|A Review of
Saving the Seasons.
Reviewed by Kate Roden.
Scroll down to the end of the review
for the recipe for Strawberry Freezer Jam
from this book!
Saving the Seasons is the newest cookbook from the publishers of the trifecta of beloved Mennonite cookbooks: Simply in Season, More with Less, and Extending the Table. This new work lives up to and expands the ideals of its predecessors.
In the nearly 35 years since More with Less first appeared on the scene, American kitchens have undergone some big changes, and not just in the shift from “autumn harvest” appliance colors to stainless steel. In much of the country, the locavore movement is in full swing, folks are prioritizing where their food comes from and how it gets to them. They are looking for farmer’s markets and buying up farm shares and subscriptions on such sites as http://www.localharvest.org/csa/. Vegetable gardens, chicken coops and beehives are popping up in urban neighborhoods, and with the current DIY climate, and the financial necessities many families are facing, the More with Less approach to homemaking has new relevance.
The upsurge in interest in various arts of domesticity and homesteading means this book comes out at exactly the right time for a new group of novice gardeners who are wondering what exactly they are supposed to do with the 10 pounds of pickling cucumbers they accidentally grew.
It is wonderful to have the basics of canning, freezing, stock making, drying, pickling and basically any method of preserving you might think of laid out simply in one place. The volume of information could be overwhelming, as in larger encyclopedic style cookbooks, but the easy style, lovely photography, and directness and simplicity of the instructions take away the intimidation factor. The book begins with a “Guide to the Harvest” that lays out produce alphabetically, with photos, descriptions, notes on season, recommended preservation methods and an index to recipes in the book.
Each following section is interspersed with notes on preserving in general, some of which are particularly helpful, such as the commentary on what kinds of produce work best for preserving baby foods, and which crops tend to be sprayed more often with pesticides on commercial farms. The authors include the approximate yields you can expect for canning and freezing specific fruits and vegetables, which takes some guesswork out of the process, when you are first getting started. There are brief notes troubleshooting common problems for novice canners, or sharing the origins of recipes beloved by the authors. In addition there is a comprehensive troubleshooting chart for canning problems at the end of the book.
Throughout the book, I appreciated the focus on the genuine basics and necessities for canning. It’s no more than I should expect from a book with this book’s Mennonite pedigree, but the simplicity of the instructions definitely distinguishes this guide from the other books out there. There is no nitpicking about perfect techniques, and no insistence on using specific new products or trendy cookware. And yes, there is such a thing as trendy canning equipment.
Whether you have a couple of acres of tomatoes or simply an urge to try making Apple Cake in a Jar (59), this book has something for you. The blueberry jam recipe was delicious, the strawberry freezer jam was indescribably easy, and so far the only fault my family has found is with the salsa recipe. We are born and bred Texans though, and have very specific ideas about what constitutes good salsa. Our dissatisfaction probably has more to do with the fact that the lovely authors, based in Pittsburgh and Ohio, haven’t been raised on habañeros and probably still have their taste buds intact. Next time I make that particular recipe I may leave the jalapeno seeds IN.
Overall, this book is a useful addition to the library of experienced canners and preservers, and absolutely indispensable for novices.
Strawberry Freezer Jam
- 2 cups / 500 ml strawberries (about 1 quart /1 L)
- 4 cups / 1 L sugar
- 1 box (1/3 cup /75 ml) powdered pectin
- 3/4/ cup / 175 ml water
Wash and crush berries. Measure exact amount of fruit into bowl. Measure exact amount of sugar into bowl. Stir sugar into fruit. Mix well and let stand 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir pectin into water in small saucepan. (Pectin may be lumpy at first.) Bring to a boil on high heat and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir pectin mixture into fruit mixture. Stir constantly, until sugar is completely dissolved and no longer grainy, about 3 minutes. (A few sugar crystals may remain.)
Ladle quickly into rigid glass or plastic freezer containers, leaving 1/2 inch / 12 mm headspace. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours until set. Put in freezer.
Makes 5 half-pints / 250 ml jars.
(Recipe reprinted here with permission of Herald Press.)
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com
Everything I know how to cook can be traced back to Simply In Season, so I have high hopes – which it sounds like will be fulfilled – for this book.
Thanks for the review, Kate.