The best reason to write a book with someone else is to gain exposure to new ideas. When I lived in Chicago, I approached Paul Virant, chef and owner of Vie and Vistro in the suburbs of Chicago, about working on a book with me about pickling and preserving. Paul was well-known locally for his canning prowess, and I wanted to document his take on preserving. The idea seemed to fit a cookbook perfectly, so I approached Aaron Wehner, then the editorial director at Ten Speed Press, with the idea. He bit, and Paul and I got to work.
The first half is filled with canning, fermenting, and otherwise making use of summer produce. The second half is composed of seasonal menus to show how to use all these jars once you have them. Paul and I even drove up to Wisconsin to take an acidified foods certification course to ensure we understood the whole avoiding botulism / keeping pH in the safe zone balance.
The book was meant to be canning from a chef's perspective, but it's also extremely approachable for home cooks. There are also a few gems in the book that have nothing to do with pickles, like Paul's version of Irish soda bread. (It's not really Irish soda bread at all, and that might be why it's so good.) Truth be told, my mom says this is the best book I've worked on. The Preservation Kitchen Publication Date April 3, 2012, with Ten Speed Press.
“Advanced, intelligent pickling recipes from the starred Chicago chef, plus inspiring seasonal menus in which to use them.”
—New York Times Book Review
“Virant is a fine coach for cooks accustomed to packing strawberry freezer jam into upping their game and inspiring those interested in keeping local flavors on their table year-round.”
—The Chicago Tribune
Virant offers seasonally inspired menus—beef chili with pickled candy onions, chased by his wife’s chocolate chip cookies, for a wintry warmer; grilled and pickled summer squash salad and summer berry soda floats for a breezy supper—that make use of the fruits (and veggies) of their labors. Geared toward ambitious home cooks and professional chefs, these recipes could inspire the rest of us to fit into one of those categories.
—Carly Boers, Chicago Magazine
“With clear instructions and a full seasonal spectrum of inspiration, this has already made its way to the top of my stack of spring cookbooks.”
—KQED Bay Area Bites
"The Preservation Kitchen makes us want to can everything."
"If any book could inspire me to can, it's this one...To flip through this book is to await every turn of the season and every visit to the farmer's market to come."
—Time Out Chicago
“Virant's suggestions for cooking with preserved foods are helpful for both beginning and experienced cooks, and provided menu plans focus on making the preserves shine. A unique guide to elevating pickling and preserves, recommended for adventurous cooks and eaters.”
“Paul Virant takes us on a delicious journey in The Preservation Kitchen, to unexpected spots that ring of traditions long forgotten, to exciting places that our palates want to savor for hours. Paul’s Fried Chicken with Cherry Bomb Pepper Sausage Gravy and Drop Biscuits is soul food for a new millennium and his Beer Jam and Ramp Sauerkraut may just show up on my restaurant menus.”
—Rick Bayless, Chef/Owner of Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, and XOCO, Chicago
“Along with being a great technical guide to preserving fruits and vegetables, The Preservation Kitchen gives the reader a first-hand look at Paul’s exceptional talent and culinary philosophy. By sharing his immense knowledge and passion, he leads the way as a great craftsman and mentor for future generations of food professionals and enthusiasts. Paul’s zest for life and great food is contagious!”
—Jacquy Pfeiffer, Founder of The French Pastry School
“Paul Virant’s approach to the modern kitchen extends seasonal boundaries far beyond nature’s reach. By suspending local treasures in time, and incorporating them creatively, he has redefined American cooking as we know it. Truly a jar star!”
—Paul Kahan, Executive Chef/Partner of Blackbird, avec, The Publican, and Big Star