Monday, August 9, 2010

Book review: Putting Food By

I can't even begin to count the number of times readers have asked for book recommendations on a variety of subjects: rural living, canning, homesteading, livestock care, etc.  My gorgeous blog manager (husband) recommended I start doing book reviews of some of my favorite books, most of which I'll list in the right-hand margin under "Books I Recommend."

I'll start with something special: my beloved canning bible, Putting Food By.

I've owned my copy of Putting Food By for probably twenty years.  It's tattered and dog-eared and much used. To me, it's one of those "don't leave home without it" books.
I've written on the flyleaf...

I've written in the margins...

I've made notes to myself all over this book.

Although I no longer need it, the book covers all the basics on how to get started canning, both pressure canning and water-bath canning. It tells how foods spoil and how canning prevents spoilage; it offers warnings where warnings are needed; and it has trouble-shooting sections so you can figure out why your food discolors or why a lid didn't seal.

It also covers freezing, drying, root-cellering, curing, sprouting, and in the back it includes a host of truly hideous recipes I can't imagine anyone would ever use (Creamed Milkweed? Eggplant Party Casserole? - actually it's got some normal recipes in here as well).

Anyway, just tonight I canned some frozen corn, and once again I pulled out my trusy canning bible to consult the processing time.

10 lbs, 55 minutes (for pints).

So this is my review for Putting Food By. I've found it to be one of the best, most concise, and all-around useful canning books on the market. Happy canning!


  1. I just bought the newest revision of THIS book Friday ... love it :)

  2. I love this book review idea! Would it be too much to ask you for a list of foods you typically can each year? Do you can any soups?
    Tanya M.

  3. Kick-ass! You go, girl!! And I'll see you in the Great Beyond WITHOUT the stanky BO and his lemmings. God bless.

  4. Oh wow, Tanya - that's a pretty tall order! I can just about everything I get my hands on so the list is pretty long.

    Okay, let's see....

    Here's some of the stuff I "re-can," meaning I buy it in large quantities and re-can into smaller jars: salsa, pizza sauce, mustard, ketchup.

    Soups: I'm lousy at making soup but I do a mean lentil soup and navy bean soup, both of which I can for convenient quick meals.

    Meats: I've canned all sorts of meats - ground beef, chicken breasts, ham, pork, turkey breast, stew beef, etc. My friend Enola Gay ( cans bacon, so as soon as we can afford it I intend to buy a lot of bacon from the wholesale grocery store in Spokane and can that. (Oh, Enola also cans butter. Nifty idea.)

    Vegetables: Corn, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, peas, carrots, probably some others I'm forgetting about.

    Fruits: Peaches, pears, apples (applesauce, apple "bits" for fruit salads, apple pie filling), plums, fruit butters, oranges & tangerines, probably some others I'm forgetting about.

    My Younger Daughter is still asleep as I write this otherwise I'd go poke in her closet (which is where I'm temporarily storing a lot of my canned items) and inventory my jars.

    Hope this helps!

  5. Save the Canning JarsAugust 10, 2010 at 8:37 AM

    Dear Patrice,

    The next time you make soups, would you be willing to give us a pictoral tutorial on how you make them? After stocking lots of beans for when TSHTF, I'm now trying to learn HOW to cook them so that they will be delicious. Since you make a "mean lentil soup and navy bean soup", and since I bought lots of lentils and navy beans and have never used them, that would be a helpful place to start.

    I've been reading a book called Country Beans by
    Rita Bingham (yes, the same Rita Bingham who wrote Passport to Survival) about how to grind beans into bean flour. She says navy bean flour, which is mild in flavor, can be put into any bread recipe. If a recipe calls for 4 cups of wheat flour, you can substitute up to 25% with bean flour...meaning now your recipe would be 3 cups wheat flour and 1 cup bean flour. Why would someone want to do this? Because combining the bean and wheat now makes a complete protein (with all of the amino acids) PLUS it is a great way to sneak beans into the diet of someone who says, "But I DON'T LIKE beans!"

    Thanks for your blog. You always seem to bring up a topic that I am currently trying to wrap my brain around...and reading your creative ideas and your readers responses gives me confidence that I'm headed the right way OR shows me a better way to tackle the task.

  6. I'd be happy to document my navy bean and lentil soups. In fact it will give me a good excuse to make some large batches and can them up. Both are quite simple (which is why I'm good at them) and delicious.


    - Patrice

  7. Another great post, Patrice. I have something I'd like to share a way to boost your soup making success and add a great comfort food element to any kitchen.

    It's a sure-fire soup method that makes the meanest pot of anything....especially could ever want. The secret? Never ever throw away your poultry bones until you've used them twice. This applies to all of them...fried chicken, roasted name it. It also works well with beef bones.

    I put them in a large glass jar and refrigerate them for up to a few days. Before I stew them I break them, usually with a clean pair of pliers to minimize the mess. Toss into the stock pot, fill to within about two inches of the top with water, add one to four stalks of celery.. (I know you hate it, Patrice, but it adds a great flavor boost and goes away when you strain it. lol)...about a quarter cup of onion, four or five cloves of garlic and some parsley if I have it, and dill seed if I have it, about half a teaspoon of dried orange peel if I have it, and, here comes the critical part: white vinegar and lime or lemon juice. For a gallon pot I use three or four tablespoons of vinegar and half a squeezed lime. You'll find your taste preference in a few batches. Add salt (but less than you normally would, because of the vinegar and lime juice) and pepper, bring to a boil, then stew on a low heat for two or three hours. Take out the bones and press the remaining stuff back into the broth through a big strainer using a broad wooden spoon. (Note: always dispose of the bones in a way that ensures no critters can get to them...cooked bones, especially fowl, are splintery and potentially lethal...especially to your dogs and kitties.)

    The vinegar and lime juice pull the calcium and good stuff out of the bones and make a rich, nutritious broth that gels up nicely when refrigerated. This also makes it very easy to skim the fat off, which I always do.

    This is some of the best soup stock ever, and is one of my cooking 'must haves.' It's outstanding as a hot drink, and is easily frozen or canned. I use it for all kinds of things: cooking beans, rice, quinoa, potatoes, greens, and for turning
    leftovers into great soups in a hurry. At our house this is lovingly referred to as 'used-food stew.' lol

    By far my favorite version of this broth comes from using my roasting pan after baking a bird. I toss all the bones and skin back in the pot and use it the next day in the method given above. It de-glazes the roasting pot and adds a super richness to the flavor.

    This is a wonderful basic cooking ingredient, but is also a very good way to extend the mileage of your food. I try to squeeze every grocery nickel 'till the buffalo farts!

    Let me know if you try it.


    A. McSp

  8. Wow - this sounds incredible! I usually roast the chickens we've butchered, and after I debone the meat I just toss the carcass. Think of all the good stock base I've been throwing away! I hereby vow to use your ideas on the next chicken I roast - and I'll post a blog about it too.

    - Patrice

  9. That's my home-girl talkin' there!

    You'll be so-o-o-o glad!

    And let me also add that two or three drops of oil of oregano into a great big mug of this stuff is quite possibly THE most effective cold/flu remedy ever used in the history of the planet. lol It relieves congestion almost instantly and helps relieve that all-over body ache the flu can inflict.

    We typically go for years, even decades without either of these maladies, and for that we are truly grateful. Therefore on the rare occasion a bug does take hold around here it's a big deal and we meet it head on with the big guns.

    The kind of oil we keep is taken from wild oregano and comes in a small brown bottle with an eye-dropper top. We get it at the natural foods store and I'll warn you, it's pretty spendy. But it keeps forever if you keep it cool and it's one of the best anti-fungals you can get, for both internal and external use. But one caveat: you do NOT want to follow the directions sometimes found on the label to put a few drops under your tongue. It'll burn like bejeeberz and taste for hours. Use your chicken broth and start with only two drops. I've found three drops will flavor and entire pot of spaghetti sauce. !!

    OK...I'll get off my Mama-knows-best box for now...surely there are some chores around here that need doin'.


    Totally off-topic....who else besides me wants to see a travel report from Anonymous Twit? It seems like she's going to some of my favorite spots. I'd love to read the details!

    A. McSp

  10. you are right about how good that book is...the older one that is..have not seen the revised edition yet..the older one is at the library and is checked out enough where ya gotta put in a request and get in line. i too can everything..i live near the sweet potatoe capital of the world and when folks heard about my canning sweet potatoes they just could not believe it..much better than frozen anyday and in an emergency they don't even have to be warmed up or cooked.

  11. Patrice, Would you share the name of the wholesale grocery in Spokane? We're a few miles north of the city (in Newport), and I'd love to give them some business. Thanks so much.

  12. The wholesale grocery is Cash 'n Carry. They're a restaurant-supply place with several branches. We mostly shop at the one on Sprague across from Costco, though there's a second C&C way down on the other end of Sprague and yet a third somewhere mid-city (I've only been to that one once). Each C&C tends to carry a slightly different selection, or perhaps I should say each one has a particular emphasis. If you want restaurant dishes and stemware, for example, use the one that's mid-city. The one on Sprague across from Costco has a wonderful selection of bulk foods, i.e. 50-lb sacks of beans of all kinds, rice, flour, etc. (Besides it's just behind a Learning is Fun store where we get a fair bit of our homeschooling supplies.)

    As the name implies, you cannot pay with a check unless your checks have a business name on them. It just so happens ours does, so we can pay by check. Cash is always accepted, of course, and I believe debit and credit cards are as well (call them first to confirm that).

    When our busy season ends in mid-October and we're preparing to be snowed in for the winter (something we prepare for every winter whether or not it actually happens), we've been known to drop $600 at a time at C&C. They have a very friendly staff and I can't recommend them highly enough.

    - Patrice

  13. A. McSp

    I also use all left over bone's to make bone broth. When my freezer is full of broth I will use the new broth for our 4 dogs. If you simmer very low for 48+ hours the chicken bones are no longer a danger, they just crumble. The dogs love them and the bone marrow is very good for them.