Kevin West’s Saving the Season

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I’m thinking of throwing out all my picking and preserving books. Why? Kevin West’s new book Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving blows all those other books out of the water bath.

Full disclosure here: I’ve tasted a lot of West’s jams. I teach a bread making class at the Institute of Domestic Technology. After my bread demo West does a jam making session and I stick around to watch and, hopefully, filtch an extra jar. Those West jams are coveted items around the Root Simple household.

What makes Saving the Season different from other preserving books is West’s masterful use of aromatics and alcohols. As he explains in the introduction, “My goal is for the supplemental flavor to be a faint suggestion–an extra something that you can’t quite put your finger on.” His quince jelly (that I just made) is flavored with a subtle hint of rose geranium. One of the strawberry jam recipes gets a splash of pinot noir. The pickled eggs (that I also made) is mixed with Sriracha. These additions enhance the essential qualities of the main ingredients rather than simply add flavor. It’s an approach that’s masterful and never gimmicky.

There’s also a few surprises. Did you know that you can pickle unripe stone fruit? West’s recipe for pickled green almonds doubles as a way to deal with fruit that needs to be thinned in the spring. And I now know what I can do with all that cardoon I have growing. Yes, you can pickle that.

If that weren’t enough, West has weaved together his recipes with erudite musings. Plato’s theory of forms is contrasted with Buddhism in an essay on kitchen prep that introduces a peach recipe. The grape jelly section is preceded by an analysis of a Nicolas Poussin’s painting. This is the only preservation book I’ve found myself reading for fun.

My threat to get rid of all my preserving books is not hyperbole. Saving the Season really is the definitive book on the subject of pickling and preserving.

West has a website, www.savingtheseason.com, where you can find recipes as well as info about speaking appearances (he’s also great speaker).

Growing Your Own Soapnut Tree

The soap nut tree Sapindus Mukorossi aka Indian Soapberry is a very large tree that produces prodigious amounts of a soaponifying nut that you can use as a greywater safe laundry detergent, dish and hand soap. Mrs. Homegrown wants to rip out my beloved Mission Fig tree to plant the one that Craig at Winnetka Farms gave us last year. I’m going to chain myself to the fig.

That being said, I wish we had more room to plant our soapnut tree. Sapindus Mukorossi requires a fertile soil and a frost free climate. It’s a tall tree that can take as long as ten years to begin fruiting. A friend of mine has one growing in Altadena.

Sapindus Mukorossi needs lots of water. Craig has pointed out the perfect permacultural pairing for our dry climate–use the greywater from your washing machine to water your soap nut tree.

It can be a bit tough to get the seeds to germinate. Here’s some instructions on how to grow Sapindus Mukorossi from seed.

If you’re in LA you can buy a tree from the folks at Winnetka Farms.

I vote for Sapindus Mukorossi as LA’s next street tree . . .

Transition Founder Rob Hopkins in Pasadena


Monday, October 14: Pasadena, CA
“Just Doing Stuff”
Talk and Fair
10:30am–2:00pm
Transition Pasadena hosts Rob Hopkins speaking at 11:00am about climate change and how communities across the country and world are transforming their economic, energy and food systems from the bottom up. Welcome by Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard.

At the Fair: Repair Café, Learning Garden tours, potluck lunch, and networking with local sustainability groups and neighboring Transition Initiatives.

Throop Unitarian Universalist Church
300 S Los Robles Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101

Tickets: $10, pre-register for $5 at
www.justdoingstuffpasadena.eventbrite.com

Transition Founder Rob Hopkins in Los Angeles

TRANSITION MOVEMENTRob Hopkins, the founder of the international Transition movement is coming to Los Angeles for two events:

Sunday, October 13: Westchester, CA
“Just Doing Stuff” Festival
2:30–4:30pm
Fun for all ages: Live music, food, transition-related displays and interaction in the beautiful Emerson Avenue Community
Garden, at 80th Place, Westchester 90045

Festival is free.
“Just Doing Stuff” Panel
5:00–7:00pm
Rob Hopkins’ talk and conversation
with friends:
Andy Lipkis, founder and director
of TreePeople
D’artagnan Scorza, executive director of the Social Justice Learning Institute
Meghan Sahli-Wells, Culver City Vice-Mayor and core member Transition Culver City
Joanne Poyourow, Initiator Transition LA, Environmental Change-Makers

Westchester United Methodist Church.
8065 Emerson Ave, Westchester, CA 90045
Tickets: $10 pre-registration required at
www.thepowerofjustdoingstuff.eventbrite.com