Monday, August 25, 2014

Best of Bridge Home Preserving

Best of Bridge Home Preserving: 120 Recipes for Jams, Jellies, Marmalades, Pickles and More
Authors: The Editors of Best of Bridge (Yvonne Tremblay, Jennifer MacKenzie and Sally Vaughan-Johnston)
Publisher: Robert Rose (2014)

I have no idea how I got into canning. For all intents and purposes, I shouldn’t have even entertained the thought – neither set of my grandparents canned (or grew much of) anything, and my parents certainly didn’t have the time or energy to either. Our large water-bath canner eventually wove it’s way to me, and I’ve never looked back. The joy of tasting fruit and vegetables at their peak, long after the season has passed, is rarely afforded these days thanks to mass-production, imported fruit and standardized, industrial products in the condiment aisle. The team of Yvonne Tremblay, Jennifer MacKenzie and Sally Vaughan-Johnston at The Best of Bridge want to bring back the ease and simplicity of “putting up” with their new collection: Best of Bridge Home Preserving: 120 Recipes for Jams, Jellies, Marmalades, Pickles and More.

Home Preserving is an attractive, coil-bound bible of sorts that encompasses almost anything and everything readers may want to can with a waterbath at home. Catering to all levels, from jamming neophyte to experienced pro, the book is organized into single fruit jams, mixed fruit jams, marmalades, jellies, conserves, fruit butters, chutneys, relishes, pickles and sauces & salsas. Of course, all this canning will go to waste if you can’t do something with it later on, so in addition to the serving suggestions at the end of each recipe, there’s a dedicated chapter as well packed with goodies like Chocolate Strawberry Torte (p.284) and Sticky Baked Chicken (p. 276). The Table of Contents lists each recipe under their respective headings as well as documenting the subsections in the preliminary Basics chapter. An incredibly thorough Produce Purchase and Preparation Guide (p. 290) provides the tail end of Home Preserving, just before a completely cross-referenced Index.

Ginger Jam
Ginger Jam (p. 48)

With so much attention to detail in this book, it’s hard to bemoan the lack of photography. While the book is not void of pictures, they are clustered in insets throughout the pages – thankfully, they are captioned (with page numbers) for easy location of the delicious recipes! Even without accompanying photos, many of the recipes speak volumes, leaving almost nothing about their final outcome up to the imagination.

One of the things all first-time preservers must read through before embarking on any home canning project is Home Preserving’s first chapter, aptly titled The Basics. No mere “welcome” page of acknowledgements, these 29 pages completely document every aspect of successful canning – from food safety and terminology to waterbath processing, yield and using pectin. Even after canning for years, the Quick Tips for Success (p. 37) was a good refresher for this new year of preserving. Once primed, I set my sights on a recipe that I knew would be a hit with my co-workers as well as a unique experience for me: Ginger Jam (p. 48). This apple juice-based preserve is packed with both fresh and candied ginger and set with liquid pectin, resulting in a gorgeous, golden spread with a sweet bite. It definitely garnered it’s share of raves, and would be fantastic at holiday time with morning toast, dinner stir-fries or nestled into thumbprint cookies for dessert!

Peach-Mango Jam
Mango Jam (p. 50)
Conveniently, on the next page I discovered Mango Jam (p. 50), a preserve I absolutely adore but that can be hard to find up here in Canada. Luckily, mangoes themselves are relatively accessible (due to the imports, etc. I mentioned earlier), and the recipe was simple and straightforward to make and can for later, again using liquid pectin for set. While I did alter the spicing to my taste (eliminating the cinnamon and cardamom and sprinkling in a touch of allspice instead), it functions as a subtle flavour enhancer that amplifies the tropical feelings the fruit evokes. I also took advantage of the Summer's bounty outside my door and fleshed out the fruit content with local peaches I had intended to give away some jars at Christmastime, as I do every year, but unless I make another batch before then my recipients may be out of luck!  

There is no reason for the art of preserving your own food to be lost to the rush and stress of the times. While canning is admittedly a time consuming (and occasionally messy) pastime, what craft isn’t? Besides, you and your loved ones will use and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labour long after the dishes are done – unlike whimsical, misshapen clay figurines and bright glittery cards.

Available on Amazon