Put ’em up! Fruit
Sherri Brooks Vinton
Storey Publishing Company (North Adams 2013)
It’s summer, and the blueberries are coming in. Soon it will be September, and in some parts of the country the apples will grin at you from roadside stands. By December, your local farmer’s market will be piling up beautiful oranges and grapefruits if you are in South Louisiana and Texas. Sherri Vinton has it all figured out. She’s an authority on preserving local agriculture through everyday food sources, and her new book gets you as fired up about it as she is.
With sections that are classified by fruit, so you can take advantage of whatever is plentiful and in season without having to flip through an index, she’s compiled wonderful recipes for chutney, compote, conserves, fruit cheese, “gastrique,” infusion, jam, jelly, ketchup, leather, liqueur, marmalade, pickle, preserve, puree’, relish, and salsa! (Jam is made of chunks of fruit; jelly from fruit juice, in case you always wondered). But don’t worry, she’s defined everything in the informative first chapter, and all the recipes are creative and distinctive. There are recipes for apricots in honey syrup, berry apple leather, savory cranberry relish, broiled grapefruit marmalade, and limoncello (acquired from New Orleans chef Alon Shaya of Domenica Restaurant). You’re not left on your own, either, when you try to follow the recipes while staring at a pot of sugary fruit that seems never to gel. The book is full of hints and kitchen science, as well as an instructive chapter providing basic instructions for preserving food. The role that sugar and acid play in preserving fruit is thoroughly explained. The clear and attractive photographs show you just what stage you want the cooked fruit to reach before you can fill your empty jars. Kitchen how-to inserts are really useful—who knew that cleaning a coffee grinder you’ve used to grind coriander seeds was as easy as whirling rice through it?
Probably the best part of the book, though, is the “Use It Up!” section that follows each master recipe. If you’re wondering how many biscuits you have to bake before you can use up all your blood orange marmalade, not to worry—you can make Salmon with Orange Glaze instead. Or orange and cumin chutney? That gets combined with cheddar and cream cheese to make Cheddar and Chutney Spread, something new for your next cocktail party. You get the idea; Sherri’s recipes are endlessly inventive.
If you don’t feel you’re up to canning food just yet, it’s still fun just to see the things you can do with those jars of preserves your craftier friends keep bringing over. This book is terrific; it’s like having a really cool and knowledgeable friend in the kitchen with you while you stir things up. And then, she’s there to share a cup of tea and toast with Earl Grey Jelly. Makes you want to boil a kettle of water and sterilize some jars right now.