Putting Food By
by Janet Greene, Ruth Hertzberg, and Beatrice Vaughan
Reviewed August 2008 by Claire Morenon, Program Coordinator
This time of year, when valley farms are bursting with fresh, delicious fruits and vegetables, is the perfect opportunity to enjoy heirloom tomatoes just hours off the vine and to pop blueberries straight from the bush into your mouth. It’s also the time of year that home gardeners find themselves with more veggies than they can eat, CSA members strain under the weight of their shares, and inexpensive boxes of canning tomatoes and peaches become available at farm stands and farmers’ markets. Why not think about preserving some of the summer’s bounty so you can enjoy it all year long? There are lots of ways to get started, from something as simple as throwing raw pepper slices into the freezer to more complicated projects like raspberry jam or canning tomato sauce.
Before leaping into the world of food preservation, it’s vital to have enough information to ensure safe and delicious results. “Putting Food By” is an absolutely invaluable resource for food preservers of all stripes. It contains exhaustive information on exactly what you need to do in order to freeze, can, or dry almost every fruit or vegetable that grows in the northeast. There is also ample information on smoking and salt-curing meat, advice on how to select the best equipment, and diagrams to help readers build their own root cellars. “Putting Food By” offers an unparalleled level of detail and a staggering array of options-it even outlines three preservation methods (freezing, canning, and drying) for the obscure elderberry.
The thing that really makes “Putting Food By” such a wonderful book for all preservers, though, is not the thirteen pickle recipes or the detailed drying-rack building plans. It’s the complete education that it offers about how each method of preservation works, what the pros and cons are and how to know if something is safe to eat. It’s not just a compilation of recipes and instructions. In my edition, before you even get to the recipes, there are 83 pages of information on the various types of salts and sweeteners, the relative safety of different models of canning jar lids, and detailed information on mold, bacteria, and enzymes. The instructions next to each vegetable tell you if something can be frozen but really isn’t worth the freezer space, and the section about unsafe but widely used canning methods is charmingly titled “Hair-Raisers.” “Putting Food By” is the next-best thing to having a grandparent with a lifetime of experience in the kitchen with you, guiding you through all the steps but letting you take credit for your accomplishments.