Put 'Em Up: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, by Sherri Brooks Vinton. Published by Storey Publishing, 2010.
Sherri Brooks Vinton's book is special because she truly captures what it means to preserve food. Sure, you're making summer berries last into the dead of winter but, as she says, "you will be putting by memories." I love this. You'll not only have blackberry jam in January but you'll remember picking all of those berries and how stained your lips got while popping them in your mouth one after the other. In addition, Vinton notes "Putting up food is also about nourishing cultural and culinary traditions that should be enjoyed and preserved." So it's a way to pay homage to where you come from and how things were done many, many years ago. This is the part of canning and preserving I've always been drawn to the most. So she gets it. She gets it more than botulism and pectin talk (although this is there, too). She gets the bigger picture and that's why this is the book I always turn to.
First impressions: I'll admit it: my very, very first impressions were intrigue with the charming hang tags that Vinton uses to label and decorate each jar in the photos. Beyond that the book is split into two categories: Techniques and Recipes. Techniques encompasses Food Preparation Methods (making salsas, butters, jams, pickles) and Food Preservation Methods (Freezing, blanching, infusion). The book is then organized by produce item which I love. This way when you're given a big catch of cauliflower and aren't sure what to do with it, you just flip to that section and go to town.
Number of recipes: 165
The angle: The angle is broad here. Regardless of what you're interested in, you'll find it as she includes everything from quick and easy recipes to more project-based canning. And it's not just all jam making. Vinton details everything from freezing to blanching to drying which really sets this book apart from so many others.
The other stuff: Vinton has an excellent little section on Testing For Gel to see if your jams or jellies are set. It's actually one of the better ones I've ever read. She also does a fantastic job of telling you why you're doing what you're doing without inundating you with too much scientific or irrelevant information.
Strengths: Clear and concise instructions and the perfect blend of graphics and text to help encourage canning newbies. Variety is also a huge strength, with recipes ranging from savory cabbage to the sweetest of strawberry jams.
Recipes for right now: Watermelon Aqua Fresca, Blueberry Basil Jam, Dilly Beans.
Recommended? Absolutely. Ever since laying my eyes on this book months ago, this has been my go-to canning resource. It's not only informative--it's inspiring. And sometimes when we're looking down a huge bag of green beans or zucchini from the farmers market and not sure what to do with it, inspiration is welcome.