In a recent interview, Prue Leith was asked to list five favourite cookbooks. One book, Good Housekeeping Complete Book of Preserving was praised for its longevity and that “it will tell you how to do anything- dried fruit, dried vegetables, things put in salt, using the old fashioned ways of preserving.” “Only recently, in Radio Times, she dismissed modern cookbooks as glossy “food porn” by celebrity chefs (mostly male) with an obligatory television series behind them.”

Reading this interview took me back almost thirty years to my first attempts of making preserves. Unlike today with the wealth of information online, I had access to just a few preserving books. Over the years, I have built a sizeable library of books about preserving, the good, the flawed and the ones with ideas for flavour combinations rather than reliable recipes. Many of the books I return to are out of print, but often available via second hand book websites, such as Abe Books. Here are my top 5

Good Housekeeping Complete Book of Preserving. Ebury Press 1991

With some colour photographs there are recipes for all types of preserves. An ideal book for a beginner and for an experienced preserver looking for inspiration.When I started making liqueurs this book supplied the recipes.

Cyril Grange The Right Way to Make Jams. Right Way 1982

A clear guide to making the full range of preserves with numerous recipes. Useful information about what judges look for in competitions. Not illustrated, but a popular title, reprinted frequently.

Pat Hesketh The WI Book of Jams and Other Preserves. WI Books 1992.

One of a handful of true preservers in the UK, Pat Hesketh writes with authority. Tried and tested recipes for sweet and savoury preserves. Some of my favourite chutney recipes come from this book and when I am designing courses, this book is my first point of reference for recipes.

Olive Odell Preserves and Preserving WI Books 1978.

I was privileged to meet Olive a few years before her death and I treasure my personalised, signed copy of this book. Reliable recipes for all types of preserves and useful sections about drying, salting candying, and relishes. Relishes are now frequently muddled with chutneys by some food writers and chefs.

AFRC Institute of Food Research. Home Preservation of Fruit and Vegetables HMSO. 1929

After the 14th edition of this “bible” of preserving was published in 1989, it went out of print due to lack of demand, according to the publisher. Unlike many current publications, it is not a style over substance book, but one full of faultless recipes for the full range of preserves. If I could only take one title to a desert island, this would be the one.

Although all these books are reliable, most do not have detailed step-by-step instructions with plenty of photographs. I like to be able to see the stages and the end results. My book, First Preserves and subsequent e-publications are detailed and prescriptive, because preserving is a science which is frequently forgotten in modern publications. From the feedback I receive, my books empower the preserver to produce outstanding marmalades, jams, chutneys and curds.

Links

For the books mentioned

Abe Books

First Preserves

Prue Leith interview: ‘Clever chefs? They’ve lost the plot’

September 5th, 2015|Tags: |