I really wanted to like Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry cookbook. I really wanted to like it and the good news is that I loved it!
One look at the book and you know this is everything you need. It speaks to both the beginner (hello!) and the experienced canner and everyone else in between. Water-bath canning, pressure-canning, curing, brining, smoking, cheese-making, jams, juice, pickles, soups, this literally has everything you need to fill your pantry. What an apt name for the cookbook! If you've read any of Cathy's work on her blog, you know that she has a casual, personal tone in which it feels like she's talking directly to you. And that's exactly what I needed to make the leap into the wonderful (and potentially scary) world of canning!
Now, full disclosure, Cathy Barrow (aka Mrs. Wheelbarrow), is a good friend from the Internet world that I met a few years ago. We have actually met, we have broken bread together, we "like" each others Instagram photos and we share the occasional yiddish reference.
So, the real disclosure is...I have always wanted to make pickles because. Why, well c'mon, it's pickles! The excuses have aways been numerous but the one I always go back to is the classic "Umm, I really don't want to kill anyone." This definitely isn't a unique hesitation by someone who is new to the world of preserving. And right there in the introduction, Cathy's put my mind at ease. She acknowledges it and says the likelihood of it ending badly is pretty slim IF you follow the rules. No getting creative or cute with the directions. I wasn't planning on it, but yes ma'am!
I knew the goal was to make pickles. If Mrs. Wheelbarrow can get me to successfully make pickles, this book would be worth its weight in pickles. As a beginner, it was best to keep the training wheels on for the first go-round so the recipe for "Quickles" caught my eye. Quickles is quick-pickling almost anything. With cucumbers, a red onion, homemade pickling spices and all the other ingredients and equipment in hand, I was set.
Success! It was much more painless than I thought and I even had an explanation in the book as to why my garlic turned this blue-ish/turquoise colour. Anthocyanin, a pigment that reacts to acidic solutions like a pickle brine, go figure! Within 20 minutes, the onions and the cucumber had drastically changed and I was munching away pretty impressed with myself at 12:00am. After they cooled somewhat, it became the moment of truth and with a couple of Weck Jars that I had leftover from FBC2014. The lids went on, the clips clicked on and just like that, it was done.
The next morning, I couldn't wait, so I went straight for the two jars and had a heckuva time getting the lid which meant more success! I eventually got the lids off and was about as happy as a guy can be from conquering what some people take for granted but you have to start somewhere.
So with that, Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry is proudly going on my shelf and I know it will be reached for often and soon.
And the good news is that the folks at W.W. Norton are offering up one (1) copy of Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry to a lucky FBC reader!
Disclosure - Food Bloggers of Canada was given one copy of Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry for review.
This review was written by Ethan Adeland, co-founder of FBC and author of Feeding Ethan. He is a writer, iPhone picture-snapper, traveler and experimenter in the kitchen. He currently resides in Vancouver, BC. Twitter: @EthanAdeland