Cooking From Books: Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Canning, Pickling, and Preserving

Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Canning, Pickling, and Preserving

Kevin West

Random House 2013

544 pages, hardcover

I’m starting this column out with a slightly odd choice: I haven’t actually cooked anything from it yet.

But I have to tell you how impressed I am with this book.

I was lucky enough to win a copy from Autumn Makes and Does last week, and it arrived on Monday. This book is a bruiser. I have textbooks that are smaller than this thing-which is going to be a running theme in this review. Coming in at 544 pages, there isn’t an inch of wasted space in this thing. The photography is stunning.

First off though, this isn’t your normal cookbook. The book is broken into several sections-there is a fairly lengthy introduction, and then the book is separated into the seasons. The recipes have a general trend of increasing complexity as the book progresses (but this isn’t a given-there are recipes for infusing alcohol/preserving fruit in spirits under summer where the hardest thing appears to be pitting the fruit).

Second, there is a ton of food science in this book. Like I said, I have textbooks that are less thorough than this. West wants to know everything about everything, and tells us about it-did you know that ramps are higher in sulfur than onions? Did you know that while peach pits do contain cyanide, there is actually an established safety limit for consumption? And history-there’s a fairly detailed look at the role that sugar has played in food trends.

The most impressive thing about this book though is that it’s like talking to my grandmother again. While these aren’t recipes that I remember her making, they are very much in line with what I remember her making. West and I don’t come from the same region, but I feel like our families probably run on more than a parallel than not.

Here’s the one oddity with this book: there hasn’t been a recipe yet that I’m compelled to make. There hasn’t been a single item yet that I would go out of my way to make this weekend. However, the depth of detail in the rest of the book well makes up for my lack of interest in West’s actual recipes-and in most cases, I just don’t like the flavor profile, or I already have a recipe in my circulation that’s pretty much spot on for what West is doing. And for the sake of full disclosure, I’ve been looking at this book for two days now and I’m only page 187, so there’s a strong possibility that I’ll find something later in the book that propels me into the kitchen.

The book is currently retailing for $35 and I think that it’s worth every cent. There are some cookbooks in my library that I like but am glad I picked up used, or that I felt were a little steep for what the content. This is not one of them. I would strongly recommend picking this one up.

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