At a Glance
Title: Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving
Author: Cathy Barrow
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Release Date: November 2014
Cover Price: $35
Target Audience: Farmers and gardeners looking for new ways to preserve their yearly harvest; homesteaders who desire to add another trick to their self-sufficiency skill set
It comes as second nature to experienced farmers and gardeners: When harvest time rolls around every year, you eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as you can, and you preserve the rest. However, as more and more people begin to go back to the land and start growing their own food, these preservation instincts may not be as hardwired, especially for farmers who didn’t grow up in a rural setting where canning was commonplace. Thankfully, Cathy Barrow is here to save the day with Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, a comprehensive guide to year-round canning and preserving.
Covering four types of food preservation—water-bath canning, pressure canning, meat preservation and cheesemaking—Barrow’s book has something for every home canner, no matter how many jars they’ve put by, featuring a wealth of creative recipes to maximize the harvest or the farmers’ market haul. “I wrote this book to make preserving accessible, both less frightening and more useful,” she writes in the introduction. “To show how preserving fits into everyday life, how a well-stocked pantry contributes to easing the weeknight dinner challenge, and, first and foremost, to preach the local food message.”
Adaptability is a big theme of Barrow’s recipes: In the head note for most, she includes additional seasoning ideas or fruit and vegetable substitutions to accommodate each individual reader. She also provides serving suggestions to keep you inspired to eat up a whole batch of Apricot and Tart Cherry Preserves or Sugar Snap, Carrot and Radish Refrigerator Pickles. However, she does stress the importance of following recipes when preserving: “I want you to be a confident home preserver, but one who carries around a healthy dose of fear,” she writes. “The minute you decide that there’s too much sugar or vinegar in a recipe … you are making a risky move. Respect the recipes. They are the science ensuring that the food you make, and the people who eat it, will not suffer.”
Chances are that if you’re on this website, you don’t need to be convinced to make your own condiments, jams and jellies at home, but if you haven’t yet been bitten by the DIY bug, Barrow may just inspire you to give it a try. Reading her vibrant descriptions of the multifaceted flavors in a simple batch of homemade ketchup will make you think twice before you pick up another white-labeled bottle at the grocery store. The beautiful full-color photography is just icing on the cake.
There are also 36 bonus recipes scattered throughout the book for appetizers, salads, dinners and desserts that use preserved ingredients; however, these recipes can also be made without any preserving for those readers who are unsure if they want to take the leap. “Bonus recipes use what’s preserved, sure, but all those foods are also available on the grocery store shelves,” she writes. “No judgment, I just want to feed you. And inspire you.”
Even just leafing through Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, it’s pretty clear that she will succeed on both counts. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to try my hand at homemade ricotta—she makes it seem so simple!
The Final Word: If you preserve at home, no matter how long you’ve been putting jars by, pick up Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry. Suddenly, your produce will seem to glow in a whole new light.
Get more canning and preserving tips on HobbyFarms.com: