Book review – Preserves: A Beginner’s Guide to making jams & jellies, chutney & pickles, sauces & ketchups, syrups and alcoholic sips – by Jill Nice
Despite the number of books I have read (and indeed, written) on the subject of preserves, I was nonetheless excited to come across this book by Jill Nice. I’m always on the look out for new recipes and tips for jam and chutney making and this book looked like it was bursting with ideas.
Many recipe books these days are stuffed full of glossy photos, sometimes at the expense of information. This one, in contrast, has no photos at all but instead the occasional monochrome line drawing. When I say, monochrome, I don’t mean black on white, for the text and illustrations throughout this book are green and purple. It is a simple design that works well, giving colour but also a feeling of authority, like an old-fashioned reference book.
There are 47 pages of information about various aspects of different preserving technique before the recipes even begin. This offers in depth explanation as to why all the various parts of the preserving technique are required and I have to admit I learnt a thing or two from reading this section. The recipes themselves include serving suggestions as well as advice on how to adapt the recipe and when it should be followed without fiddling. There is also extra information within the recipes about the main ingredient and these paragraphs are both informative and very readable. There are a few recipes included that have non-British ingredients such as bananas, pineapples and mangoes but most recipes are made with British ingredients and give a nod towards dealing with gluts and using the freezer to bring together non-seasonal ingredients.
The back cover boasts that the book contains an impressive 140 recipes. Many of them are the basic recipes that every preserving book needs to contains, such as raspberry jam and piccalilli , but there are also recipes in there that I have not seen in any other book. I have to admit that I’m quite excited about the prospect of trying to make my own Worchester Sauce or Mushroom Ketchup, but I may not bother with Pickled Broad Beans!
Having read this book I’m left with a feeling that Jill knows her onions. She has clearly been making preserves for a long time and has had her share of successes and failures. In this book she attempts to impart this experience to her readers. For someone like me, it is a useful reference that has provided a few insights and given me some new ideas to try in the summer. As for it being a guide for beginners, well, it certainly is thorough and does provide the beginner with everything they need to know. However, I think in some ways there is perhaps a little bit too much information and anyone considering preserving for the first time might decide to jack in the idea before they get to the recipes.
When I pick up any book on preserves I want to see if it ticks certain boxes. Does it deal with realistic seasonal British ingredients? Does it explain why you should do the different parts of the method? Does it suggest ways to eat the preserve once you have made it? And does it allow for recipes to be adapted? I’m pleased to say that this one does tick all those boxes.