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The Modern Preserver’s Kitchen cookbook review

December 10, 2021

The Modern Preserver's Kitchen cookbook and some ingredients

Fruits of the season

Salted runner beans, pickled cucumbers, redcurrants, elderberry wine, blackcurrant jam; gleaming jars stood in rows in our larder – the result of a fruitful garden, thriftiness and no freezer. This was how I grew up.  Our spring and summer fruit and veg came from the ground; soil, bushes and trees all tended by my Mum. Pickling and preserving captured the bounty of those seasons and were bright jewels during the fallow winter months.

I remember waiting by the greengrocer’s stall where he would sell bruised, ripe peaches, dripping with juice, cheaply. Back at home they were trimmed of blemishes, scalded and plunged into a fruity syrup in Kilner jars. Divine with a little cream for pudding in front of the fire in February. It was how food was valued rather than wasted.  This was decades rather than centuries ago, but seems like another time as our approach to growing, buying, cooking and valuing food is now so dramatically different.

Apart from bottling a huge jar of red chillies from the Dubai farmers’ market, a bit of kimchi and dipping my toe into Seville orange marmalade-making last year (organic from Riverford), I haven’t really kept up the family preserving tradition.

The Modern Preserver's Kitchen cookbook

Is there anything new to say about preserving?

I do have quite a few cookbooks about the art of preserving though (surprise, surprise).  When I was offered The Modern Preserver to review I was intrigued and a bit sceptical; is there anything new to write about? There are countless books and online articles.

Normally, when I turn the pages of a book on preserving I make a mental list of the lovely jars of things I want to make (usually unfulfilled). With this book it’s the other way round. I’m drawn to tempting recipes with vibrant flavours first, all which use the jams, marmalades and pickles detailed in the book. How about Breakfast kimchi eggs (scrambled or omelette); Roast butternut, pickled beetroot, feta and Puy lentil salad; or Coconut layer cake with lime and tequila marmalade and cream-cheese frosting. This book is about making variations on classics and what happens next.

For every preserve recipe, most with combinations of flavours that are outside the usual preserving canon, there are two to three recipes on how to use it as an ingredient, giving ideas way beyond the obvious (e.g. on toast or with cheese).

The Modern Preserver's Kitchen cookbook

The Modern Preserver

The author of the Modern Preserver’s Kitchen is Kylee Newton, a New Zealander who lives in London. She’s described as a preserving guru, a kitchen alchemist, a master in her field of preserving the seasons. A creative who excels in what she can craft with her hands, past jobs include printing Wolfgang Tillman’s analogue photographs (a dying skill), fashion stylist, florist – and DJ. She now describes herself as a writer, teacher, consultant and developer – all the in the realm of food.

Kylee passes on her knowledge in meticulous detail, but not just as recipes. By reading each section you come away with an understanding about what’s important to get right and what can be modified to change the recipes and flavours to your own tastes and ingredients. The base recipes are a springboard rather than prescriptive. “There is a definite craft to making preserves, and rules to follow, but the most important thing is to play and enjoy.” she says.

So where has Kylee’s wealth of knowledge come from? It began with making a few jars to give as gifts at Christmas which received such a great reception that an idea was born. She started selling a limited range at Hackney market which, when demand meant that she was filling jars in her kitchen full-time, became Newton & Pott. Eventually it moved to a commercial kitchen, the range still handmade with seasonal, mainly local and organic ingredients.  The reaction from market shoppers and local food businesses was enthusiastic and Kylee spent a few years making and creating jars full of delicious conserves, teaching preserving lessons and writing her first cookbook, ‘The Modern Preserver’.

Newton & Pott is no longer a maker and wholesaler. The production kitchen has closed due to recent pressures from Brexit etc.  Kylee returned to her kitchen table recently to stir up a few jars of jams and jellies made with some foraged ingredients. These were dispatched to Taylors of Maltby Street under ‘The Modern Preserver’ label. I suspect they won’t be there for long.

How do I eat it?

Back in our own kitchens, the pleasure of making jams, pickles and chutneys can be tempered when faced with a daunting amount of filled jars. Instead of giving all the fruits of your labours away to friends and neighbours, or stashing them in a cupboard (or what she calls the “condiment graveyard” in the fridge), Kylee want us to look at each preserve as something with vast possibilities.

Waste not, want not

I like this book for the very detailed instructions about making preserves and the wealth of recipes that go with them and more (see below), but there’s something greater that resonates. Kylee was brought up in New Zealand where life was more relaxed and simple. The attitude to food was an ethos of “waste not, want not” and savouring the seasons. Because of my similar upbringing, albeit on the other side of the world and a decade or two earlier, I relate to her approach and agree wholeheartedly with the things she holds important.

Preserving is at the heart of her whole attitude to cooking and using ingredients.  Sustainability through considering the impact of what you buy and when or where you buy it and tackling food waste.

In the book Kylee says:

“For me, preserving is sustainable cooking at its best. It makes the most of each season’s offering, giving yield longevity and creating a type of edible time capsule. All of this is good for the planet, which is one of the main reasons I’m so attracted to the process. Reducing waste and making the most of the seasons are at the heart of my moral compass, as pagan as that sounds…”. “…thank you for buying this book. It’s a small step into the world of thinking about food sustainability and how to make the most of natural resources.”

There are practical ways to put this into action and not just by preserving. For instance, advice for using egg whites leftover from custard for the coconut layer cake. I have this problem often and her solution is to freeze them, putting each individual egg white in a square of an ice-cube tray. Instead of pouring it down the sink, there’s a pickle brine salad dressing.

The Modern Preserver's Kitchen cookbook

Ancient alchemy, modern flavours

While the title says modern, the design and feel of the book is classic with simple, beautiful pictures of preserving methods and props, produce and recipes. There are pages of unillustrated text, clearly laid out and indexed giving detailed instructions on different types of pickling (in brine and vinegar), lacto-fermentation, and how to make chutneys, relishes, sauces, jams, jellies and marmalades.

“People have preserved food for thousands of years. You can see it in countless countries and cultures across the globe. It’s been a means of feeding people in unfruitful times, and also sometimes relied upon for survival. Like all food, it brings people together: from the passing down of these culinary traditions comes community and identity.” she says

While continuing this ancient alchemy, it’s Kylee’s approach to flavours that are modern. Whisky-pickled carrots, pickled pears, gooseberry chutney, peach and mint jam and how to use them: Chocolate and pickled pear frangipane tart; Grilled kippers with brown butter, poached eggs, gooseberry chutney and crème fraiche; Peach and mint jam galettes.

It’s all terrifically tempting. As a trifle lover, the Pineapple, lime and tequila marmalade trifles recipe had me thumbing back hurriedly to see how to make the latter and (mentally giving out jars of it for Christmas presents). However, there are always alternative suggestions for using up what you have, for example orange marmalade with added Cointreau instead.

The Modern Preserver's Kitchen cookbook and some ingredients

Suit your shelves and the seasons

Cooking from a veg box means you to be flexible. It’s very different from going to the supermarket with a fixed list and I find a lot of cookbooks too prescriptive or the recipes unachievable if you want to use all seasonal ingredients. Kylee’s recipes are a jumping off point and she encourages adaptation. In the notes for steak, mushroom and marmalade pie she recommends lime but says you can use any other citrus jam and gives directions on how to cook a slightly different vegetarian beany version.

Even if you’re not going to be making cupboards full of preserves this is a solid book to have on the counter. There’s a whole section on recipes to make from scratch “to make your daily cooking as sustainable as possible”.  These include homemade custard, butter, labneh, smoked fish, mayonnaise, cashew nut vegan mayo, mustard and gyoza wrappers. There are buckwheat and pumpkin seed crackers, corn tortillas, pikelets, Japanese brioche burger buns, crumpets, muffins and scones.  Instructions on making soft cheese ricotta also produces whey which she uses throughout the book such as Whey potato salad with pickled peas and mint, or Whey cornbread with jalapeños.

Taking the plunge into preserving

As an eager pupil, I’m confident I can learn a lot about preserving from Kylee through this beautiful book. The detailed instructions on making marmalade are bookmarked (love a hardback with a ribbon) for when Seville orange season comes round again. There are tips that weren’t in any of the different recipes I used last year to make three batches.  I’m also keen to take a dive into the fermenting world for the flavours and health benefits. Cabbage is my favourite vegetable and Kylee gives many tempting recipes for kimchi, sauerkraut and how to use them.  There’s also a salt ratio chart that goes from asparagus to turnips including Brussels sprouts, garlic, okra and more. Reading the book has taken my blinkers off, to use preserves as an exciting ingredient rather than just spreading or pairing and I’m ready to go down an exciting path of discovery.

Kylee says “Anyone can bottle the seasons, avoid waste and add character to family food.” This isn’t just a way of cooking, it’s a way of life.

Jar of pickled blackberries

Pickled blackberries

A different way to preserve these juicy fruits from the hedgerows. A spicy, fragrant ingredient to use with smoked fish, cheese dishes and bake with other fruit, chocolate or ginger .

I made this when I was finally stripping the bushes at the end of the blackberry season. As a partner with smoked fish it’s a revelation. There’s a recipe for Mackerel pate with pickled blackberries on seeded toast, scattered with micro-greens. I’ve tried it with a simpler pairing using Ortiz tinned sardines and it works so well; you see I’m experimenting already.

Makes a 500ml (17fl oz) jar

Ingredients

400g (14oz) blackberries, washed and drained*

250ml (1 cup) white wine vinegar

100ml (1/2 cup) filtered water

80g (generous ½ cup) white/golden granulated sugar

pinch of sea salt

½ cinnamon stick

½ teaspoon black peppercorns

½ teaspoon juniper berries

1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

1 bay leaf

2 strips of pared lemon zest

2cm (3/4 inch) piece of fresh root ginger, sliced

Method

Combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt, spices, lemon zest and ginger in a large, non-reactive pan. Place over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar and salt dissolve and the spices infuse. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, then allow the brine to cool completely.

Pack your blackberries into a sterilised, cool jar. Try to fit in as many as possible without squashing or forcing too tightly, leaving a par of about 1cm (1/2 inch) from the top rim.

Pour the brine over the fruit. Gently tap out any trapped bubbles, or use a chopstick to manoeuvre the bubble out, making sure you get out as many as you can (this trapped air can encourage fermentation). Top up with brine again so the produce in entirely covered, up to 2-3mm (1/8 inch) from the very top, and seal with a sterilised, dry lid.

*You can use blueberries instead but I don’t have access to them apart from in the supermarket (usually flown in from far away) so haven’t tried.

The Modern Preserver’s Kitchen contains detailed instructions about how to sterilise jars and lids and a section on troubleshooting. This recipe is reproduced with permission from the publishers. I recommend ordering this excellent book for the recipes, all the extra information and a large dose of inspiration.

Thanks to Hardie Grant (Quadrille) who published this book and sent me a review copy. All views my own.

The Modern Preserver's Kitchen cookbook

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 10, 2021 3:44 pm

    We grow many vegetables here, but still can’t take a plunge into preserving. So I’m doing my best during summer to share with friends as much as possible 🙂

  2. December 16, 2021 4:59 pm

    Thats a Great and Awesome Post
    Thanks for sharing with us.
    Meal services in Dubai

  3. December 16, 2021 4:59 pm

    Thats a Great and Awesome Post
    Thanks for sharing with us this Post.
    Meal services in Dubai

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