Disclosure: A copy of the book has been furnished for review, and another for the giveaway, by the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Anyone who's followed my personal blog from the early days knows I make no secret of my Italian heritage. My mother's grandparents came from various parts of the South--Abruzzo, Campania, and Calabria--and that is the culinary heritage to which I am most connected.
Preserved foods are deeply integrated into Italian culture. Fruit preserves, pickles, and of course tomatoes in their many manifestations are the backbone of many dishes. Cheeses and cured meats of course are defining elements of Italian cuisine. It's because of these things that I decided to lead culinary tours in Italy -- to help people explore the intense, vibrant flavors of this culture firsthand.
Come on, you want to go to Italy and make preserves, piadina, hand-rolled pasta and more, right? Join us in October!
So when I heard of Domenica Marchetti's book, Preserving Italy, I squealed with glee. And also envy. In short, this is the book I wish I had written.
Marchetti gets to the soul of Italian preserving, in fact boldly leading with an entire chapter on foods preserved in oil. In this method, referred to as sott'olio (under oil) in Italian, acidied food is kept submerged under a layer of oil. The oil keeps out oxygen, which can lead to spoilage. The acidification of the food staves off botulism. The oil does more than simply protect the food, however; it imparts its own flavor, and tends to give foods, especially dried vegetables, a chewier, firmer texture that's very pleasing.
(There is no current USDA recommendation for storing foods in oil; however, the UC Davis Extension has provided a method for packing dried tomatoes in oil, using the same principles.)
With regards to fruit preserves, Marchetti showcases classic Italian flavors: Apricot jam inflected with anise, peach-almond conserve spiked with Marsala, fig with orange zest, by way of example. But fruit makes sometimes surprising appearances in other categories, such as in a sweet, sour, and spicy pickled melon recipe, or for the classic mostarda, a fruit-based condiment with bold spices (most notably, mustard), something akin to an Italian version of chutney.
Though a new-world food, tomatoes merit an entire chapter, with recipes for preserving tomatoes in various states: Canned whole, puréed (passata), dried, and as tomato pages (conserva). Avid pressure canners will also dive deep into the recipes for classic meat sauce and beans in tomato sauce to put up for quick meals by and by.
Marchetti touches on a few simple cheeses, quickly made with ready ingredients. There's a ricotta, which you'd expect, but a couple variations intrigue, such as a Ligurian prescinseua, approaching a cottage cheese texture, or a proto-ricotta called primo latte, just barely set and meant to be eaten fresh as possible.
She also glances off the topic of salumi, offering a few fresh sausages, and for cured product, simple salt-cured pancetta and guanciale, acknowledging that dry-cured salumi tends to require equipment somewhat beyond the scope of the typical home cook.
Fire up the grill and bust out the wood chips. Summer is smokin' hot, and we've got a variety of hot smoking projects for your Smokey Joe. What are you smoking?
Disclosure: A copy of the book has been furnished for review, and another for the giveaway, by the publisher, Storey Press.
Raise your hand if you have a few extra jars of jams and pickles stowed in corners and in the backs of shelves in the pantry. Now keep those hands up if you have a lot of jars. Yeah, that's what I thought.
For those of us who are into DIY projects, moderation is antithetical to our desire to can all the things. As we get into summer, that's only going to get worse. After all, who can resist those flats of luscious berries or lustrous cucumbers just begging to be pickled?
Odds are you personally are not going to consume all those jars of jams and pickles single-handedly, but what if you could turn them into a bounty of practical material? Enter the food swap.
From its humble beginnings in Kate Payne's small Brooklyn apartment, the modern food swap movement became a huge phenomenon of the sharing economy. Emily Paster, blogger at West of the Loop (and longtime Punk Domestics contributor) co-founded the Chicago food swap, which became one of the exemplars of a successful food trading event.
So you just get a few people together and hand each other jars of things, right? Well, it turns out there's more to it than that.
In Food Swap, Paster outlines all the aspects of a successful food swap event, from scouting locations to getting the word out to the sometimes surprising problem of no-shows. Moreover, she helps you think about what makes your contribution a successful bargaining chip. Hint: Presentation counts. Channel your inner marketer.
The latter half of the book is full of recipes specially designed for trading, from fresh items meant to be consumed quickly to baked goods to home-canned treats to save for later.
Whether you're looking to do a simple old-fashioned soup swap or organize a bigger community function, Food Swap equips you with the information you need to execute a successful event that will bring people together while enriching their pantries.
Summertime is upon us, and it's time to bust out the grill and sear up some sausage. Making your own is easier than you think, and the rewards are worth the effort.
Cinco de mayo has nothing to do with Mexican independence, but you can liberate yourself from store-bought salsa. Whatever kind you like, whip up a batch today for chip-dipping good times.
Disclosure: A copy of the book has been furnished for review, and another for the giveaway, by the publisher, Running Press.
Marisa McClellan, doyenne of all things food that go in jars, is back with the third in her series of books. This time, she's turned her eye to a particular niche in the preserving space, using natural sweeteners in the place of the more common granulated sugar. Marisa took some time out of her very busy schedule while on book tour to answer a few questions for us.
PD: What inspired you to focus on using natural sweeteners in preserves?
MM: I started this journey of natural sweeteners like most people do, with honey. I started using it to sweeten various preserves first simply as a way of lending extra flavor to things like strawberry jam and quick pickles. When I would share those honey sweetened preserves on my blog, the response was always resounding and positive. People were looking for preserves that were sweetened naturally. Spurred on by such an encouraging response, I started developing more recipes that were sweetened naturally and eventually, that process of exploration turned into this book.
Strawberries! Everybody's favorite bright red berry is finally in season, and there are just oh so many things to do with them. Grab a flat or 10 while they're abundant, and tuck into these DIY projects, from jam to sauces to drinks and more.