Blue Ribbon Preserves by Linda J. Amendt


One of the most popular competitions at any fair is the preserves and canned goods contest. Cooks show off their mastery of jam and jelly making, along with creativity by offering unique delicacies to tempt the judges.

Hands-down, Linda J Amendt is the master of preserved food entered in competitions. Her walls are hung with blue ribbons and awards she's collected from around the country, and Blue Ribbon Preserves is a treasure for the novice or veteran.

If a cook could have only one book about preserves, this may be the one to have. Linda's tutorials about basic food safety and sanitation are wonderful. She goes into detail about every step and a glossary of canning terms is included for the newbie. However, the creative and tasty recipes are where this book outshines the rest. She adds her special touch to every recipe, with tips to make every one of them "eye-candy." Details to prevent fruit from floating to the top of the containers and preparation advice so the contents are displayed without distraction are scattered throughout the book.

ImageJams, jellies, soft spreads, pickles, chutneys and flavored vinegars, as well as pie fillings and ice cream toppings fill the pages. With names like Cherry-Amaretto Dessert Sauce and Pineapple-Papaya Marmalade, the book reads like a gourmet sweet shop. There are also recipes for Crunchy Dill Pickles, Onion Relish and Basil Vinegar. Linda gives the reader clear instructions and even anecdotal stories on many of the recipes.

There are chapters on canning basics, suggested equipment, safety tips and a thorough discussion of competing in local and state fairs. A troubleshooting section is included as well, and she discusses common problems a cook might encounter when preserving food. Each problem has a list of potential remedies that can turn failure to success.

If you are a cook who enjoys giving gifts from your kitchen, you'll not be disappointed with the recipes in this book; neither will your family, friends and co-workers. There is a recipe for nearly every fruit or vegetable and many of them are surprisingly simple. Even first-time cooks will find something they can easily prepare.

As we celebrate the history and traditions of fairs and harvest celebrations, we should also take note as to the amount of work that goes into prize-winning offerings. No detail is insignificant and Linda gives the reader a list of small touches that make the difference between a prizewinner and disqualification. Blue Ribbon Preserves is an essential tool for anyone contemplating entering competitions at the fair and a wonderful addition to any cook's library.

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