I've really enjoyed the trend in the DIY book space away from single-subject and into integrative lifestyle. Kate Payne's delightful duo of The Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking and The Hip Girl's Guide to the Kitchen offer simple practices for a natural home. Cathy Barrow's Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry steps outside the basic preserving bible, with recipes in and out of the jar spanning the entire year. All have a permanent place on my bookshelf.
But there's always room for one more. Blogger (and longtime Punk Domestics contributor) Erica Strauss of Northwest Edible Life enters the arena with a tour de force. Her debut book, The Hands-On Home: A Seasonal Guide to Cooking, Preserving & Natural Homekeeping, serves up a wealth of ideas for maintaining a wholesome, healthy lifestyle year round.
The book kicks off with 100 pages of foundational techniques and practices that equip you with the skills you need, then subsequent sections are orgainzed by projects that can be done throughout the year, and then by specific season. Within each, Strauss has recipes and projects for preserving, cooking, and home and body care.
All the projects are accessible, and indeed enticing. By arming you with some basic knowledge around the mechanics of which natural cleaning agents are good for what, she enables you to have fun with your DIY soaps and cleansers. She brings her chef's sensibility to thinking of recipes as guidelines, offering charts of variations on basic salad dressings, or a "choose-your-own-adventure granola."
Best of all, Strauss' voice is engaging and witty, never haughty. Take, for example, her chipper top tips for food preservation, which helpfully frame the mindset and make preserving easy, practical, and most of all fun. What could be a daunting stack of projects comes off a fun to-do list. For anyone interested in getting more hands-on with their home life, and introducing more natural ingredients and products into the process, this is a fantastic resource indeed.
No other fruit embodies the flavor of fall like cranberries. With their bracing acidity, they form the backbone of all manner of preserved foods, and have applications well beyond the Thanksgiving table. Here's a bunch of ways to use these lovely ruby orbs.
I'm a late comer to jerky. It's not something I ate growing up, and the 16 or so years I spent as a vegetarian were not conducive to jerky consumption. Lately, though, I've become fascinated with it, so when my friend Pamela Braun told me she was working on a book that was all about jerky, my interest was piqued.
While it may seem like a narrow topic, actually jerky has many faces and flavors, and Jerky Everything lays out quite a lot of them. Beef is the gold standard, of course, and the book has dozens of variations on it drawing from a panoply of global flavors. Mexican, Thai, Korean, Cajun and other influences pepper the recipes. But there's also plenty of pork, poultry, seafood, and even a bunch of pretty out-there game options like alligator, boar, and even yak. She's thrown in some fruits and veggies for good measure as well.
Braun's tone is informal yet informative. In the opening section, she lays out an erudite explanation of why jerky is safe to make at home, provided you take certain precautions. While the material is very technical and could come off as wonky, she makes it approachable and understandable. So bust out your dehydrator (or just turn on the oven), and make some delicious dried meat with Pamela Braun's deft guidance.
As the days shorten, those last tomatoes on the vine may stubbornly stay green. But that doesn't mean they're not good eating. Here's seven ways to preserve those green tomatoes.
Knobby, hard and fuzzy, quince won't win any beauty contests, but their intoxicating perfume lures you in. Once you know how to conquer these rugged beasts, their heady flavor -- and substantial pectin structure -- make them a preserver's dream.
Cooler, crisp days and oblique light. Autumn is upon us, and with it the first fall fruit that comes to mind. Juicy, sweet pears are delicious and versatile. Here's almost a dozen ways to preserve the bounty of the season.
Veraison is upon us, which means the grapes are coming into season. Here's eight ways to preserve grapes, from the traditional jelly to chutney, raisins and more.
Biting into a fresh, crisp apple is the quintessential taste of autumn itself. But when you are faced with more apples than you can eat out of hand, try some of these tempting ways to put them by for later use.
Summer grilling is great, but burgers and dogs are only as good as the condiments that dress them up. Step away from the packaged varieties and try your hand at DIY condiments to make haute dogs and hamburgers.
Got tomatoes? Here's a rundown of ways to put up your maters, from basic canned tomatoes to salsa, ketchup and more.