spares no space documenting the safest and most rewarding methods for canning at home. Part One, at just over 30 pages, is a must-read for anyone new to preserving and is worth reviewing if (like me) you are a Summer-only canner. The section covers Keys to Success (i.e. only use fruit that’s ripe and preferably local, definitely not anything past it’s prime), a handy glossary, basic boiling-water bath methodology, ingredient roles in recipes, syrups, ingredient preparations, and of course, discussion of the all-important pectin. If you run into trouble along the way, a browse of Put Em Up! Fruit’s Troubleshooting section answers many of the common canning issues out there. In addition, the book includes three pages of Resources in the back, giving readers no reason to shy away from the craft due to lack of equipment.
Five Spice Plum Sauce
Five Spice Plum Sauce (p. 214)

I couldn’t wait to try out some of the recipes in Put Em Up! Fruit, especially since I planned to give homemade food gifts out again at Christmas. I’m a fairly seasoned canner, but I usually make my jams and jellies with pectin rather than relying on the “gel test” method used with sugar-only recipes. That said, the Five Spice Plum Sauce (p. 214) was relatively simple to put together, although I wound up requiring far more liquid than stated in the recipe. The Strawberry Balsamic Glaze (p. 246) was more akin to the recipe’s wording though, and the gourmet flavours were just as simple to put together. While I “cheated” and used my dehydrator for the Berry Apple Leather (p. 88), I loved the method Brooks Vinton used to make the puree and her reasoning for using apples – they are a neutral, pectin-rich base that helps “stretch” the more expensive berries and give the sheet of puree structure. Since the first batch from the book, I have used the same principles for a variety of “fruit roll ups” at home, and not once have I had an issue. I’ve bookmarked a handful of other scrumptious-looking recipes for future projects, but since I’m running out of jars (and much of the fruit is out of season now), they will have to wait till next year.

Strawberry Balsamic Shellac
Strawberry Balsamic Glaze (p. 246)
Whether you’re brand new to canning or regularly fill your pantry with jars of seasonal goodness, Sherri Brooks Vinton tempts the palate and the imagination with her creations. Put 'em Up! Fruit: A Preserving Guide & Cookbook: Creative Ways to Put 'em Up, Tasty Ways to Use 'em Up has a wealth of information, easy to follow recipes and use-ups that allow everyone to become a gourmet in their own kitchen, without the fuss (or price-tag) of a fancy restaurant.

Available on Amazon

No comments: