Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry


Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry –
Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving
By Cathy Barrow
Norton & Company – £25.00

Author of the food blog Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen and a contributor to The New York Times, The Washington Post, Garden and Gun and Southern Living, Cathy Barrow is something of an all-rounder when it comes to the kitchen and most things of a preservation persuasion.

Be it the core techniques of water-bath canning, advance techniques for pressure canning, salt-curing meats and fish, smoking or even air-curing pancetta(!), every application is herein laid forth by way of easy-to-digest, confidence building instructions.

Replete with Conversion Tables on the inside of each cover, this attractive and rather elegantly laid out book traverses a two-fold approach. The first is informative in the sense that one can learn (”The pages that follow offer an education in four types of preserving. This where we will begin together, but where you end up is your decision. While I have an extensive preserving plan, what you do needs to fit your lifestyle, the foods you love, and the way you eat”), while the second is more akin to that of most cookery books – wherein there are a number recipes with which to brighten up the pallet.

Sectioned into four distinct chapters: ‘The Basics of Water-Bath Canning: Answering the Siren Call of Seasonal Seasonal Abundance,’ ‘Canning Under Pressure: Groceries You’ll Never Have to Carry Home Again,’ ‘Salt, Water, Smoke, and Air: Alchemy in the Kitchen’ and ‘Curds and Whey: Why Buy the Cow;’ Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry – Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving is nicely augmented with a terrific selection of colour photographs.

The latter being a good thing, as they help break-up what can on occasion, seem like quite a dense, gastronomical journey.

In a way, this rather compact aspect, along with it being anchored in Americana, does – for English and European readers at least – take some getting used to. But once this has been achieved, these 404 pages (excluding Acknowledgements and Index) could well be construed as being an essential addition to that of most kitchens (far and wide).

As Marisa McClellan, author of Food in Jars, notes: ”Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry is THE functional handbook for anyone looking to put up their own food. Cathy Brown digs deep into jam making, pickling, pressure canning, charcuterie, and home cheese making, crafting a book that answers every question there is about how to preserve, transform, and enhance seasonal food.”

Meanwhile, if you want to really come to terms with ‘Marinated Roasted Red Peppers,’ ‘Le Peek-el: The Cornichon Imposter,’ ‘Dill Pickle Relish’ (one of my personal favourites), ‘Beef and Vegetable Borscht,’ ‘Maple-Bourbon Bacon’ (ace – trust me!), ‘Chai-Spiced Plum Preserves with Balsamic,’ ‘Duck Confit’ or any number of desserts (‘Cardamom Peach Pie Filling’ and ‘Peaches in Ginger Syrup’ among them), you could do a lot worse than invest in this superb, well-designed and altogether practical/preserving induced of cookbooks.

David Marx

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