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Gift Guide: Best DIY Books of 2015

The field of excellent DIY and preserving books marches on this year, continuing the trend from 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011. Many of these authors are colleagues and contemporaries, as well as contributors to the Punk Domestics community. This year's big trend appears to be books that integrate food preservation with everyday cookery. Here's a handful of favorites, ranging from the broad to the specific. (Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for Amazon.com from which I may derive a nominal amount of revenue.)

The Hands-On Home by Erica Strauss, found on PunkDomestics.comThe Hands-On Home by Erica Strauss
The force behind Northwest Edible Life's debut book is a great resource for anyone interested in getting more hands-on with their home life, and introducing more natural ingredients and products into the process.

The Homemade Kitchen by Alana Chernila, found on PunkDomestics.comThe Homemade Kitchen by Alana Chernila
An expansion on The Homemade Pantry, Chernila's latest is a meditation on making the kitchen a sane and sensible place from which inspiration flows naturally. There's plenty of preserving in there, but it all ties into a holistic, integrated approach to cooking.

Brown Eggs and Jam Jars by Aimee Wimbush-Bourque, found on PunkDomestics.comBrown Eggs and Jam Jars by Aimee Wimbush-Bourque
Simple Bites' blogger has come out with a work that's not just a cookbook; it's a lifebook. It's equal parts Laura Ingalls Wilder and Martha Stewart.

Brown Eggs and Jam Jars by Aimee Wimbush-Bourque, found on PunkDomestics.comFood Gift Love by Maggie Battista
The woman behind Eat Boutique offers her best suggestions for DIY gifting, including liqueurs, pickles, and much more. Give this to yourself in time to kick off some projects to give away later.

The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How by Andrea Chesman, found on PunkDomestics.com The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How by Andrea Chesman
The successful homestead goes beyond the garden. This follow-up to the hugely successful The Backyard Homestead closes the gap between field and table, with a 360º view of all manner of preparing, preserving, and cooking pretty much everything.

The Canning Kitchen by Amy Bronee, found on PunkDomestics.com The Canning Kitchen by Amy Bronee
From the classics to the more outlandish, Bronee dishes up 101 small-batch recipes for canning preserves, pickles and condiments to enhance meals all year long.

The Broad Fork by Hugh Acheson, found on PunkDomestics.comThe Broad Fork by Hugh Acheson
The South's most esteemed chef focuses on ultra-seasonal fare, with oodles of inspiration for fresh fruits and vegetables, including plenty of ideas for preserving and fermentation. Read my inteview with Chef Acheson.

Preserving the Japanese Way by Nancy Singleton Hachisu, found on PunkDomestics.comPreserving the Japanese Way by Nancy Singleton Hachisu
Japan has a unique preserving culture all its own, using things as commonplace as salt to make cured plums known as umeboshi to vegetables fermented in miso or soy lees. Hachisu's perspective living on a Japanese farm provides insight and inspiration.

Ferment Your Vegetables by Amanda Feifer, found on PunkDomestics.comFerment Your Vegetables by Amanda Feifer
Longtime Punk Domestics contributor Amanda Feifer of Phickle flexes her fermentation muscles, offering up a kaleidoscopic array of ways to turn your veggies into probiotic pickles.

The Art of Natural Cheesemaking by David Asher, found on PunkDomestics.comThe Art of Natural Cheesemaking by David Asher
Unsatisfied with synthetic enzymes and starters, David Asher sought to make cheese in the traditional way, with natural ingredients, following the principles of Sandor Ellix Katz's Wild Fermentation. From simple kefir to sophisticated cheese aged in jars, this book is a revelation. Read my interview with David Asher.

Kitchen Creamery by Louella Hill, found on PunkDomestics.comKitchen Creamery by Louella Hill
San Francisco's esteemed Milk Maid boils down her expansive knowledge of cheesemaking into an intuitive, engaging tome that will inspire novices and dairy warriors alike to take on home cheesemaking.

Yogurt Culture by Cheryl Strernman Rule, found on PunkDomestics.comYogurt Culture by Cheryl Strernman Rule
Rule delves into the rich and diverse ways yogurt can be used in the kitchen, offering 115 recipes that incorporate it, such as how it makes baked goods tender, like in a orange and olive oil cake. It also has lucid instructions on how to make your own yogurt, with some good insight on a few different methods for incubation.

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DIY Liqueurs for Holiday Gifting

Many people enjoy receiving a bottle of a nice liqueur as  a holiday gift. When it's handmade, it makes it both delicious and personal. Here's a bunch of our favorite DIY liqueurs perfect for gifting. 

Citric Liqueurs:

Limoncello, found on PunkDomestics.com
Limoncello 
The classic lemon liqueur of southern Italy is a ray of sunshine during the dark winter months. It's easy to make, too.
Crema di Limoncello, found on PunkDomestics.com
Crema di Limoncello 
Or try this twist on the classic Italian lemon liqueur, with cream and vanilla. The cream mellows the sweetness and gives it a richer mouthfeel.
Arancello, found on PunkDomestics.com
Arancello 
Citrus liqueurs are not limited to lemon. Try it with oranges, be they standard navels or sanguine blood oranges.
Orange Liqueur, found on PunkDomestics.com
Orange Liqueur 
Triple sec, Gran Marnier, Cointreau ... try your hand at making orange liqueur at home, and give your margaritas a DIY zing.
Vin d'Orange, found on PunkDomestics.com
Vin d'Orange 
Vin d'Orange, a bitter liquor made with Seville oranges, is easy to prepare, requiring the mixing of a few ingredients and allowing it to sit for two weeks to allow the spices and orange zest to infuse the wine and vodka.
Whatevercello, found on PunkDomestics.com
Whatevercello 
Think outside the lemon box and make liqueurs from whatever citrus you like -- bergamots, grapefruits, pomelos, and kumquats all work great.
Grapefruit Bitters, found on PunkDomestics.com
Grapefruit Bitters 
Mix the natural bitterness of grapefruit with spices like pink peppercorn, cardamom or juniper to make an intriguing bitters that enhances many cocktails.

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The Hands-On Home by Erica Strauss

The Hands-On Home by Erica Strauss, found on PunkDomestics.com

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. 

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Many Ways to Preserve Cranberries

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.

Cranberry Sauce, found on PunkDomestics.com
Cranberry Sauce
The homemade stuff is invariably better than what you buy on the shelf. But if you must have the ridges from the can, then make yours in an empty can to complete the effect. (Image via Food in Jars)
Cranberry Conserve, found on PunkDomestics.com
Cranberry Conserve
Leave it chunky, plus maybe add the hearrty crunch of nuts, for a conserve that adds tooth to the classic sauce. (Image via Stephanie the Recipe Renovator)

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Jerky Everything: Review and Giveaway

Jerky Everything, found on PunkDomestics.com

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. 

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Several Things to Do With Green Tomatoes

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.

Pickled Green Tomatoes, found on PunkDomestics.com
Pickled Green Tomatoes
Keep 'em crisp and make 'em zingy and tangy. Pickled green tomatoes make the most of the unripe fruit. (Image via Garden of Eating.)
Green Tomato Salsa, found on PunkDomestics.com
Green Tomato Salsa
Spicy and tangy, green tomato salsa brings a dose of summer in the colder months. (Image via Jane's Adventures in Dinner.)
Green Tomato Chutney, found on PunkDomestics.com
Green Tomato Chutney
Chunky, spicy, sweet-tart chutney elevates your greenies to new dimensions. Great with meats, or alongside spicy foods. (Image via Married ...With Dinner.)

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Conquering the Quixotic Quince

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.

Canned Quinces, found on PunkDomestics.com
Cutting a Quince
Quince are tough customers. Before you lop off a finger trying to chop into one, be sure to check out this video from What Julia Ate. Your digits will thank you.
Canned Quince in  Syrup, found on PunkDomestics.com
Canned Quince in Syrup
Canned slices of aromatic quince made all the more exotic with white wine or rose syrup will find their way into your holiday baking regimen.

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Eleven Ways to Put Up Pears

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.

Canned Pears
Canned pears
Can those pears in syrup, infused with booze, spiked with ginger or redolent of aromatic tea. (Image via Snowflake Kitchen)
Pear Jam
Pear Jam
Naturally soft and succulent pears cook down to a beautifully delicate jam, especially nice with autumnal spices.

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Eight Ways to Preserve Grapes

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. 

Grape Jelly
Grape Jelly
The ultimate taste of childhood, grape jelly captures the essence of the fruit. Stick it to Smucker's and make your own. (While you're at it, make your own peanut butter, too.)
Grape Jam
Grape Jam
Less fussy than jelly, grape jam burst with the juicy flavor of grapes, especially if you have access to wild fruit.

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Eighteen Ways to Preserve Apples

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.

Applesauce, found on PunkDomestics.com
Applesauce
Easy as can be, you can make applesauce on the stovetop or in the slow cooker, and you don't even have to peel or core them. (Image via Southern Fried Curry)
Apple Jam, found on PunkDomestics.com
Apple Butter
Keep cooking that applesauce down until it takes on a dense, rich texture and deeper color, and you've got apple butter. Again, the slow cooker is great for this. (Image via Eating Rules)

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