Monday, November 12, 2012

Jean Anderson’s ‘Preserving Guide’ reissued by UNC Press

Jean Anderson will participate in Fearrington Village's "Cooks and Books" series at 1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15. For information or to purchase tickets, call 919-542-3030.

Jean Anderson is one of the Triangle’s most prolific cookbook writers. She’s earned several prestigious James Beard and International Association of Culinary Professionals awards for her wide-ranging work. And when she leaves her Chapel Hill home to sign books or oversee a feast featuring her recipes, she attracts crowds of breathless devotees.

Anderson greets fans warmly, but she is as famously reticent to talk about her own books as she is to have her photo taken. Of the handsome new reissue of her 1976 Preserving Guide by UNC Press, she shared only that “a particular fave of mine” in the 100-recipe collection is Yellow Squash Pickles, which she termed a “Raleigh recipe.”

UNC Press hails the work, a groundbreaking volume for its time, as a classic of the “back-to-the-land movement.” The original edition was named by New York Times food writer Craig Claiborne to his list of books for the well-chosen cookbook library.

Still beloved by seasoned canners, it finds a welcome place today in the abundance of preserving titles on bookstore shelves. It’s even revered by nouveau leaders such as Sean Timberlake, founder of the online canning community Punk Domestics.

“In recent years, the topic of canning and preserving has enjoyed a huge renaissance, as new generations discover the joy of learning the nearly forgotten craft of putting food by,” said Sean Timberlake said. “A wealth of books has bubbled up in the wake of this trend, many quite beautiful and interesting. But Jean Anderson's Preserving Guide stands among a canon of never-fail go-to volumes that canners of all ages and skill levels turn to for clear, no-nonsense information. It truly is a foundational work, one without which today's trend-forging books could never be.”

Jean Anderson (undated)
Virginia Willis, author of Basic to Brilliant, Y’All, agreed. She said the reissue will find a welcome place on her bookshelf.

“I love to conserve and preserve and have sought out past issues of canning guides, but I’ve yet to find the much-praised original edition,” Willis said. “Jean Anderson’s Preserving Guide is a thorough guide to old-fashioned canning and preserving recipes. It's straightforward and clear with no-nonsense instruction. It's like your favorite Southern aunt is in the kitchen - admittedly teaching her favorites.”

One word of caution: With the exception of a new introduction by the author, the text is unchanged from its 1976 debut, when it was first published as the Green Thumb Preserving Guide. Anderson maintains her confidence in the paraffin-sealed canning method she learned from her mother and aunt – it “has never failed me,” she writes, adding later that she “recommends only what I consider to be the best ways of conserving” fruits and vegetables.

As such, Preserving Guide is not entirely consistent with contemporary USDA standards. Home canners with process questions, especially novices, can check USDA recommendations posted online and make simple tweaks if needed.

Anderson’s enduring influence is keenly felt by cutting-edge chef Paul Virant, whose book The Preservation Kitchen was released early this year. He credits Anderson with helping to “launch my career to can, with confidence and enthusiasm.

“The Preserving Guide continues to influence my style of cooking, which has made preservation the main focus of my restaurants, Vie and Perennial Virant,” said the Chicago-based chef.

Anderson writes that her tart and crunchy Cranberry and Almond Conserve “is especially good with roast turkey, chicken, duck and goose, venison, pork ham and lamb” – making it a welcome addition to virtually any holiday table.

Cranberry and Almond Conserve
Reprinted from Preserving Guide by Jean Anderson, © UNC Press (2012).

2 medium-sized oranges, halved, seeded and chopped fine (rind, pulp and all)
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1 quart water
3 cups granulated sugar
3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 quarts cranberry, stemmed
½ cup seedless raisins
½ cup dried currants
1¼ cups chopped blanched almonds

Places oranges, lemon rind and water in a large, heavy enameled or stainless steel kettle, set over moderately high heat and boil uncovered for 25 minutes or until run in tender.

Meanwhile, was and sterilize 8 half-pint preserving jars and their closures; keep closures and jars immersed in separate kettles of simmering water until you are ready to use them.

When rind is tender, add granulated and brown sugars to kettle and as soon as they are dissolved, stir in cranberries, raisins and currants. Let the mixture come slowly to the boil, then boil hard, uncovered, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, 5 minutes. Mix in almonds. Continue boiling rapidly and stirring 5 to 10 minutes longer until mixture is thick and jelly-like (about 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer).

Ladle boiling hot into hot jars, filling to within 1/8” of the tops. Wipe jar rims and seal jars. Process for 10 minutes in a simmering water batch (185 degrees F).   Remove from water bath … and cool to room temperature. Check seals, then label and store on a cook, dark, dry shelf.

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