Almost all the books on my shelves about preserving concern sweet preserving: how to make jams, jellies and marmalades. If any of them deal with savoury preserves, it's almost invariably about pickles and chutneys. That's natural enough: those kinds of preserves are much easier to make, and there's less chance of giving someone food poisoning.
But subsisting solely on sugar and vinegar (the primary ingredients in jams and pickles) is not what doctors and nutritionists would recommend as a balanced diet. So it's refreshing to see this book, by Ginette Mathiot, cover a much broader range of preserving techniques, including salting, smoking, drying and pressure canning. It's not surprising that the book was first published (under the title Je Sais Faire les Conserves [I Know How to Make Preserves]) in 1948; back then, fewer people lived in cities and frozen foods were much less common. People bought ingredients when they were in season (and therefore cheaper) and preserved them for times when food was scarce.
The book has been revised and updated by Clotilde Dusoulier (of the Chocolate & Zucchini food blog), who in the foreword writes, "The original edition appeared at a time when food rationing was gradually disappearing … and economy and thrift were still very much at the forefront of every homemaker's mind. The housewife's job - Mathiot does not imagine for a second that her reader might be male - was to make the most of foods while they were cheap and plentiful, and put them up for her family and guests to enjoy during the months of cold and scarcity … Even though year-round fresh produce is more readily available now than it ever has been … more and more cooks yearn for a simple relationship to the contents of their plate, one that respects the ebb and flow of the seasons, and rewards foresight and patience.
"The purpose of this book, revised and updated to suit the 21st-century kitchen, is not to imply that your every meal should be made up of things you either grew or preserved yourself. It is rather to … provide inspiration and guidance for whatever your vegetable garden yields this year, and if you might like to try your hand at raising a pig of your own sometime."
There are recipes for black olives in oil; marinated anchovies; artichoke hearts au naturel; dried peas; candied apricots; black currant liqueur; dried apple slices; poultry jelly; liver pate; home-made garlic saucisson; and boudin noir.