What do beer, cheese, yogurt, bacon, sauerkraut, miso and jam have in common? They are all preserved foods, and come from a culinary need as old as human civilization itself: the problem of alternating food scarcity and seasonal overabundance. Can It! celebrates the miracle of preservation, which has done so much to create the diversity of cuisines found around the world.
Today our preserved foods are often frozen, refrigerated, pasteurized, irradiated, vacuum-packed or pumped full of preservatives, but even before these methods were invented, our ancestors, knowing next to nothing about organic chemistry, found ingenious techniques not only to preserve the foods they grew but to alter them – to delicious effect. Wine is more than old grape juice, just as cheese is more than spoiled milk. These transformations resulted in new flavours, textures and, ultimately, new ways of defining the tastes and cultures of communities, who passed down their knowledge from generation to generation. Exploring the history and science of preservation, Gary Allen examines all the major methods, from drying to smoking, salting, canning and fermentation. Allaying the fears of the squeamish, Can It! serves up historic and modern recipes that will help any home cook participate in one of culinary history’s most hallowed traditions.
‘A dry, bitter, salty history of food preservation but not boring, angry, or sassy! Humans have been finding ways to keep food around a little longer since time immemorial and Gary Allen goes deep on the subject in Can It!’ – Epicurious.com
‘Any cook interested in not just recipes but the wider-reaching history of food preservation will find Can It! an unexpectedly lively, fun read.’ – The Culinary Corner
Gary Allen is an Adjunct Professor at Empire State College (part of the State University of New York). His books include Herbs: A Global History (2012) and Sausage: A Global History (2015), both from Reaktion.