Books on How To Get Pickled

Curious about the middle ground between fresh and rotten? These four books tell you how to preserve the fleeting tastes of spring

Food books worth reading
Food books worth reading Photo by the author

Whether you’re a craft pickler with a budding small business, a doomsday prepper with a bunker stocked with necessities, or just a home cook curious about that middle ground between fresh and rotten, pickling represents one way of saving the fleeting tastes of spring. These are four short reviews of interesting books that have crossed my desk. They offer instruction, context and recipes for pickling, and they should interest both the earnest experimenter or the armchair historian.

The Art of Fermentation
Sandor Katz, an exuberant post-Pasteurian evangelist who lives on a wooded commune in Tennessee, shares his characteristic blend of instructional advice, contemporary folk wisdom from around the globe and a layman’s take on microbiology. The resulting book has depth enough for home fermenteurs and professional chefs. Includes a recipe for fermented eggs made with miso (a fermented soybean paste).

Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning
Originally published as Keeping Food Fresh, this Old World recipe collection offers ultra-simple, if slightly idiosyncratic-sounding, advice from organic farmers and gardeners in France, Belgium and Switzerland. The authors favor salt and time to opening the freezer or turning on the stove. Includes a recipe for verdurette, a salted, ground-up vegetable stock that could replace a bouillon cube in soup.

Putting Food By
This primer, first printed in the 1970s, offers instructional advice on preserving food with boiling water baths, salt cures and root cellars. Its emphasis on safety in home kitchen should appeal to the cautious canning neophyte. Includes advice on the best types of jars, rubber rings and lids for home canning.

Cured, Fermented and Smoked Foods
A series of scholarly essays from the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery addresses such topics as the geographic dispersal of Jewish pickles in North America, the theoretical underpinnings of fermentation’s ability to keep our species well fed and the tradition of shad planking. Includes a recipe, of sorts, for garum, approximating the ancient Roman methods for making fermented fish sauce in a modern greenhouse.

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