Well-Preserved is not a compendium of canning recipes. Why does this need to be stated? Because the cover of the book pictures an attractive arrangement of filled canning jars so readers may rightfully deduce this is an encyclopedia of canning recipes. Further, the title "Well-Preserved: recipes and techniques for putting up small batches of seasonal foods" taken at face value, would lead a reader to believe the book contains nothing but canning recipes. This too is not an accurate representation of the contents of the book. The cookbook only contains 29 recipes for canning, freezing and curing, and 88 recipes that illustrate how the author uses the canned and preserved foods. Confused? Well, a look at the other reviews would indicate a number of readers are confused and annoyed the book didn't deliver what they expected. To make matters worse, another book was released almost to the day, in May 2009, with a nearly identical title, so potentially some of the purchasers of this book may have thought they were buying that book.
This is such an unfortunate circumstance for the author, Eugenia Bone, because she has created a very special cookbook. As much a writer as a chef, she lavishly shares her stories and by the end of the book, the reader has entered the life of Ms. Bone and knows as much about her and how she learned a technique or where she buys her produce or the story behind a recipe or about her apartment in New York City or her cabin in Colorado or her children and husband as about canning and preserving. If only the book had a title like "Recipes Using Foods Preserved at Home" the criticisms would be non-existent.
Clearly, this is not a book for someone strictly seeking canning recipes - there are only 17 actual canning recipes, the remaining 12 recipes involve other methods of preservation such as refrigerator or freezer techniques. But, books filled with canning recipes are easy to find. This is a book filled with ideas on how to creatively use foods preserved at home. Ms. Bone carefully explains how to properly can and preserve, launches into the recipes she turns to time and again to create these preserved foods and then follows with recipes utilizing the preserved goods - a complete circle. Will I follow what she does to the letter? No, but as she tosses excellent ideas out by the handful she gives the reader ideas for other combinations and ways to use the preserved foods, all things I will definitely apply in my cooking.
I did not plan on reading the book from cover to cover but I did. I also had no plans to write a review defending the book, but as an avid canner I learned much from the book - just not what I expected to learn. No one wants to waste hard earned money or precious time, but this book, in its proper context, is cohesive and filled with value. Sometimes we head-out on a trip and end-up off the path on what results in a much better adventure. That's what this book is - a scenic excursion.