Perfect Preserves: A Book Review

Perfect Preserves: A Book Review
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Perfect Preserves

By Hilaire Walden

160 Pages, Trade Paperback

Published by John Wiley & Sons

Click Here for Ordering Information

If youÂ’re ready to take canning and preserving beyond the usual jams and jellies; if youÂ’re ready to take home canning and preserving into the realm of those fancy, high-priced gourmet items we all yearn after in the gourmet kitchen and grocery shops; then youÂ’re ready for Perfect Preserves.

We recently reviewed Canning & Preserving for Dummies, and that was a fine basic/intermediate primer. But this book goes far beyond. Anyone who wants to seriously get into canning and preserving, even as a hobby or for making thoughtful homemade gifts from the kitchen, will probably want both books in their libraries.

In this book, Walden gives ample instructions for beginners to start canning and preserving, but Canning and Preserving for Dummies gives more details. Perfect Preserves has it over its competition in the form of mouth-watering recipes and full color photographs that make you want to immediately start canning and preserving.

Canning and preserving food can make a wonderful and practical hobby for home cooks and/or gardeners. You can preserve your harvest or take advantage of in season too-good-to-be-true sales at the local grocery stores and farmers markets. YouÂ’ll end up with nutritious tasty food to feed the family all year long, as well as elegant homemade gifts for all occasions. Many of the recipes need no refrigeration, so theyÂ’re great to tote along on camping trips or to stock the emergency pantry stores, for power outages.

If you grew up canning, this book will take your skills to new levels. If youÂ’re completely new to canning, you might want both books in order to become an expert at preserving foods.

Sample Recipes from Perfect Preserves

Bottled Apricots with Vanilla

The recipes and text below is reprinted with permission from Perfect Preserves by Hilaire Walden. If youÂ’re unfamiliar with the boiling-water canning method of preserving foods, youÂ’ll want to check out this book for detailed instructions (do not attempt canning if you donÂ’t have proper instructions).

Instead of using whole vanilla beans, strips of orange rind or cinnamon sticks can be added to the jars for a different flavor. Or, you could experiment with more exotic spice such as cardamom and star anise.

About 3 lbs. firm but ripe apricots

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 2/1 cups water

2 whole vanilla beans

Makes About 10 Cups

1. Immerse the apricots in a pan of gently boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds. Immediately remove the apricots from the water and off their skins using a small sharp knife or your fingers, if they come easily. Leave to cool.

2. Put the sugar, lemon juice, and water in a saucepan over low heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil.

3.; Add the apricots to the syrup, in batches, if necessary, and poach for 10 minutes.

4. Using a slotted spoon, immediately transfer the apricots to two warm, sterilized 5-cup jars. Slit the vanilla beans lengthwise with a knife and add two halves to each jar.

5. When all the apricots have been removed from the pan, boil the syrup for 5 minutes. Pour into prepared jars to within 1/2 inch of the top. Swirl the jars to expel any air bubbles and seal them. Process in a boiling water canner.

6. Store in a cool, dark, dry place for one month before eating. Use within 12-18 months.

Italian Vegetable Pickle

When neatly packed, these jars of pickles look so satisfyingly impressive on the pantry or cupboard shelf that it makes the troubles and care taken seem worthwhile. But their attractiveness is their downfall, because all too soon someone wonÂ’t be able to resist temptation and will delve indiscriminately into a jar to try some of its contents (why is it nearly always from the bottom) and the whole effect will be ruined.

1/2 lb. zucchini, cut into matchstick strips

1/2 lb. trimmed fennel, cut into matchstick strips

3/4 lb. eggplant, cut into matchstick strips

1 lb. red bell pepper, cut into strips

1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips

2 celery sticks, sliced

1/3 lb. baby radishes

1/4 lb. button mushroom, stalks trimmed

3/4 cup Kosher salt

7 1/2 cups water

5 garlic cloves, cut into slivers

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons walnut oil

6 1/4 to 8 3/4 cups white wine vinegar

4 dried chili peppers

8 small sprigs each of fresh thyme and rosemary

8 small bay leaves

Makes About 8 2/3 Cups

1. Layer the vegetables, except the garlic, in a large, non-metallic bowl, sprinkling with salt between layers. Pour the water over the vegetables. Put a weighted plate on top to keep the vegetables under the water. Leave in a cool place overnight.

2. The nest day, pour the vegetables into a colander and rinse under cold running water. Drain, and dry thoroughly with a clean cloth. Spread out on another dry, clean cloth and let air-dry completely.

3. Transfer vegetables to a bowl and mix in the garlic and oils.

4. Pour a thin layer of vinegar into hot sterilized jars. Divide half the chilis and herbs among the jars. Pack in the vegetables as tightly as possible. When jars are about half filled, add the remaining chilis and herbs. Continue filling he jars.

5. Pour in enough vinegar to cover the vegetables and come within 1/4 inch of he top of the jars, pressing the vegetables down. Swirl the jars to expel air bubbles and seal. Let cool, then label and store in a cool, dark, dry place for at least one month before eating. Keeps for up to 6 months in a cool, dark, dry place.

Thai Flavored Gravlax

For an easy first course that can be made in advance and sits happily in the fridge until you want it, this recipe couldn’t be better. I serve the gravlax on a bed of crisp lettuce leaves and cilantro, along with mayonnaise that has been flavored with lime juice. To make canapés, I put a dab of the above mentioned mayonnaise on small pieces of crisp toast, then loosely "drape" thin slices of the gravlax and very thin slices of cucumber on top, and finally garnish with cilantro. I prefer using wild salmon, which has a firmer, leaner flesh and provides a better flavor than farmed fish.

2 tablespoons Kosher salt

2 tablespoons superfine sugar

2 1/2 lbs. wild salmon, center cut, filleted but not skinned

2 lemon grass stalk, lower part, outer leaves removed and very finely chopped

grated zest of 2 limes

1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds, dry roasted and crushed

2 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated

freshly ground black pepper to taste

5 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

3 tablespoons finely chopped mint

Serves 8-10

1. Mix the salt and sugar together and rub well into both sides of the salmon. Combine the remaining ingredients and rub these into the salmon.

2. Lay the fish, skin side up in a shallow baking dish or small tray and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Weigh down with weights or cans.

3. Leave in the bottom of the refrigerator for 3 days, turning the fish over daily and spooning any juices back over the fish.

4. To serve the gravlax, remove the plastic wrap, wipe off the excess marinade, and cut the fish into thin slices using a long, sharp narrow-bladed knife held almost parallel to the fish.


About The Author

Cheri Sicard is the author of "The Great American Handbook: What You Can Do For Your Country Today and Every Day," and the editor of, a favorite net destination for recipes, cooking tutorials, health and fitness information, holiday and entertaining ideas, celebrity chef interviews, cookbook reviews and more. Sign up for their free cooking and recipe newsletters!

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