The Gentle Art of Preserving Cookbook Review

Preserving Techniques with Sugar, Salt, Air and More

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The Gentle Art of Preserving by Katie Caldesi © 2014 Kyle Books. Photography © Chris Terry.

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If you have been reading this area of the blog you know that I have been on a tear lately about actual, print cookbooks. Some fellow digitally based brethren think I am nuts, but that fact is that while technology changes constantly – and I am thrilled that it does – the printed word has been around for centuries because books speak to us in their own, tangible way. When this book, The Gentle Art of Preserving: Pickling, Smoking, Freezing, Drying, Curing, Fermenting, Bottling, Canning, and Making Jams, Jellies and Cordials arrived on my doorstep, I had one of those moments where I knew I was holding a book that I would refer to again and again for actual recipes. That I would pour over the images and text for inspiration and for a greater understanding of the topic. That I would love this book. Now that first statement about using it for recipes might seem like a silly statement, but I rarely do this. My life is filled with days of original recipe development and testing and I have to be really moved to follow someone else’s recipe start to finish. That statement means something. The passion and authority of the authors Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi is readily apparent from first glance. Then, upon diving into the book, the whole experience is even more solid than originally imagined or hoped for.

When you open up The Gentle Art of Preserving you will immediately see how the book is structured – and it is brilliant. When you hear the word “preserving” maybe you think of canning fruits and vegetables or making jam, and yes, all of those are covered here, but it encompasses so much more and the book’s chapters guide you through. Katie and Giancarlo embarked on a two-year-long journey to discover the different methods of preserving food, from smoking fish in Scotland to drying chiles in Sri Lanka and the breadth and depth is stunning. The authors also reached back into their own family experiences and present Italian cured charcuterie inspired by Giancarlo’s family recipes while Katie offers jams and chutneys evoking memories of cooking with her mother. Full-color photos are used liberally throughout, with many recipes accompanied by multiple images showing raw ingredients, process as well as final dish.

The Chapters are as follows: Vinegar; Sugar; Salt; Air; Smoke; Oil, Fat & Butter; Alcohol; Fermenting; Heat and then Cold. These are followed by a good Suppliers chapter and a bibliography.

As you can imagine the book covers much more than the sweet side of things so if you are interested in making your own Gravlax (Salt chapter), Tarhana -Turkish Homemade Instant Vegetable Soup (Air chapter), Cold Smoked Cheese (Smoke chapter) or Watermelon Vodka (Alcohol chapter) you will find them and dozens and dozens more.

For us dessert lovers I was particularly drawn to the homemade Fruit Leather and the Marron Glacé and we have brought you those recipes. The marron (chestnuts) are actually relatively easy and the kind of recipe that teaches technique while also giving you a finished dish worthy of gifting. I am also looking forward to making the Roasted Pear and Vanilla Butter, Caramelized Oranges in Brandy, Livia’s Oven-Baked Quince Jam, Damson Cheese and Homemade Pectin Stock.

If reading about techniques from all over the world is a favorite way to armchair travel and thinking about the myriad ways to work with and preserve your favorite ingredients gets your creative juices flowing, then this is a must-have book. Basically if you like learning, this is your kind of book.


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