Zoe Maslow is the editor of Batch: Over 200 Recipes, Tips and Techniques for a Well Preserved Kitchen, so she probably knows it better than anyone (except the authors, who are the founders of WellPreserved). When the book was chosen as a Piglet Community Pick, she was more than excited, and wrote in saying this:
"My first impression of Batch was made when Joel and Dana delivered a whopper of a manuscript: 125,000 words. Three years later, we had distilled it to 85,000 words, but even in that first moment, I knew I was looking at something special. I knew that this was a book that would not only change how I cooked generally, but would make me re-think how I chose recipes, planned meals, and considered ingredients.
The book grew a personality, one that was both motivating and demanding, and I would imagine it looking over my shoulder as I worked, asking me, 'Is this the best you can do?'
It makes sense, then, that our readers adored this book, and felt the discipline and creativity the authors put into every page of the book.
Here's what you love about and learned from Batch:
A Review, in One Sentence
"A book of waste-not want-not using fruits and vegetables in their entirety." —Brigitte Roy
"A modern look at old preserving methods." —Eyecandypopper
"This book is simultaneously an educational resource, a beautiful piece of art, and a cookbook that will help you save money, reduce waste, and easily create delicious meals and preserves." —Trudy
"Batch, lovingly written and gorgeously illustrated, will encourage anyone even remotely interested in stocking up their pantry to visit local farmers markets or even grow their own veg and fruit to can, dry, pickle, and ferment to enjoy out of season (or anytime)." —Donna Canadensis
"The most thoughtfully designed, user-friendly cookbook I've seen in ages (ever?) with a variety of nose-to-tail techniques for preserving 25 farmers market ingredients." —Alison Dunn
If this book was a vegetable, it'd be...
- A cherry tomato "because they are gorgeous to look at, versatile in cooking, easy to consume and loved by all!" (Trudy)
- A cauliflower because "it's rustic yet elegant, transformative when given the right time and experimentation, colorful, and has pockets full of surprises!" (Kristy Gardner)
- Mushrooms foraged in the woods—"meaty, savory, and adaptable." (Alison Dunn)
- A carrot "because it is so versatile you can use it in almost every aspect of life. And everyone needs carrots in their life. It’s the beginning of many beautiful recipes, the perfect accompaniment to any meal and perfect just on its own—just like many of the recipes in this cookbook." (Diana Leblanc)
- A potato "because it is a root vegetable that symbolizes fundamentals and beginnings." (Valerie Lugonja)
- Corn "because it is SWEEEEET!!" (Kim Susands)
- An artichoke "because it's got so many layers and a fabulous heart!" (Mary Ann)
The book's organization
"The recipes are divided into sections based on ingredients, rather than preservation method. This approach embraces traditional practices (when strawberries are in season, bring home a flat, and make the most of them), while updating techniques and flavor combinations. Pickled beets are a staple of old cookbooks, but here the beets are charred to add a more complex flavor. Cherries are a favorite for canning, but Joel and Dana pickle them or dehydrate and grind them with espresso. Then, they take these preserves and work them into recipes that will ensure that your pantry shelves will empty as quickly as they fill."
And while this book was published in Canada, Alison mentioned it does include common North American measurements, as well as weights and metric equivalents.
Readers found any of the infusions, Frozen Herb Butter, and Fermented Asparagus Pickles to be good first recipes to make because they're great, but also gateways to preserving. Trudy said the beauty of the book is the no-scraps ethos, so "the next time you have an ingredient you're working with refer, to Batch, to check for ways to preserve or cook with the parts of the ingredient you would normally throw away (such as the tops of strawberries, the brine from your hot peppers ... the list goes on). You'll be amazed by this 'nose to tail' approach to cooking with fresh ingredients!"
As for favorite recipes, standouts included the Blueberry Maple Jam ("Slather it on waffles, serve it on a cheese plate or as a sophisticated sauce accompanying game meats. Add a dash of brandy and drizzle it over a dense chocolate cake."); Pickled Baked Falafel Wraps; Potato, Leek and Bacon Soup; Chili-Infused Vodka ("you make a jar of extra-hot vodka to use for a Bloody Mary or a pasta sauce, and you can always dilute the spicy vodka with . . . more vodka!"); French Onion Soup with Pear Brandy; and Herbes Salées ("it's the ingredient you didn't know was missing from your refrigerator, it keeps for months, and it will help you with your resolution never to waste fresh herbs again").
Alison Dunn picked the Roasted Rhubarb Jam, especially because of its "Batch-It" accompaniments:
"Each section includes Batch-It recipes, which means while I have the equipment and ingredients out for jam, now I have several other quick recipes to make while the water boils. In this case, dehydrated rhubarb maple "candies" and rhubarb salt for a delicious change on a cocktail rim."
While there are a lot of recipes for novice preservers, others do take some skill, patience, and/or concentration. Readers—especially those with fear of fermenting—were comforted that each recipe is marked with a difficulty rating and provides thorough instruction. "There are tips on everything, such as the best way to peel peaches, advantages and disadvantages to different ways of preserving, which tools work best and for what, and funny anecdotes about how to make sure you don't make common mistakes."
Teresa made us laugh with her take: "The Fermented Dill Pickles were my first foray into overcoming my fear of fermenting. It took a little courage to take the first bite, but I'm still here—and the pickles were delicious."
2017's roster of Piglet Community Picks were chosen by an open call to our community; the reviews you see here are from some of the folks who voted these books into the tournament. To see other Piglet Community Picks reviews, head here.
Batch is available wherever books are sold.