250 Cookbooks: Putting Food By

Cookbook #172: Putting Food By, Ruth Hertzberg, Beatrice Vaughan, Janet Greene, The Stephen Greene Press, Brattleboro, Vermont, 1973.

Putting Food By cookbook

The following is a quote from my own blog a couple years ago, when I covered the Complete Guide to Home Canning, Preserving and Freezing USDA.

“I used to put up tomatoes, hot salsa, jam, and pickles each year. I’d go to local vegetable stands and buy vegetables and fruits by the bushel. Why? So that I’d know the ingredients in my food, and I enjoyed doing it.”

And this is a quote from Putting Food By:

“Putting food by is prudence, and it’s involvement. It’s also a meaningful return to old simplicities and skills. Above all, it is deeply satisfying. We know what is added to food we put by for our families.”

Seems like the authors and I are in complete agreement! Putting Food By also gives a heads up to the USDA-produced pamphlets (like the Complete Guide to Home Canning) in the acknowledgements:

“The authors are grateful to all the anonymous dedicated people in federal- and provincial- and state-run projects in the United States and Canada who are constantly researching better and safer ways to handle our food.”

As I stated in my 2-year old blog post, these days I only put up jams. Well, that is, at least until I wrote that post and made dill pickles – I’ve made them several times since. Home made pickles are wonderful.

Both of these “canning” books are 1973 editions. I must have bought them In the mid-1970s, where for a year we rented a “quaint” old house on Walnut Street, called  “Walnetto” by our circle of friends. Somewhere in that house I found (and kept) two books: The Fannie Farmer Cookbook and the Whittier Wildcat Cookbook. Walnetto had a long backyard that went all the way to the creek that runs east between Walnut and Canyon. We used to have volleyball games there. And – we had a garden! The only time my husband and I really had a vegetable garden. He was the real gardener, I have to admit. I might have helped plant seeds but was lame on maintenance, like weeding and watering. But I loved having that garden, going out and picking fresh lettuce and carrots for salads. Lots of tomatoes, and of course overgrown zucchini. (There was even a shed with a fenced yard where we had a few chickens. The last chicken we had was the meanest thing . . . but I digress.)

I probably bought Putting Food By and the Complete Guide to Home Canning, Preserving and Freezing USDA in that era, and used the information to put up the overflow from our garden. We even had an ancient canning-pressure cooker. Ah, the memories.

Putting Food By is still in print! It’s in the 5th edition, published in 2010, with the same three authors. My copy is the first edition (and I’d love to see a copy of the 5th sometime). The chapters are: Canning, Freezing, The Preserving Kettle (jams, marmalade, fruit butters, relishes, pickles, mincemeat), Drying, Root-Cellaring, Curing (salting and smoking), The Roundup (rendering lard, pasteurizing milk, making soap, sausage, and cottage cheese), and Recipes. (There are also recipes throughout the book, the “Recipes” chapter covers using the canned/preserved foods.)

I think it’s the chemist in me that makes this all fascinating. And the fact that I love fooling around in the kitchen. Alas, time and the easy availability of good canned and preserved foods makes delving too far into putting food by . . . well, I’d say I have tons of other things I like doing too. And I don’t have a vegetable garden.

The canning directions and recipes in Putting Food By are clear, and cover the gamut of anything I ever might want to put up. I have no trouble finding something to try for this blog: “Corn Relish”. It’s corn season here in Colorado, and a corn relish sounds like a nice accompaniment for Mexican food.

Corn Relish recipeCorn Relish recipeThis corn relish requires a “hot pack”. When I put up jam and such, I always use the popular 2-piece canning lids. To hot pack this type of canning lid, you put the hot vegetable or fruit mixture into hot sterilized jars, put a hot “dome” lid (the flat part) on top, screw down tightly with a hot metal screw band, and place the jar into a hot water bath that covers the jar to process. I refreshed my memory on this process by reading pages 10, 19, and 31.

I decide to leave out the turmeric and add a California green chile, but otherwise follow the recipe.

Corn Relish
makes 4 pints

  • 8-9 ears corn (you need enough for 4 cups corn kernels)
  • 1 cup diced sweet red peppers
  • 1 cup diced sweet green peppers
  • 1/2 cup California (Anaheim) green chile, diced (these are the long, milder green chiles)
  • 1 cup celery, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
  • 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • a few drops of a hot sauce, like Tabasco
  • 2 tablespoons flour mixed with 1/4 cup flour (optional)

Shuck the corn and cook in boiling water for 5 minutes. Let cool, then cut the corn from the cob to make 4 cups. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 4-5 pint glass canning jars to sterilize them while you prepare the relish. Also have a small amount of boiling water to sterilize the dome lids.

Combine in a big pot: peppers, celery, onion, vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, celery seed, and hot sauce. Bring to a boil and boil 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

If you want the relish thickened, at this point, add the flour and water mixture.

Add the corn to the pot and boil, stirring frequently for 5 minutes.

As the relish boils, remove the jars from the boiling water bath. (This water bath is used in the next step, so don’t empty the pot yet!) Drain the jars on a clean cloth.

Immediately pour the cooked, hot relish into the drained, sterilized jars. Top with a sterilized dome lid, then add the screw-top band and tighten. Put the capped relish jar back into the boiling water bath, making sure the level of the boiling water is above the level of the top of the jars.

Process in the boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Remove the jars and let them cool. They will keep at least a year in your pantry, but always check the jars before use to make sure the seal is not compromised.

In the photo below, I have the relish boiling and the empty jars sterilizing.

cooking the relish and sterilizing the jars

Next, the filled, sealed jars are in their 15 minute boiling water bath.

hot packing the relishAnd here are the jars of canned relish!

corn relish


This relish is good. It is sweet and sour and hot. I will use it mostly as a garnish for Mexican food.

I will definitely keep Putting Food By. Along with Complete Guide to Home Canning, it is a great reference for when I come upon a lot of produce or have a hankering to play around in the kitchen.

250 Cookbooks: Complete Guide to Home Canning, Preserving and Freezing

Cookbook #41: Complete Guide to Home Canning, Preserving and Freezing. United States Department of Agriculture, Dover Publications, Inc., NY, 1973.

Complete Home Canning CBPublisher’s note: “This book is made up of seven pamphlets originally published as a consumer service of the USDA. The valuable practical information which they contain is gathered together here for the first time in book form to provide a permanent work of reference which can be distributed among the general public.”

This is indeed a great permanent reference, even though it was published in 1973. (It only cost $2.50!) Safe canning facts do not change with the years. I’ve used this book a lot, you can see the food marks on the cover. The book kind of plops open at “Making Pickles and Relishes at Home”, and that’s what I am going to do – make dill pickles!

I used to put up tomatoes, hot salsa, jam, and pickles each year. I’d go to local vegetable stands and buy vegetables and fruits by the bushel. Why? So that I’d know the ingredients in my food, and I enjoyed doing it. Believe it or not, in the late 1970s it was hard to find good hot salsa. I used to send jars of canned goods off to family members at Christmas.

But it’s been awhile. Nowadays I only put up jam, and usually I only make small batches. (I recently had lots of fun making apple butter for this blog, though.) I got excited when I pulled this book from the shelf. It’s August, and Colorado’s farmers’ markets have so much fresh produce to offer. I now have an excuse to go to the Boulder Farmers’ Market – an adventure! You never know what you are going to find, and just watching the people is entertaining.

I need to back step just a bit before I get started on my adventure and the recipe for dill pickles. I want to overview the contents of this book.

The Complete Guide to Canning, Preserving, and Freezing has seven sections:

  • Home canning of fruits and vegetables (I used this section for tomatoes)
  • Home canning of meat and poultry (never used)
  • Making pickles and relishes at home (used a lot)
  • How to make jellies, jams, and preserves at home (a good reference)
  • Home freezing of fruits and vegetables (rarely used)
  • Home freezing of poultry (never used for reference)
  • Freezing meat and fish in the home (never used for reference)

The freezing sections are the least useful to me. I mean, if I want to freeze a chicken, I buy it from a store and toss the package in the freezer. There are some strange instructions in the poultry freezing section. For instance, they describe how to make chicken sandwiches and freeze them in heavy waxed paper. I’d never do that.

I’ll stick to the good parts of this book. Such as, the recipe for dill pickles. I  scanned in the recipe (below), but the section also includes several pages of straightforward information on handling the jars and the cucumbers, a table for adjustment to high altitude, and how to store the pickles. I add necessary details in my own version of the recipe.

The original recipe calls for some sugar; I left it out on purpose. I like sour dills.

Dill Pickles RecipeDill Pickles
this recipe is for a small batch of about 3 three pounds of small cucumbers; yields 3 1-quart jars

  • 3 pounds cucumbers, 3-5 inches in length
  • 5% brine (3/4 cup salt per gallon of water; I made one gallon)
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons whole mixed pickling spice
  • whole mustard seed: 2 teaspoons per quart jar
  • dill: 3 heads fresh dill per jar, or 1 tablespoon dill seed per jar

Wash the cucumbers thoroughly, scrubbing with a vegetable brush. Put them in a plastic bucket (or a glass container) with enough brine to cover and let them stand overnight. I covered the bucket lightly with a towel.

Get your jars ready. Bring a very large pot of water to a boil: it needs to be taller than your quart-sized canning jars. Wash a few quart canning jars (I needed 3 but washed 5), then put them in the boiling water for 5-10 minutes to sterilize them. Carefully remove the jars from the boiling water and drain them. I was lucky to find my old jar grabber in the basement, it’s in one of the photos below. Keep the water boiling because you need it again.

While the jars sterilize, tie up the pickling spices in a little square of cheesecloth. Combine the vinegar, salt, and water in a pot and drop in the tied-up pickling spices. Bring to a good rolling boil. I let it boil awhile to encourage the spices to release some color and flavor into the mix.

Drain the brine off the cucumbers. Put some dill in each of your sterilized jars, then pack in several cucumbers, add more dill and some mustard seed, then pack until full with cucumbers.

Take the pickling spices out of the boiling vinegar-salt-water mixture, then pour it into the jars to cover the cucumbers.

Close the jars. I use two-piece metal jar caps. One piece is a flat metal lid with rubber-sealer around the bottom rim. The other piece is a metal screw band. Place the flat piece on the jar, then screw the metal band down tight by hand to hold the sealing compound against the glass. This lid has enough “give” to let air escape during processing. They do not need to be tightened further after processing.

Immerse the filled and covered jars of cucumbers in the very large pot of boiling water. My pot was very full, so I had to remove some water as I added the last two jars.

Bring the water back to boiling as quickly as possible. Start to count the processing time when the water returns to boiling, and continue to boil gently and steadily for 20 minutes (sea level) or 25 minutes (5000 ft).

Remove the jars and set them upright to cool.

Here’s my cucumbers in the brine for their overnight soak:

cucumbers in brine Drained cucumbers and the rest of the ingredients:pickle ingredientsBoiling the pickling mixture:

pickling liquid

Pickles-to-be packed in the jars with the dill and mustard seed:packed cucumbers

In the photo below, I have poured in the pickling mixture and firmly capped the jars.pickles_forbathBelow, they are in the pot of boiling water:

pickles inbathHere, after the hot-bath treatment, you can see that the cucumbers look like pickles now, less bright green and more yellow-olive-green.pickles after bathI can’t wait to try these. But I have too! They need time for the seasonings to soak into the cucumbers and make them true pickles. I processed these on a Sunday and next Thursday I’ll put a jar in the refrigerator and on Friday I’ll try them.

It’s Friday, and here are the pickles. Yes, these are great! I’ll make them again.

dill pickles