Cookbook Review: Cured Meat, Smoked Fish, and Pickled Eggs by Karen Solomon

Note: I received a digital advance reader copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

As someone who has never pickled, cured, or smoked any foods, I dove into this unique cookbook with some trepidation. Would this be a book more suited to a chef or would I actually be able to make some of these recipes in my own kitchen?

The answer was thankfully the latter. Author realizes that a lot of these techniques are daunting, and she holds your hand through all the techniques in the first part of the book. From smoking to drying, fermenting, pickling, canning, curing, oil-preserving, any way you can possibly think of preserving a food, she will teach you. She also briefly mentions the history of food preservation but never in a dry boring way. I came away feeling like a more accomplished, knowledgeable chef.

Once she walks you through the basics, she gives about 70 recipes, broken down by meat. The recipes incorporate the methods taught earlier in the book, and helpfully list which methods will be used, along with the page number if some mental refreshing is needed.

The recipes cover everything from staples like pastrami, bacon, ham, and beef jerky to interesting spins on the familiar like Preserved Egg Yolks, Salmon Jerky, and Pickled Tofu. She also includes some recipes from other cultures like Biltong, Khlea, Coppiette, Bak Kwa, and Rou Song (a staple of my Chinese-American childhood!). The recipes are clearly written and about a third come with gorgeous color photos. For some of the basics, she follows them with recipes that incorporate them, like Boston Baked Beans for the Salt Pork recipe and Bacon, Roasted Tomato, and Onion Spread for the bacon recipe. For vegetarians and vegans, there's even a section with new spins on eggs, tofu, beans, and nuts.

The recipes are clearly written, and the overall aesthetic is elegant but approachable. My minor criticisms are that I wish there were slightly more photos and slightly more recipes. But for what is in here, the writing and clear instructions inspire confidence in the kitchen in an endeavor that can go very wrong if not done properly. When I first encountered this book, I thought it sounded too niche, but now that I've read it, I think it's an interesting concept that satisfies a clear need. There is something to be said for being daring and enterprising enough to preserve all your own food for a rainy day.

I would buy this book for not only me, but also my friends who enjoy cooking. The recipes might be a bit intimidating for the beginner cook, but they are sure to excite anyone with a love of food.

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

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