Sunday, September 29, 2013

Preserving Wild Foods: A Modern Forager's Recipes

If there is one thing I get excited about, it's getting excited about bringing home a catch and preparing it. It is no secret we are a family of fishermen (my husband, myself, and our three little guppies) but we also like to forage, experiment, and grow things at home. As I speak we have 30 little pineapple plants growing from seeds harvested from the skin of a pineapple on the breakfast table, greeting the kids each morning, as well as a very vigorous vanilla bean orchid that is still thinking about producing its very own vanilla beans. That's why Preserving Wild Foods, by Matthew Weingarten and Raquel Pelzel, hooked me: it is every bit a modern, urban forager's preserving guide but also an old-fashioned and somewhat dreamy cookbook that showcases the author's love of his surroundings.

In Preserving Wild Foods, you'll find recipes for things you commonly use but never thought you could make: oil-cured anchovies, farmer cheese, prosciutto, bresaola, maraschino cherries, nitrate-free bacon, candied angelica, summer sausage. I enjoyed reading about how to create these and many more preserved foods, and with some recipes you need a little patience as it will take days or even a months to complete the curing or fermenting process.

The Preface should not be skimmed over. Weingarten talks about his experiences and shares his story of his love of foods. He writes:
Like the saying "What grows together goes together," there's a natural rhythm to the pairings. Fish from a brook served with greens and other plants that grow streamside makes sense on a plate and makes sense on the plant. I hope to capture this feeling in these pages, which is why I organized chapters according to natural environment: freshwater, saltwater, field, forest, and cultivated garden.
The book is laid out differently than simply grouping them by main ingredient or by menu item, and therein lies the genius of the book especially when you are foraging or fishing or hunting, or even simply growing or selecting and purchasing. Dinner is best served when prepared with the main dish's surroundings and the chapters give great examples: Coastline: Gifts from the Sea; Pastures and Hedgerows: Grazing Lands and Natural Borders; Gardens and Fields: Cultivated and Harvested; Forest and Woods: Foraged, Pickled, and Plucked; and Banks and Wetlands: Freshwater Depths and Shores.

Which makes this more than a simply great preserving and curing guide - this book highlights salt/sugar/oil curing, pickling, smoking, and canning. Preserving Wild Foods also shows what is possible if you simply look around and use up what is at hand, even if it means using up leftover fish guts from a full day fishing to create a lovely 3-month cured and fermented fish sauce. Recommended read.

Book Information:

Disclosure: This eARC was provided by the publisher and any opinions are my own.

Renee Shelton
The Cookbook Papers


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