I’m so excited for my friend Cathy Barrow, who I’ve written about frequently over the years (most recently here). Her new book, Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, a comprehensive guide for year-round food preservation, is here. It’s content-rich and a feast for the eyes, full of lush, gorgeous photographs.
Cathy starts us out easy — canning seasonal jams, sauces and such that allow you to put spring and summer on your shelf. Her bonus recipes send you back to your burgeoning pantry so you can return those seasonal treats to your table after the first fall freeze — think Jam Tarts, award-winning Sour Cherry Pie at Thanksgiving and Inside-Out Samosas to go with Mango Chutney on a wintry Sunday evening.
You’ll move on to pressure-canning — stocks and soups, for example — and meat and fish preservation. Yes, you can make your own Pancetta, Gravlax and Canned Tuna. The book concludes with a chapter on cheese-making: homemade ricotta, sour cream, cream cheese and other dairy treats are within your grasp.
From the cover photo to the step-by-step photos that take you through making fruit preserves to the finished products put to perfect use, photographers Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton bring Cathy’s clever recipes and trusted techniques to life.
It was an honor and a treat for The Bug and me to test some of Cathy’s recipes, while they were in development. We jammed: Strawberry-Mango Jam, Apricot Jam with Ginger and Rosemary — we even made her Bacon-Onion Jam after taking a crack at making her divine Maple-Bourbon Bacon.
While the bonus recipes feature the basic recipes from each chapter, it’s easy to make the bonus dishes by substituting high-quality store-bought ingredients. Last week, after my book arrived, I didn’t wait to try my hand at Creme Fraiche. I bought a container of house-made Creme Fraiche from C’est Cheese and made Cathy’s Kale and Potato Galette with Duck-Fat Crust to comfort us when Daylight Savings came to an abrupt end. The lone slice that made it to the fridge that Sunday evening was warmed for breakfast, fueling The Bug’s Monday morning at school.
Over the weekend, I made Cathy’s perfect-for-fall Figgy Marmalade, starring Black Mission figs, honey and lemons from the Farmers Market. It’s as striking to look at as it is to eat, and the subtle vanilla scent and flavor take the spread to unmatched heights.
While it’s a stunner on a slice of toast, may I suggest Cathy’s Grilled Cheese with Figgy Marmalade? She pairs her ambrosial fig spread with Manchego and Fontina for an unforgettable and indulgent sandwich. I’ve included that recipe below.
I could go on, but why don’t I cut to the chase: You need this book and I’ve got one to give away. Leave me a comment below before this Friday, November 14 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern/2:00 p.m. Pacific. I’ll use random.org to pick a winner. Good luck!
** Update ** Congratulations to Lisa Lyon, who won Cathy’s book!
- 4 thick slices dense, hearty bread
- 1 4-oz jar Figgy Marmalade (recipe on page 99)
- 2 oz (55 grams) Manchego cheese, sliced
- 1 oz (30 grams) Fontina cheese, sliced
- 2 Tablespoons (1 oz, 20 grams) Cultured butter (recipe on page 369), softened (I used high-fat, European-style butter)
- Line up the bread slices side by side, like the Rockettes. Spread the marmalade from edge to edge on each piece of bread. Divide the sliced cheeses among 2 of the slices. Cover with the other slices of bread, jammy side down, to make 2 oozy sandwiches.
- Heat a griddle or a heavy cast-iron skillet over low heat. Generously butter the tops of the sandwiches. Place butter side down on the griddle and press gently. Slowly griddle the sandwiches until nice and brown on the bottom, about 6 minutes; if they are pressed, the sandwiches take on a brown butter flavor; so place a piece of parchment over the sandwiches (push them close together in the pan), then place a small baking sheet or skillet or whatever heat-proof object you have that best covers both sandwiches and weight it down with a couple of (filled) quart jars. (Admittedly, my Rube Goldberg setup usually falls at some point, so I never stray far from the stove.)
- Undo your weighted construction, butter the tops of the sandwiches, and turn them over. Griddle the other side until toasty (no need to weight them down again). When the smell drives you batty, they’re ready. Cool slightly so you don’t burn the roof of your mouth, like you know you will.