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An Interview With Preserving Maven Sherri Brooks Vinton

May. 22, 2014

By Ralph Loglisci, Food & Health Policy Writer

Sherri Brooks Vinton has been knee-deep in the Slow Food movement for more than a decade. In fact, Sherri credits Slow Food USA for helping to guide her through complicated issues and inspiring her to write the "Put ‘em Up!" preserving series.

We caught up with Sherri last week to talk about her latest book in the series: "Put’em Up! Preserving Answer Book."

R: Can you tell us about your new book and why you’re excited about it.

S: Sure. It is the third in the "Put ‘em Up!" series. I’m really happy to have the chance to do the series. Because when I talk to people about eating locally and seasonally, they think … of all the things you can do in your kitchen, making your own jams or jellies, tomato sauces and chutneys have got to be the most time-consuming, expensive and difficult. But I think [the series] just serves to prove that these techniques are very accessible and approachable. And if you can boil water you can preserve your own food. It’s just that simple.

R: Can you give us one of your favorite preserving examples?

S: Well right now we’re coming up on the first of the spring asparagus, and you know how fleeting that season can be for local asparagus. So I pickle it using a somewhat traditional pickling brine - a little salt, sugar, vinegar, water, and then mustard seed, celery seed, and peppercorns. So nothing complicated to put together. Pickled-up asparagus looks really beautiful in the jar. So it’s not just delicious, it’s gorgeous too.

Pickled Asparagus

R: What else would you like people to know about preserving, jarring, canning, and your book in particular?

S: I think the "Put ‘em Up!" books themselves -- "Put ‘em Up!," "Put ‘em Up! Fruit," and "Put ‘em Up! Preserving Answer Book" -- do a good job of helping people make the most out of their seasonal harvest because they organize all of the produce alphabetically. So I know when I come home from the farmers market, I don’t come home thinking, “I really want to make a chutney” or “I really want to make a salsa”. What I come home thinking is, “Oh my god! I just bought two flats of tomatoes and they’re gonna be looking really sad in a day or two. What am I going to do with them?” The books answer that question for you. So you can very easily go in, look up the produce that you want to put to use, and find multiple applications for it. The books aren’t just about canning, they’re also about drying foods, making infusions, which are fantastic vinegar or liquor-based treats that you can have in your pantry or on your bar. They give you the basics on fermenting and even tips for root cellaring. And that can be an actual root cellar, a piece of your basement, or even your electric root cellar - your refrigerator.

R: Would you agree that preserving is perhaps one of the smartest ways to reduce food waste in your own home?

putemupanswers S: I couldn’t agree more. I think that it’s incredibly important to use up all the food that we buy. And so much of it gets tossed for one reason or another. And one of those reasons is it just expires before you can get to it. There are recipes in the "Put ‘em Up!" books that give you very quick, simple ways for using up even just a handful of extra produce. Or even just a pound, or half pound of extra produce. So that those beautiful berries that you went berry picking for or the couple extra beets that came in your CSA share that you just don’t know if you can get to right away can become great little refrigerator pickles or even a little sauce called gastrique, which is like a vinegar-based sauce. Super easy to make but incredibly flavorful results that can become little tricks you have up your sleeve in your pantry.

For more answers to your preserving questions check out Sherri’s website.)

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