The Basic Basics Jams, Preserves and Chutneys Handbook, by Marguerite Patten

A month ago, I heard that Paper Palate. net where I write a lot of cookbooks reviews had gone down, some kind of virus.

I had not back up the reviews thinking that such a solid site was forever. A month later, it is back on line so I decided that the best thing to do, was to share the reviews with Pebble Soup readers.

On Paper Palate, I had a weekly series called Top 50 Fridays, Featuring....... and here is how it all started..........

With an innocent review of the Independent “50 Best Cookbooks.” After writing it, I put the subject aside. As far as I was concerned, that was it, period, end of story. But I kept thinking about the list, wondering, ”How did these books make it to the top 50?” “Do they have something in common?”

Oh, yes, we were entering dangerous but familiar territory - that of compulsive curiosity. I tried very hard to forget about it, but nothing worked. There was only one way to find out: yep, I was going to have to investigate.

First thoughts: the list is randomly arranged, so I was going to randomly explore it, starting with The Basic Basics Jams, Preserves and Chutneys Handbook, by Marguerite Patten, published by Grub Street.

So who do you have to be to make it to the top 50? I assumed that it was not about the writer but about the content, but that was a silly assumption as the two can’t really be separated. Marguerite Patten is an authority in cookery writing. In 2007 at 93 she received “the woman of the year award.” If that was not impressive enough, she is said to have paved the way for today’s celebrity chefs. Earlier in her career, during WWII, she worked for the Ministry of Food, whose advice is being resurrected by Jamie Oliver, who is currently trying to get the nation cooking healthy, nourishing, tasty food - but that is another story.

What did I expect from such an influential food writer? A lot, and a lot I got. Jams for most of the letters of the alphabet; I mean fruits in all seasons. Did you know you could make banana jam? Marmalade with marrow, dill jelly, and curd with fruits other than lemon? But all is not exotica; most indeed is basic basics. Chutneys and pickles, ketchup and vinegars do feature here too. There are also answers to most technical questions, starting with essential information on tools.

Personally I love making jams, but I tend to stay clear of the pot because of its sugar content. Well, little did I know, I can now reduce the sugar content by half and use a freezing or sterilizing method as the issue with low-sugar jam is the preservation rather than anything else. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Are all the top 50 complete guides of tried-and-tested recipes written by distinguished professionals? Have no fear; I shall continue my quest and let you know.

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