What do you get when you mix an economic crisis; a heightened interest in eating local, seasonal foods; and a strong DIY trend? Among other things, an increased interest in canning and preserving foods. Judging from booksellers’ anecdotes and a high number of related books slated for publication this year, jam making, canning, pickling and preserving will be one of the most popular cooking subcategories of ’09.
AllRecipes.com, which tracks page views to its site, recently reported a 109% percent increase of page views to its pickling, jams, canning and preserving articles over the past year. And last month, the New York Timesreported that sales of Ball canning and storage products were up 92% in October 2008 over October 2007. Brad Parsons, senior books editor at Amazon.com, has noticed an interest in the site’s backlist books on preserving and canning; even backlist titles are getting a lot of play. Parsons, an avid home cook, also mentioned a number of forthcoming titles on the subject that he is looking forward to.
Judy Pray, a senior editor at Clarkson Potter, is working on one of 2009’s most highly anticipated preserving books: Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Food by Eugenia Bone, a well-known food writer. Timing is everything, of course; former Potter editor Pam Krauss signed up Bone’s book, and when she left for Rodale earlier this year, Pray inherited the book. Since that time, Pray said she has received two other proposals on preserving that she has had to turn away. “I’m thrilled that the timing of our book worked out,” she said. Potter will publish the $30 hardcover in May.
Pray said many of the other preserving books on the market are “a little more countryfied” and meant for people who live in rural areas with large kitchens. However, Bone, a New Yorker with a small kitchen, maintains that space isn’t a prerequisite for canning, preserving, curing and smoking. As the author writes, “I have a modest-size refrigerator and a hot, sticky New York pad.... But I’m not complaining. I get excellent results.” It’s a sentiment echoed by Alison Fargis, a partner at The Stonesong Press, who has noticed people in cities doing more canning, preserving and curing foods, and who recently spoke with a Barnes & Noble buyer who confirmed that canning and preserving is a strong category for the chain, and not just in rural areas.
Amazon’s Parsons, who has made his own sour cherry jam, pepper vinegar, and other preserved foods, said, “I definitely think there is [some truth to the] cliché ‘everything old is new again’ in this category.” Parsons cited the more widespread interest in shopping at farmer’s markets and greenmarkets as one factor. “What to do with all this great food you pick up? People are turning to books, and online, to find out.” He also said more restaurant chefs are serving pickled foods, which has driven interest in the category. So how does to translate to book sales? Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, which Robert Rose published in 2006, has been Amazon’s top seller in the category since it came out. Robert Rose president Bob Dees said that as a cookbook publisher, he spends “a lot of time looking in the nooks and crannies” to find subcategories to publish into. Dees’s next subcategory is dehydrating; the house will publish The Dehydrater Bible in April, which will be similar in concept to the Ball book.
Two of Parsons’ other favorites are out of print: Quick Pickles by Chris Schlesinger and John Wiloughby (Chronicle, 2001) and Pickled:Vegetables, Fruits, Roots, More by Lucy Norris (Abrams, 2003) but are available on Amazon through third-party sellers. Other related books that continue to sell strongly on the site are Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables by Mike and Nancy Bubel (Storey, 1991), Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman (Norton, 2005), The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest (Storey, 2002) and Blue Ribbon Preserves: Award-Winning Jams, Jellies, Marmalades, and More by Linda J. Amendt (HP Trade, 2001).
Along with Eugenia Bone’s Well-Preserved, here’s a list of other preserving and canning books booksellers can look forward to:
The Beginner’s Guide to Preserving: Easy Instructions for Freezing, Drying, and Storing Food at Home (Storey, June)
The Joy of Pickling, Revised Edition by Linda Ziedrich (The Harvard Common Press, May)
Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It: And 40 Other Kitchen Arts to Master by Karen Solomon (Ten Speed, June)
The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves (Harvard Common Press, May)
The Everything Canning and Preserving Book: All You Need to Know to Enjoy Natural, Healthy Foods Year Round (Adams Media, June)
The Farmer's Wife Canning and Preserving Cookbook by Lela Nargi (Voyager Press, July)
The Beginner's Guide to Preserving Food at Home by Janet Chadwick (Storey, June)
Preserved by Nick Sandler and Johnny Acton (Kyle Books, June)