This is a blog about home canning—or "putting up" as one might say where I'm from—and it will cover jams and other fruit preserves, pickles and briny things, canned vegetables (above all tomatoes) and the complement of condiments that includes relishes, sauces, salsas and those related preparations that result when you chunk bits of seasonal produce and preserve them in a syrup either piquant or sweet.

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Peach-Passion Fruit Jam

The passion fruit is a sorry little pod, about the size of an egg and wrinkled like a month-old apple. Its appearance is unexpected if you have seen the mother plant's luxuriant foliage or its showy flower that, according to early missionaries to Brazil, recalls the Crucifixion in all its parts. Hence the name, which has nothing to do with worldly passions of the flesh.

But if you didn't know any of that and you lifted a passion fruit to your nose, you could be forgiven for believing that the name derived from its exotic fragrance of mango, tangerine, lime, and naked sun. A dozen passion fruits wouldn't make a snack, since each one has only a spoonful of lentil-sized seeds bathed in a seductively sour juice that stains everything with its scent; handling passion fruit will leave you sniffing your hands in an unseemly way.

To use: scrape the pulp from a small sack of pods. Stir the pulp into a batch of peach jam at the gel set, then cook gently for another two or three minutes until the passion fruit is distributed and the seeds glint like obsidian. Half a cup of pulp is enough to aromatize five or six pounds of yellow peaches. 


Improv Pickles

First, a reassurance: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has never recorded a case of food-borne illness caused by fermented vegetables, says Sandor Katz, the master of all things fermented. Homemade fermented pickles are therefore safer than hamburgers, eggs, oysters, spinach, lettuce, chicken, turkey stuffing, cantaloupes, and any number of everyday foods that we'll scarf down without a second thought even though each is considered a vector for dangerous food-borne illness and several in the above list have been implicated in recent large-scale outbreaks causing serious illness and even death.

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Live Online Chat About Blueberry Jam

Come chat with me and The New York Times next week! I'll be hanging out online with NYT staffer Julia Moskin and chatting about my blueberry jam recipe, published in this week's Dining section

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The Readable Cookbook

What are cookbooks for?

Once they were resources for cooks, like grammar books are for writers. Then came the Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, which was also a memoir, full of anecdote and adventure and gossip—recipes optional. Toklas had to disguise her memoir as a cookbook because Gertrude Stein, her more famous companion, had already written The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. While few other writers have such problems, many cookbook authors since have, like Toklas, stretched the form’s conventions in order to explore a wider world beyond the kitchen.

The following five readable cookbooks go beyond the mere technical instruction of recipes.

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Fig Jam

I'm back from the first leg of the book tour, and I want to thank everyone who came out to say hello and share your stories of saving the season. I hope your summer preserving is going well.

Good news greeted me when I got back to LA: my friend Amanda hit me up on Instagram (@savingtheseason) to say that her fig tree was ready to pick—and that she was headed out of town. For the past several years, it's been my good luck that fig season coincides with Amanda's vacation season, giving me the chance to pick endless flats of stupendous Black Mission figs from her backyard tree, ABOVE.

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Dueling Authors

With my friend and fellow author Joseph Shuldiner at our joint book signing at the Beverly Hills Farmers Market.


Book Tour!

I'll be out on the road for the next few weeks: it's book tour season. Come by and say hello while I'm in your neck of the woods. I'll be sharing tastes of my jam and marmalade at every stop, and of course signing books.

7/18 Santa Cruz: BookShop Santa Cruz, 7:30 p.m

7/19 Sonoma: Readers' Books, at the Sonoma Farmers Market, 10:30 a.m

7/19 Santa RosaCopperfield's, 7:00 p.m. 

7/20 San Francisco, Book Passage, at the Ferry Building, noon.

7/20 San Francisco, Onmivore Books, 3 p.m.

7/21 Seattle, Third Place Books, 5:30 p.m.

7/22 Seattle, Book Larder, 6:30 p.m.

7/24 Nashville, Parnassus Books, 6:30 p.m. 

7/25 Memphis, The Booksellers at Laurelwood, 6:00 p.m.

7/26 Atlanta, Charis Books, 7:30 p.m.

7/27 Athens, Avid Bookshop at the Athens Farmers Market, 10:00 a.m.

7/28 Greenville, Cook's Station, 1:00 p.m.

7/29 Asheville, Malaprops Bookstore, 7:00 p.m.

8/1 Knoxville, Union Ave. Books, 6:00 p.m.

8/4 Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills Farmers Market, 9:00 a.m. to noon.

8/6 Los Angeles, Hammer Musuem (in conversation with Scott Sternberg of Band of Outsiders), 7:30 p.m.

Looking out on the horizon, I'll be back in the South during harvest season, and there's a whole other leg of the book tour—through New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut—for apple season. But more on that later.

Meanwhile I hope to see you on the road!