by Sybil PrattAugust 2009
Do-it-yourself—it’s better than store-bought
Yes, you can can, preserve, pickle, cure and smoke. You can fill your fridge, freezer and pantry with homemade, handmade wonders, avoid additives, adulterants and unwanted antibiotics, take advantage of each season’s splendor, reduce your carbon footprint, lessen your dependence on the industrial food complex and make Michael Pollan happy to boot. You can go to the greenmarket and buy to your heart’s content, knowing that what isn’t consumed immediately can star in marvelous meals months later. If you need advice, guidance, inspiration and motivation, it’s all here in two terrific new books. In Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Food, Eugenia Bone demonstrates how to transform today’s bounty into tomorrow’s (or next week’s or next year’s) edible treasures. Eugenia’s technical instruction is up-close and personal. So, if you suffer from fear-of-canning, read through her detailed, comforting “All About Canning” chapter and you’ll feel confident—ready to make her master recipes for Canned Tomatoes, Spiced Apples, Brandied Figs, Green Olive Tapenade, Pickled Asparagus, Cured Bacon without nitrites and many more, each followed by a trio of great dishes that highlight your preserving handiwork.
Time to get creative
Karen Solomon says she’s not a chef, she’s a curious, creative crafter whose medium of choice is food. Her delight is in “making stuff,” savory and sweet, to keep her culinary coffers filled with made-in-her-own-kitchen goods and goodies rather than those that are processed and store-bought. Some of the “stuff” in Karen’s Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It: And Other Cooking Projects is preserved and pickled, but there’s a lot that’s not. She starts off with basic dough that you can turn into crackers, breadsticks and flatbread, then goes on to all kinds of condiments, easy homemade pastas, preserved and cured fish and meat, butter and a few cheeses. Then come the sweet treats without artificial color or high fructose corn syrup—fruit leathers, marshmallows, Toaster Tarts, frozen confections, candy and beverages—hard and soft—to wash everything down. She includes a “time commitment” with every recipe, so you know what to expect and how to plan. I had never thought about making my own graham crackers, pickled daikons, ginger beer, ketchup or queso blanco, and I haven’t spent time canning in years. I will now—it’s fun, healthy and, as Eugenia Bone says, “very relaxing and cheaper than psychotherapy.”
Stylish organic baking
In all the hubbub and hurly-burly about green markets and organic meats and vegetables, organic baking has been underemphasized and, when it does come to mind, hardly conjures up visions of inventive, elegant cakes with luscious frostings and exquisite decorations. Sarah Magid’s Organic and Chic: Cakes, Cookies, and Other Sweets that Taste as Good as They Look is bound to change the way you think about organic baking. “Chic” is not a word usually used to describe baked goods, but Sarah was a fashion designer before she became a fashionable baker—and her innate sense of style shines through in all her confections, from a super-sophisticated Lotus Cake, flavored with orange-flower water syrup, to vegan Double Ginger Cookies, and her organic twists on junk food, including irresistible gold-dusted “Twinkies” and silver “Ring-a-Dings.” With Sarah’s 60 recipes, plus a chapter on design techniques and downright inspirational color photographs, you can keep it simple or you can find your inner cake-decorator. If you choose to be organic, just pay attention to where your flour, eggs, sugar and dairy products come from (a source list is supplied)—and if you opt to be non-organic or semi-organic and still chic, I promise not to tell.