In the introduction of The Preservation Kitchen Chef Paul Virant includes the following quote, "I eat what I can and what I can't, I can." At his Chicago-area restaurant Vie, Virant began preserving fruits and vegetables during peak season to withstand the long, cold Midwest winters. In his new cookbook, co-authored with Kate Leahy, he shares recipes and kitchen wisdom for making pickles, relish, jam, and aigre-doux--a French sweet-sour style condiment. He has also included recipes for using these preserved foods in dishes throughout the year.
The Preservation Kitchen is divided into two sections: "In the Jar" and "At the Table." In the book's introduction, Virant covers the various techniques, tricks and rules of canning, so your efforts are rewarded, not wasted. There is the history and science of canning, advice on testing Ph, tips on sterilizing jars, and processing jars in a water bath versus processing in an oven (a method used in Europe, but not approved by the USDA).
The "In the Jar" section includes recipes for canning standards such as dill pickles, blackberry jam, and chow chow--a relish made with peppers, onion, cabbage, corn, and mustard seeds. There are also recipes for pickled ramps, smoked apple butter, beer jam, a dozen or so mostardas and aigre-doux, and fermented and cured foods such as sauerkraut and beef bacon. Each recipe includes a table of recipe ingredients--listing amounts in weight, volume and percentage. At the bottom of each recipe are also serving suggestions, referring you to a recipe in the second half of the book.
In addition to canning recipes, there is a recipe for homemade pectin, made by slow cooking apples with their skins, crème fraiche--which Virant suggests stirring together with just about any pickled vegetable for a simple sauce, and pressure-canned preserves such as milk jam, recommended for sweetening iced coffee.
In the second part of the book, "At the Table," there are menus for every season of the year, with recipes utilizing the bounty in your larder. There's beef chili using beef bacon, chow chow and pickled candy onions, a beer jam Manhattan, warm wheat berry salad with preserved lemon vinaigrette, tomato jam glazed barbecued goat, and fried chicken with cherry bomb pepper sausage gravy. Each "menu" includes an average of 4 or 5 recipes, but several preserved foods you will likely need to round out the meal. Sprinkled throughout this section however, are plenty of useful recipes that require no preserved foods, like pork rillettes, chocolate chip cookies and drop biscuits.