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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book Review - Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

I've been offered the opportunity to review a few books lately, and if they sound interesting to me, I'll accept. One book that I've gotten is the Ball® Complete Book of Home Preserving.
Admittedly, this doesn't have an obvious connection to pizza, but as a pizza enthusiast, I am also interested in a lot of aspects of home cooking, and one such is preserving food. Where pizza is concerned, anybody who makes homemade pizza on a regular basis probably makes sauce from scratch now and then, and oftentimes I find myself with a bigger batch than I know what to do with, especially when our homegrown tomatoes all ripen at once.
Then there are the toppings. I'm a bit of a hothead, foodwise, and canned jalapenos and other hot peppers are among my favorite toppings. Who wouldn't want a few jars of those in their kitchen when putting together a pizza? And while those ingredients aren't exactly expensive to buy, there's still something nice about canning them yourself. We now have a variety of peppers, from mild to hot, sprouting in our backyard garden, and don't want to waste a one of them.
Our harvest is still months away, so I have yet to can anything, but I think this book will be dog-eared by the time this season is over. It's a terrific guide to the process of preserving food, with a particular emphasis on canning, and it contains over 400 recipes - which take up the bulk of the book - so you can go way beyond simply canning individual types of produce, au naturel. You could can a simple applesauce, but how about brandied apple rings instead?
There are also a lot of recipes for ingredients that the typical Rochesterian won't have growing in his or her back yard. But these may inspire you to pick up a few extra items in the produce section, so you can make some mango-raspberry jam, or apricot-date chutney. Or if you've always wished you could make some use of that crabapple tree in your yard, this book will explain how to turn those otherwise inedible fruits into a tasty jelly.
And yes, there are some pizza-related recipes. There's a recipe for pizza sauce that calls for plum tomato puree, lemon juice, dried oregano, black pepper, salt and garlic powder. I might want to tweak that a bit, but the recipe is very specific that you should not change the proportion of tomato puree to lemon juice. (For a half-gallon, i.e., four pint, batch, it calls for 13 cups of puree to half a cup of juice.) Lemon juice in pizza sauce sounds a little odd to me, but I guess it's needed as a natural preservative, and the relatively low proportion should mean that your pizza sauce won't taste noticeably lemony. There are also a bunch of other tomato-based recipes, and various recipes for canned vegetables that would be suitable as pizza toppings, like bell and hot peppers, onions, and garlic.
Once our garden harvest starts to come in, I plan to try some of these. I've always been a little intimidated by the idea of canning food, but this book lays out the process pretty clearly, and I think it'll give me the confidence to do it without fearing that I'm creating a bunch of botulism cultures that are going to poison my family and me. I'll do a post later this year on how it went, but at this early stage of the growing season, this is a valued addition to my kitchen bookshelf.
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine.
Robert Rose, pub. (2006). 448 pp. Paperback.

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