Whether you've been making jams and pickles for years or just learning, it's always reassuring to have at least one or more reference books on hand to make sure you haven't forgotten an important step in the process since last year. And, as the bounty of summer flows from the garden to countertop, it's also fun to have some new ideas for ways to preserve that abundance. Put 'em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton (Storey Publishing, 2010, $19.95) answers that call in both facts and imagination. The subtitle to the book is "A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook" and that is an accurate description of the breadth of the book. The book starts with a well-illustrated section on techniques, with details about food preparation and food preservation methods, plus information about analyzing problems. This is followed by recipes organized from A to Z of different fruits, vegetables, and herbs. The recipes include classic favorites as well as fresh, innovative ideas.
Clever Gardening Technique
Preserve Basil in Oil or Water
When basil grows well, it grows very well, producing abundantly. And there's nothing that can compare with fresh basil during summer. Still, it's nice to keep at least some of that flavor preserved for meals in the colder days ahead. Drying, unfortunately, which works so well for many herbs, falls short when it come to basil. Instead, I turn to making and freezing a quantity of pesto for the winter, plus an even simpler and easier method, that of basil ice cubes, made with either water or olive oil. For the water method, combine equal parts of basil leaves and water in a blender. Freeze the mixture in ice cube trays, pop them out, and place into a labeled, zippered freezer storage bag. For the oil method, use two cups of basil with a cup of olive oil, then proceed as above. Add one or more of the cubes to soups, stews, or tomato sauces.