Everything that is old is new again, and the popularity of canning is no exception. The canning section of bookstore shelves is lined with dozens of new titles published in the last couple of years, including The Pickled Pantry by Andrea Chesman. Chesman isn't new to the game however. The Vermont native has published over a dozen cookbooks, including a handful of other titles about preserving the harvest, pickling and canning.
The 150 recipes in The Pickled Pantry are divided into chapters on fermented pickles, single jar pickles, big-harvest fresh-pack pickles, salsas, relishes and chutneys, refrigerator and freezer pickles, and recipes for enjoying homemade pickles. Many other canning books try to cover all preserving techniques and methods with one book, while Chesman has stuck to one topic: This book is for the vinegar lovers out there.
Whether you have all weekend for preserving food, or just want to pack a jar or two on weeknight after work, there is a recipe for that in this cookbook. The chapter on single jar pickles is a great way to preserve a small crop from your garden or an excess of produce you may have bought too much of at the farmers' market. It's also an excellent opportunity to experiment with new flavor combinations, such as curried pickles, spiced pickled fennel, and spiced prune plums.
The unique flavor combinations and recipes continue in the chapter on big-harvest fresh-pack pickles. There are spiced apples made with maple syup and cloves, watermelon rind pickles, mustard cauliflower pickles, pickled pineapple with star anise, and pickled beets. Most recipes yield about 6 to 12 pints, with the big harvest dill pickle recipe making about 6 quarts. Throughout each chapter are sidebars and tips about calculating quantities, peeling onions, trimming green beans, packing tips, and serving suggestions.
There are entire books on fermentation, but Chesman has included the key fermentation recipes and basics in a chapter in her book: half-sour dill pickles, kimchi and sauerkraut. But there's also a recipe for salt-packed green beans and curtido--a Salvadorian fermented cabbage. Fermentation can be downright stinky and scary, but after reading Chesman's tips and tricks, you'll be well on your way.
In the chapter on salsas, relishes and chutneys there are mouth-watering recipes for a Branston-style pickle relish, homemade mustard, beet relish with caraway seeds, a rosemary onion confit, and apple chutney with ginger and mustard seeds. Refrigerator and freezer pickles are a quick and easy way to preserve fruits and vegetables, and the chapter on making them provides a good primer to the topic.
From the introduction of this book--including an overview of pickling basics, like selecting salt, vinegar and canning equipment--to the last chapter on serving up your creations on dishes such as kimchi noodle bowl, spice-crusted pork tenderloin with chutney, or choucroute garni--Chesman has infused the pages with her vast knowledge, and empowered readers to sterilize some jars and start pickling.