I am guilty. My intentions of preserving, be it pickling, making a jam, chutney or jelly are always heartfelt and sincere. From my very own garden I harvest excess citrus, plums, chillies and goodness knows what else and more often than I care to admit it they sit in bowls, bags or airing cupboards waiting for their moment to shine in a preserve only to eventually migrate to my compost bin. If you share my guilt I urge you to read this book.
The introduction alone is inspiring. Alexa Johnston writes of the satisfaction of making preserves knowing they will in future add to a meal or occasion and stretch far as opposed to the hours spent preparing a meal, to sit by and watch it devoured in minutes. This struck a chord with me immediately and I’m sure I’m not alone.
Almost every recipe has an introduction packed with information about the origin of the preserve or a childhood memory or ways in which you can vary the recipe. It makes for lovely reading. Coupled with the bright images highlighting the main ingredient being preserved put aside a good few hours to thumb your way through the book.
The book is divided into eight chapters, each with a different type of preserving. Starting with jams, there are eight classic jam recipes. They are recipes for traditional flavoured jams such as strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and fig and ginger. The next chapters include jellies and fruit cheeses, marmalades, chutneys, pickles, relishes and sauces. The last two chapters are on bottled, spiced and brandied fruit as well as cordials and liqueurs. Helpfully, the index is set out by ingredient, so you are able to look up lemon, for example, and there are twelve recipes using lemons in various preserving methods.
If preserving is your thing, or even if it isn’t, this book is packed with stories, ideas and recipes that are sure to inspire you to don your apron and master the old-fashioned and satisfying art of preserving.
Reviewed by Victoria Russell
Published by Penguin NZ