Putting Food By – An Eartheasy Book Review
To “put by” is an old, deep-country way of saying to “save something you don’t use now, against the time when you’ll need it…”Posted Jan 20, 2010
Book: Putting Food By
Authors: Janet Greene, Beatrice Vaughn, and Ruth Hertzburg
When my children were young and our garden was expanding to meet our growing food needs, we wanted to get the most value from our garden harvest. Money was in short supply, and organic foods were expensive and not always available. One day my mother sent me a copy of Putting Food By, and over the years the knowledge from this book has helped us enjoy year-round the benefits of our garden harvest.
Putting Food By is the classic reference for food preservation. It offers simple, thorough explanations on all aspects of home preserving. The book focuses primarily on canning and freezing, and also has chapters on salting, smoking, drying, and root cellaring.
While home preserving is a great way to store fruits and vegetables, and a thrifty means to store meat and fish through the winter, there are hazards to avoid. The book explains why food spoils, and presents a good foundation of the basic information you’ll need to safely preserve food at home.
The authors also explain the best preservation method for specific foods, and how the preservation method used will alter the food. They also tell you what the food will be best used for after preserving. For instance, if freezing cabbage means it will never be crisp again they warn you about this and tell you not to expect it to be used for salads.
This book contains many recipes for pickles, relishes, jams and jellies, and includes a section on sugar-free fruit preserves. Also included are recipes and directions for fruit spreads with and without added pectin.
A chapter on smoking foods explains the difference between hot and cold smoking and offers directions for making your own smoker. In our family, we’ve experimented with smoking fish, and found that it’s not only delicious, but makes a great gift item since spoilage is not an issue. Every Christmas, our smoked fish is as valued as the fancy boxed chocolates which adorn the holiday table.
Putting Food By covers a wide range of food preserving techniques, as well as techniques used by earlier, more self-reliant generations. There’s even a section on making soap from scratch, with photos showing where to find the lard on an animal for rendering.
The root cellar section explains what parts of your home might best store vegetables and how to use metal trash cans or picnic coolers for storing vegetables over the winter. There are photos and diagrams for small-scale outdoor storage. Also valuable is a chart for “recommended conditions for over-the winter-cold storage.”
Although home preserving is often associated with old-style country kitchens, this book is relevant for today’s modern kitchen, with reference to devices such as microwaves, food processors and vacuum sealers.
Typical home canning books like “Ball Blue Book” are handy for quick reference, but this book gives easy-to-understand, yet comprehensive explanations of the processers. It explains the “why’s” of the methods, which reinforces the techniques in my memory.
I always enjoy reading the entertaining yet authoritative text. The voice of the authors is that of a patient aunt or grandmother with a degree in food science! In this nurturing manner, they dedicate the Third Edition, “To all self-reliant people ….everywhere, who want to save good food and know what’s in it.” I look forward to the 5th Edition printing which comes out May 2010, Penguin Books.
Putting Food By is a complete resource for any method of food preservation, and an essential resource for the kitchen library. It is available at Amazon Books.