Sherri Brook Vinton is an expert in two things: preserving foods in wonderful recipes and showing you had to do it yourself at home. She knows the complex chemistry of preserving, for sure, but has this grace to communicate how to successfully preserve at home — and her communication will undo that confusion or intimidation we all feel about “making jam at home.” It’s a talent she first showed four years ago in Put ‘em Up! Last year, her second book, Put ‘em Up! Fruit, was published and it is equally superb.
I got my copy of Fruit late in the fall, so I’ve held off recommending it until the late spring and summer bounty of fruits became available. Fresh fruit is the starting point Sherri deeply recommends. So, a visit to your local farmers stand is the best way to start using Fruit.
Today, home canning and preservation and making jam are all things that we rarely do. I remember my grandmother and mother making things when I was a kid, several decades ago. These days, we think we are all too busy and there are a gazillion jars already on the store shelves and …
Sherri tackles those excuses head on. And, her book deals with the biggest reason we have abandoned doing things ourselves: the quality of the books that have been available to us. There’s been a round of jam making books in the past few years. Suzen and I have tried them. And we’ve usually failed. Our jams turned out to be like mortar. All we knew was that somehow, even following supposedly good instruction, we had way overcooked. Sherri solves that problem with a short but very detailed guide to reaching the gel state you need to reach and stop at. With farmers markets open, and armed with Fruit, Suzen and I will be in jam making mode again.
Fruit is divided into two parts: Getting Started and Recipes. The forty pages of Getting Started are, alone, a reason to buy the book. Confused about those text-only descriptions of making jam and sterilizing jars and being oh so careful along the way? Sherri has a 15 step program complete with pictures at each stage. Easily described and easily followed, the mysteries are now vanished.
There is a strong section here on troubleshooting — did your fruit float to the top — so that you can assess your final results and make adjustments the next time out. Sherri would be the first to say that home preserving is not “automatic” but if you follow her guidance, you’re will be in very good hands.
But, what to make? And, after you make it, what do you do with it? Come on, admit it, you have jams you bought years ago on your shelf. Is jam only for toast in the morning?
Part Two of Fruit has the recipes. Recipes not only for making preserves but how to use them in wonderful recipes. For me, a “wonderful” recipe has just a slight undertone of sweetness and Sherri supplies a battery of ideas for incorporating preserves into main courses. Organized by fruit, each section has basic recipes and then more advanced flavor combinations and in many cases a way to use that preserved fruit as a component of a condiment, side or main dish:
- Her Classic Apricot Jam can be used in Spring Rolls with Asian Dipping Sauce
- Cranberry Jelly goes into Cranberry Mayonnaise
- Blood Orange Marmalade adorns a Salmon with Orange Glaze
- Sweet Pickles Plums are paired with Cinnamon Rice
- Rhubarb Jam is a treat in Skilled Cornbread with Rhubarb Orange Sauce
There are dozens of other ideas in Fruit:
- Apricot Habanero Salsa
- Blackberry Gastrique [a chef’s insider: make caramel, add vinegar for tang and then fruit for sweetness, squirt on the side of the plate to make people thing you went to the CIA]
- Green Grape and Moscato Jelly
- Pear and Honey Preserves
- Homemade Pectin [yes, you can]
Fruit is a comfortable, rewarding book. If you have thought about making jams or jellies, but been gun shy or puzzled or confused, then you don’t have to be alone any more. Team up with Sherri, get some fruit and your copy of Fruit and get started. You have a whole long summer ahead of you, and lovely meals to sweeten with your homemade wonders.