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===The Volume Itself ===
This book, as the title suggests, is second in a series of River Cottage Handbooks. My copy is a hardback version. I believe the Book People have offered a set of the Handbooks in paperback format. In my copy the pages are of matte paper, not glossy, and I prefer this. In size it's about 20cmx13cm and about 2 cm thick. The text is complemented by colour photographs - sometimes of a fruit, sometimes of a finished preserve, sometimes of the process. I haven't managed to count the number of recipes; it's a little difficult because often variations are suggested after the main recipe, for instance, following the recipe for blackberry and apple leather, suggestions are given for plum, peach and savoury leathers. The only thing I have against the volume itself is that, although you can open it and push the pages apart, they don't stay open in my experience, so if you need to refer to the recipe while cooking - as I do for some recipes - I have to wedge it open on the flat or use my book prop. It means that I sometimes find it hard to read the recipes as I'm working. However I find this is fairly common in cookery books.
===Why This Book ===
I'm quite a keen maker of jams, chutneys etc and have always been keen to add to my collection of reliable, tasty recipes. Over the years I've been interested in the phenomenon that is now the River Cottage Franchise. I suppose there's part of me that hankers after a self-sufficient lifestyle. I saw Pam Corbin on some of the TV programmes, when Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall seemed to treat her with a respect that bordered on reverence, so when I saw that she was the author of this 224 page volume I considered it a 'must have'. I don't actually remember whether I bought it myself or if it was a gift, but it was the first volume in the series that I owned - I currently have Volumes 1-10; I believe there are at least 11 now.
===Pam Corbin ===
Referred to as 'Pam the Jam' on River Cottage.net site, Pam ran a jam making business with her husband some twenty years ago. Nowadays she runs the preserves course at River Cottage with Liz Neville. This handbook was her first book. In 2011 her daughter Pip, a talented young chef who worked for HFW, committed suicide, a tragedy that rocked the River Cottage 'family'. Pam is on Twitter - @pamthejam
===The Contents ===
I was a little surprised to find that there are chapters on Cordials, Fruit Liqueurs and Vinegars and Sauces, Ketchups & Oil-Based Preserves as well as Jams & Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys and Relishes, and Bottle Fruits. I don't know why: they are common in most preserve books. I think I associated Pam Corbin with jams and chutneys, perhaps. I was also impressed by the opening chapter, termed Seasonality. This gives useful information on what you might expect to find at its best in each month of the year, and even which regions specialise in growing certain fruits. The second chapter is one of the best I have seen on the processes involved in preserving. There's quite a bit of science here, but it's explained in a straightforward way. We have discussion of enzymes, bacteria, moulds and fungi, and yeasts, the four spoilers in preservation. There is information on how to sterilise containers, seal jars and so on; we are told at what temperature each type of preserve should be sealed. Corbin discusses ingredients that are key to preserving, such as sugar and vinegar - not just the basics but each type of vinegar, for instance. Finally there is a list of suggested equipment for preserving.
After the chapters containing recipes for the different kinds of preserving, there is an interesting chapter, called 'Useful Things'. This has a comprehensive Directory, with subheadings of Preserving Equipment, Specialist ingredient suppliers, Food festivals, and Associations and charities. In some cases telephone numbers and websites are given. There are conversion charts for metric and imperial measurements, and an oven temperature chart. Following an acknowledgements page, the book ends with a full index.
===Recipes I've Tried - And One I Haven't===
Just flicking back through my copy, I would say I've tried over 20 recipes, with some from each chapter - everything from fruit jellies to Pontack[elderberry] sauce with cider apple butter , piccalilli and hearty ale chutney in between. The Seasonal Chutney recipe is great because it gives a basic recipe with ingredients like marrows and green tomatoes, with variations for spring, late summer [two options] and early autumn. The only failure I've had was my apple, pear and ginger variation of the plum & russet mincemeat: it fermented, probably because there was too much liquid in when I sealed it, which was probably more my fault than the recipe's. I have plenty more still to try - I fancy the 'Souper Mix' recipe which is the final one in the book. It's a concentrated paste of fresh vegetables preserved in salt which should keep for 6 months if stored well. To use, you stir about 10g of the mix into 500ml hot water to make a stock or bouillon.
=== My Thoughts===
I don't have much to say, really, except this is the almost perfect book for someone like me, who likes to grow what she can and forage a few things she can't! I think the theoretical side is excellent and shows Pam's professional expertise. I suppose the recipes predominantly use ingredients that are British-grown, apart from marmalade/citrus fruits I guess [although I do grow citrus fruits, but the yields are not reliably good in our climate!]. There are no pineapple or kiwi fruit recipes, for instance, so you'd have to look elsewhere if you wanted to preserve a glut of those. For my own purposes, it's a volume I wouldn't want to be without so I'll overlook that and the fact the book won't stay open & give it the five-star rating I really believe it deserves. If you'd like to try preserving I'd highly recommend it, and if you're an old hand I think you'll still find something of interest.
Published in 2008 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
Price £14.99 as indicated on the book, but currently £9.59 from Amazon and may be available from the Book People in a paperback set.
ISBN 978 0 7475 9532 8
Thank you for reading this review. It may appear on other sites.
©Verbena July 2013
I bought this book a couple of years ago when my husband and I grew vegetables in the garden and made the most of our greenhouse. I wanted to make the most of the fresh produce and thought some of these recipes would make good Christmas and Birthday presents. It is written by Pam Corbin runs the River Cottage Preserve workshops.
The introduction to this book is written by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
The book is laid out as follows:
- The Rules
- Jams and Jellies
- Pickles, Chutneys & Relishes
- Cordials, Fruit Liqueurs & Vinegars
- Bottled Fruits
- Sauces, Ketchups and Oil-Based Preserves
At the beginning of the book there is information about the history of preserving and how it used to be the way of life for alot of families not so long ago. There is a useful 'Seasonal Availability' chart in the book. The book is full of lovely photographs which tempts the reader into attempting to make something themselves. There is a whole section of 'Potting, Packing and Sealing' and the correct way to sterilise the jars and a table with the ideal shelf life of each type of preserve.
Whilst some of the recipes can look a little difficult using several ingredients, others only have two, so the reader can start simple and grow your confidence before moving on to something more challenging. The one thing I have made from this book was Roasted Tomato Passata, and that was gorgeous. The recipe itself was quite simple to follow.
This book is an inspiring read and I think would make a great gift for someone who enjoys cooking.
The RRP on the cover on the cover is £12.99 but it is often available on Amazon or ebay slightly cheaper.
I am a huge fan of the River Cottage series, both on screen and the books.
==About the Book==
"Preserves" is the second handbook in the River Cottage series and contains everything you can think about to give your fruit and veg a longer life span. The book is written by Pam Corbin, or Pam the Jam, as she's known on the River Cottage TV show. This lady does seem to the Queen of Preserves and is incredibly knowledgeable as to what will and won't work when making a jam or marmalade. If the thought of making your own jams fills you with fear, then this book should really help to put those nerves to one side. It is not just a recipe book, as it has information as to what equipment you will need, how to sterilize jars and bottles and how to store the finished product. The "Rules" section is vital to any would-be jam maker. Of course, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has a say in the book, with the introduction written by him, before handing of the rest of the book over to Pam, who talks you through seasonality of fruits - complete with a useful table of what fruits are available when - how to set up and then into the recipes. Don't be deceived into thinking this is a book just about jams and marmalade though- oh no! Preserves also covers making oils, sauces, ketchups, alcohol, fruit leathers, pickles, chutneys, relish, the list goes on and on. Towards the back of the book, there's a directory outlining where you can buy equipment and a very comprehensive index.
As I've mentioned, there's much more than just strawberry jam in this book, although, of course, there are a couple of versions of this favourite in there! The recipes aren't just for fruits and vegetables; there are suggestions for nuts, wild herbs and flowers. All of the recipes are introduced with a bit of history and each recipe is nicely laid out and is very easy to follow. Many of the recipes are offered up with variations, giving you even more possibilities for your gathered goodies. There's also no need for guess work as to how much preserve you're going to make, as at the top of each recipe it gives you a guide as to how many jars/bottles it will make and what size jars/bottles you will need. There are sure to be ideas for everyone and if you grow your own fruit and veg, there's bound to be inspiration as to how you can prevent a glut of goods from going to waste. Whilst some of the recipes can look a little daunted with several ingredients, others only have two, so you can start simple and grow your confidence before moving on to something more challenging.
There is some lovely photography throughout this book, really showing off the finished product, the process or the main ingredient in its natural state. Everything looks really tempting, even a shot of empty jars sparkling in the kitchen makes you want to grab a spoon and get cooking.
This book is just packed with inspiration. Whether you have been making jams and preserves for years or never tried before, I think you will definitely find a new idea or two in this book. Fruit leathers for example, intrigue me. They involving a drying process as well as sugar to create a sheet of chewy, fruitiness. I am yet to work up the courage to try this, but I'm itching to give it a go. Pam is obviously very passionate about preserves and her enthusiasm jumps of the page and carries you along into the world of jams and more. I think this book would be a welcome addition to any kitchen where cooking is a passion or for someone who's looking to try something new in the kitchen.
The RRP is £14.99 but there is no need to pay this. Ordering through a site like amazon.co.uk will see the price drop by half!
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