Ed Note: Our friend Julia, canning lover and far mar worker, is back to rant about a newly acquired, and blogger-inspired, cookbook. Julia’s previously written about roasted rhubarb and Meyer lemon syrup.
Discovering my inner Southern grandmother has opened up my cookbook addiction in a whole new direction: canning and preserving texts now fill my shelves. Apparently many, many others have also become a part of this “canvolution” (not my word – I swear) and so a whole crop of canning books are popping up. As such, it seems that all sorts of canning bloggers are scrambling to write books to cash in on the craze.
For those of us who love cookbooks, but hate to follow recipes, canning presents a unique challenge in that, not following a recipe or procedure to a “t” can result in some really nasty things. Like death. From botulism. Not a pretty way to go.
As a result, every canning book that I have come across lately has – rightly – dedicated a good amount of space to describing the process of canning safety measures and the history of various methods.
The most recent canning book to my collection, WE SURE CAN! How Jams and Pickles Are Reviving the Lure and Lore of Local Food (courtesy of Arsenal Pulp Press) does not break from that format. In fact, author Sarah B. Hood spends 60ish pages writing about the history of canning…Then the resurgence of canning…Then the people responsible for the resurgence of canning…. Then the way to can…
And then (YAY!) we get two recipes.
For pectin. I’m sorry, but I’m not making my own pectin, it’s just not worth it to me.
Another twentyish pages later, the actual recipes, for things I can actually eat, start. After slogging through all of that writing I was pretty anxious to get to the cooking part of this cookbook, but when I finally got there, a feeling of dejavu swept over me. I had read these recipes before.
Not recipes like these, but these exact ones. My thoughts were confirmed when I looked at the recipe headers and found that many of them were attributed to some of the more popular canning bloggers, and that these recipes had appeared, verbatim, on their sites. At this point I started to get a little annoyed. I mean, the recipes were really good ones, some I had even made before with great results, but after 80 something pages of text, I expected to be wowed, and instead I was feeling cheated.
Feeling a little guilty about my initially negative feelings towards this book, I decided I should really buckle down, and select a recipe or two to test out. Then I remembered the watermelon sitting on my counter. The one that I promised my very skeptical boyfriend I would eat in its entirety while dragging it home from the Far Mar in 102 degree heat. There was a recipe for pickled watermelon rind. Perfect.
The recipe was not much different than others that I had previously read for pickled watermelon rind, and yet, to this authors’ credit, was much simpler and more concise in it’s explanations. The pickling brine called for a mix of cider vinegar, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, fresh ginger and whole peppercorns and while cooking, made my kitchen smell like Christmas in August.
The final result was a very pretty jar of translucent rinds tinged with pink and green. I left a few out of the jar to cure in the fridge, and they were quite tasty, if not unexpectedly spicy. I’m really looking forward to eating the rest with a slow cooked pork shoulder so that I can truly complete the Southern Grandmother transformation.