'Salt Sugar Smoke' a lush and lusty take on preserving

Preservation books continue to be published apace. And what strikes me about some recent ones is how they go beyond jams and jellies and just canning.

"The America's Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook" is subtitled, "Can It, Cure It, Churn It, Brew It: 100+ Foolproof Kitchen Projects for the Adventurous Home Cook." This how-to manual (Boston Common, Oct. 2012, $26.95) includes a couple of recipes for making your own bacon, one of which my colleague Susan Banks is going to try.

I'm going to try the home-cured bacon recipe in another great new book, published earlier this month: "Salt Sugar Smoke: How to Preserve Fruit, Vegetables, Meat and Fish" by Diana Henry. It's subtitled "How to Preserve Fruit, Vegetables, Meat and Fish," and includes some interesting and unusual stuff such as recipes for Wok-Smoked Trout with Dill, Sweet Tea-Cured Chicken, and pickles and relishes of all kinds. She also provides a number of recipes for liqueurs (such as this one below), which I'm going to enjoy playing with.

I have to agree with NPR's Lynne Rossetto Kasper, who in a cover blurb praising the book's range, writes, "Diana Henry brings a lustiness and ease to her food that I find irresistible."


PG tested

"To be honest," Diana Henry writes of the pear liqueur, "I'd make this even if I didn't drink. Putting a golden pear in a glass jar, covering it with clear liquid, then looking at it, magnified by the glass, seems such a magical thing to do."

This is "tested" only in that I've made it, but it'll be months before I taste it to see if it's any good. On the same page in the new book, Ms. Henry gives a recipe for Quince Ratafia, using quince and brandy; I just need to find some quince, which locally have been scarce this season. I had a hard time finding a 1-quart glass jar.

-- Bob Batz Jr.

  • 1 ripe Bartlett pear
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 whole nutmeg
  • 1 piece of organic orange zest (without any white pith)
  • 3 1/2 cups vodka or eau de vie
  • 1 cup superfine or granulated sugar

Put the pear into a large jar with the cinnamon, nutmeg and orange zest. Pour in the alcohol. Let sit on a windowsill for about a month.

Now add the sugar, shake and reseal. Let sit for 4 months before you try it, shaking from time to time. You can leave it for more than a year; it just gets more mature and delicious.

-- "Salt Sugar Smoke: How to Preserve Fruit, Vegetables, Meat and Fish" by Diana Henry (Mitchell Beazley, Oct. 2012, $29.99)

Bob Batz Jr.: bbatz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1930; Twitter @bobbatzjr.


Hot Topic