I love eating berries and cooking with them so I was pleased to add another berry-centric cookbook to my collection. Unfortunately, the book is not the encyclopedic reference that it is portrayed to be. Many of us who grew up with a prized set of encyclopedias enjoyed (and learned from) the illustrated maps and photos.
There is not a single photo in the entire book. The chapter entitled, "The A- To - Z Berry Encyclopedia" describes more than 30 types of berries and would have really benefited from a photo of each one to help readers identify them in the store and in the field.*
The format is not user friendly. Recipes are listed one after another so that many, if not most, are on two pages (rather than beginning each recipe on a new page). I find it much easier to use recipes when the ingredients and instructions are on one page so I don't have to flip back and forth (especially when I have flour or berry juice on my hands). The author bolded the ingredients and yield rather than the title for each recipe so it is more difficult than it should be to find a specific recipe (especially since there is no index). At least one recipe (Summer Water) is presented in an essay format (rather than with a list of ingredients followed by the instructions).
If you are mainly interested in facts on berries, this book could be a good choice. The information on berries in the Berry Encyclopedia chapter is very thorough. For each of the 30+ types of berries, the author provides the common name, scientific classification, habitat and distribution, history, where it is grown commercially, how to pick it, how to store it, and notes for the cook.
If you are primarily interested in berry recipes, I have a few alternate suggestions from my cookbook collection. My favorite is Luscious Berry Desserts by Lori Longbotham which has a wonderful collection of recipes, many of which are accompanied by a photo of the finished dish. If you're interested in recipes for more than just desserts, you may want to check out Berries: A Country Garden Cookbook as it has recipes for appetizers, main courses, jams and jellies, beverages and desserts. It provides a brief overview of various types of berries and includes photos of 16 of them. I also recommend Very Blueberry which is a small book focused on blueberry which contains more than 40 recipes for breakfast and snacks; salads, sides and starters; entrees; spreads, sauces and jams; and desserts.
Initial chapters in the Berry Bible include:
*The Introduction provides a brief overview of the history of berries in the U.S.
*Good Health and Berries provides a page and a half of background on the healthful qualities of berries
*A- To -Z Berry Encyclopedia provides detailed information for each of 30+ types of berries including the common name, scientific classification, habitat and distribution, history, where it is grown commercially, how to pick it, how to store it, and cooking notes.
*Berry Basics covers fresh versus frozen berries, dried berries, and berry purees as well as useful tips on substitutions, toasting nuts, and how to remove berry stains.
I usually list all the recipes but since this book has more than 150, I chose a representative sample for each chapter to give you an idea of what to expect. I noticed that my recipe count is slightly lower than the 175 claimed on the book cover. That may because I did not count multiple recipes for one dish separately. For instance, I did not count the pie crust recipes in the chapter on pies.
The chapter on Coolers, Cocktails, Smoothies, and Other Drinks includes 30 recipes for lemonades, smoothies, ice cream sodas and alcoholic beverages. Examples include Staghorn Sumac Lemonade, Raspberry-Nectarine Smoothie, Loganberry-Cantaloupe Smoothie, Marionberry Antioxidant Elixir, Chocolate-Espresso Soda with Raspberries, Blackberry Martini, Kaspar's Cranberry-Apple Holiday Cheer, and Spicy Blackberry Brandy.
The chapter on Breads includes 14 recipes for muffins, tea breads and French toast. Examples include Blackberry-Blueberry Cardamom Muffins, French Toast with Oatmeal Crust, Ginger Scones with Lemon-Blueberry Filling, Marionberry Biscuits, and Raspberry-Marcona Almond Coffee Cake.
The Soups and Salad chapter includes 16 recipes including Chilled Blueberry-Lime Soup, Strawberry-Rhubarb Soup, Mache and Blueberry Salad, Himalayan Red Rice Salad with Blueberries, Fresh Beet and Raspberry Salad, Pimenton Chicken Salad with Summer Berries, and Summer Berries and Flowers in White Wine Jelly.
The chapter on Main Courses includes 16 recipes for fish, poultry, lamb, pork and other meats. Examples include Curried Halibut with Strawberry-Papaya Relish, Panfried Quail with Sage in Huckleberry Sauce, White Pekin Duckling with Loganberry-Hoisin Glaze, Pork Tenderloin Salad with Warm Strawberry Dressing, and Venison Tenderloin with Horseradish-Sour Cream Sauce.
The Sauces chapter includes 15 recipes such as Asian Blackberry Barbecue Sauce, Berry Coulis, Boysenberry Applesauce, Raspberry Chipotle Sauce, Savory Boysenberry-Juniper Vinegar, and Tomatillo Salsa.
The next chapter entitled, "Putting Berries By" includes instructions for processing preserves as well as 21 recipes for jams, jellies, and other condiments as well as one candy. Examples include Blueberry-Loganberry Ginger Jam, Savannah Pyracantha Jelly, Black Currant Conserve, Blackberry-Chile-Mint Preserves, Strawberry-Rose Geranium Syrup, Spicy Horseradish-Cranberry Relish, and Strawberry-Balsamic Mustard.
The chapter on Ice Creams, Sorbets, and Other Frozen Treats includes 12 recipes such as Loganberry-Buttermilk Ice Cream, Blood Orange Vodka Berry Sorbet, Blueberry-Peach Tequila Pops, Creamy Lemon Sherbet and Frozen Cranberries with Hot Caramel Sauce.
The chapter on Pies, Tarts, Cobblers and Such includes 18 recipes for baked goods such as Almond Gooseberry Cream Pie, Juneberry-Raspberry Pie, Loganberry Chiffon Pie with Lemon Cookie Crust, Marionberry Streusel Tart, Black Currant and Apple Crumble, and Apple-Huckleberry Crisp. There are also two recipes for pie crusts and two recipes for tart and cobbler pastry.
The chapter on Cakes includes 10 recipes including Blue-Ribbon Sponge Cake with Boysenberry Curd, Chocolate-Espresso Hazelnut Cake with Raspberry Glaze, Maine Wild Blueberry Gateau, Upside-Down Cranberry-Pumpkin Polenta Cake, and Pavlova with Four Variations.
The final chapter contains 15 recipes for Pastries, Puddings, and Other Sweet Treats such as Lemon Shortbread Turnovers, Mocha Mousse with Fresh Strawberries, Key Lime Panna Cotta with Strawberry Sorbet, Blueberry-Raspberry Coconut Custard, Gooseberry Fool, and White Chocolate, Cranberry and Pistachio Bark.
The author also provides an impressive bibliography with three pages of cookbooks and berry guides as well as two pages of online resources. While there was no index in the advance proof, there is a thorough one in the book as published for sale. You can look up ingredients (such as blueberries, loganberries and lemons) as well as finished dish (such as sauces, cakes and jam).
*Since I reviewed an advance proof, I checked out a published copy as sold in bookstores. A recipe index was added (as noted above). However, the reference to the "photographic berry collection" to "supplement the encyclopedia" in the introduction was removed and the published book has zero photos (as did the advance proof). This was a big disappointment to me as photos of the many berry varieties covered in the encyclopedia would have really added to the value of the information.