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Review: Preserves by Pam Corbin (River Cottage Handbook No.2)

August 10, 2008

Let me warn you from the outset, this is unlikely to be a very balanced review. I love this book. I love everything about it. I love its solid compactness and its simple, down-to-earth style. I love its well-laid out, accessible format. I love its ‘seasonal and local’ philosophy. I love its proliferation of mouthwatering pictures and, most of all, I love its recipes. They make me want to whip out a preserving pan every time I flick through. There is a wonderful balance between traditional recipes for old favourites such as ‘Real Ale Chutney’ and more modern, exotic sounding concoctions like ‘Figgy Mostardo’. 

If you are new to preserving then ‘The Rules’ chapter will be a great help. It covers the ‘science’ of preserving, explaining the importance of food hygiene and the role played by each of the key preserving ingredients. It also covers the nuts and bolts of preserving: how to sterilse jars, tips of reusing jars, how to fill and seal your jars, how long the preserves will last, how to store them, what equipment to use etc. In short, everything you need to know in order to make preserves successfully.

The following chapters cover Jams and Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys and Relishes, Cordials, Fruit Liqueurs and Vinegars, Bottle Fruits, and Sauces, Ketchups and Oil-based Preserves. To round things off, there is a very helpful section of ‘Useful Things’ providing details of suppliers, food festivals and associations. 

There are over 70 recipes in the book but, as many of the recipes have variations listed, the number of preserves you could make using this book, is far higher. The level of information in the book is such that it will also give you the confidence to experiment and come up with your own unique preserves. 

Seasonality is a big theme in the book, as you’d expect from something from the River Cottage stable. In the introduction there is a useful seasonal availability chart and each recipe has the months between which it would be best to make that particular preserve. 

This book is excellent both for novice and more experienced preserve-makers and I really can’t recommend it enough. 

Right, I’m off for a cup of tea, a sit down and yet another flick through…..

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. peewiglet permalink
    September 7, 2008 6:28 pm

    I love the book too, but I have an urgent question and I’m wondering whether you can help!

    I picked a kilo of hawthorn berries today to make the haw ketchup. I’m ready to start cooking it now, but on re-reading the recipe I found that I’m unsure about whether or not I’m suppose to add the vinegar/water mixture back with the berries and sugar after pressing the berries through the sieve. The book refers to ‘cleaned out pan’, and to me it seems a little ambiguous.

    Do you happen to know? I’m panicking a bit now, as I was so keen to make this this evening.

    Many thanks for any help 🙂

  2. September 7, 2008 7:12 pm

    Thanks for your question. I must confess, I’ve not made the Saucy Haw Ketchup from the book yet but my reading of the recipe would be that, yes, you pass the whole lot (liquid included) through the sieve and back into the pan. Hope that helps. Good luck – let me know how you get on.

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