Admittedly, I’m a total nerd. I love books and as the weather begins to turn, I would rather spend an evening curled up in a recliner with a book than going out. I enjoy a large collection of pre-WWII cookbooks, receipt and home ec books that I read frequently because there’s so much you can learn about our changing culture by reading old books! That’s also how I began learning many of the heirloom skills that I practice; skills such as cooking from scratch, building a pantry, homemade remedies and cleaners, sewing and fiber arts. I dont mind downloaded books or youtube videos, but I learn much more efficiently from actual books!
Anyway, wintertime is the perfect time to begin researching projects and skills for the next season and I’d like to share some of my very favorite books; books that I’ve found invaluable in the amount of practical information that you can glean from them!
Topping my list of books every wannabe homesteader, DIYer and home cook should own:
Blue Book Guide to Preserving (by Jarden Home Brands)– Simply put, this book has no competition. There are a LOT of great canning books out there, but the Ball Blue Book is the grandmother of them all. It covers the basics to home canning in great detail, with full-color pictures, step-by-step instructions and fully-tested recipes. If you’re even considering learning home food preservation, this should be the very first book you buy.
Jam On: The Craft of Canning Fruit – Jam On by Laena McCarthy picks up where the Ball Blue Book left off with exciting recipes for jams and jellies, chutneys, fruit pickles, shrubs, butters, syrups, simple cheeses and ideas for serving the finished products. Again, the book features beautiful full-color pictures with step-by-step directions. This is the book I go to when I want to do small-batch, off-season canning for gifts.
Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry – This is NOT your granny’s canning book! Divided into chapters according to seasons, Liana Krissof takes plain simple recipes such as classic strawberry preserves and then kicks it up a notch with interesting flavor combinations like strawberry-lemon preserves and strawberry-lavender jam. While there are few pictures included, it’s easy to read and full to the brim with interesting recipes.
Homemade: A Surprisingly Easy Guide to Making Hundreds of Everyday Products You Would Otherwise Buy – This is a funky little book that I picked up before my children were born and it has proven invaluable time and time again. It has literally hundreds of knock-off recipes for everything from household cleaners and toiletries to baking mixes and dog treats. Want to make homemade Ranch dressing? Or your own cold cream, oatmeal bread, anti-anxiety tea, wallpaper stripper or furniture polish? It’s all in there along with hundreds of other recipes. It’s a great book to help you reduce the amount of toxic chemicals and processed, packaged food in your home.
The Beekeeper’s Bible: Bees, Honey, Recipes & Other Home Uses – I picked this book up when we were first entertaining the thought of keeping bees and it’s an interesting read. It gives a history of beekeeping as we know it, an overview of what’s involved, what to expect and interesting historical and modern-day drawings and photos. There’s also a ton of recipes for using honey and wax in the home.
Gene Logsdon’s Practical Skills: A Revival of Forgotten Crafts, Techniques, and Traditions – Anything by Gene Logsdon is worth reading, but Practical Skills covers everything from home maintenance to land management. He’s my go-to guy for anything related to gardening, composting, animal husbandry, culinary arts and anything else related to home and farm. He’s not a fancy writer…you won’t find elaborate sentence structure and elaborate vocabulary, but plain old wisdom in simple words.
The Sweet Magnolias Cookbook: More Than 100 Favorite Southern Recipes – This book makes me so happy. It’s a taste of my childhood, full of the recipes my mom and mamaw made as I was growing up. The food isn’t fancy necessarily, but rough, hearty, delicious: Sunday ham with red-eye gravy, fresh apple cake, navy bean soup, cheddar corn muffins, fried catfish, corn chowder and a hundred other amazing recipes. This is the book I go to when the pains of being away from the coast get to be too much!
Better Homes and Gardens: New Cook Book, 16th Edition – This is my everyday, go-to, used til the pages are sticking together- cookbook. The standard for cookbooks for nearly 100 years, it covers everything from drinks and desserts to meats and vegetarian dishes. Nothing gourmet here, just plain, basic, cooked from scratch meals that your whole family will love. I’m still using the one my mamaw bought for me in 1994…it’s a real treasure to me for several reasons!
Basic Soap Making: All the Skills and Tools You Need to Get Started (How To Basics) – Basic Soap Making was the first book I purchased when I began dabbling in soap making. She covers everything from start to finish, including the saponification process, making molds, adding natural colorants and essential oils, plus many recipes including goat milk soap. The pictures are full color and the instructions are step-by-step.
Eat the Yolks – This book is a little different than the other books listed, but it was a game-changer for me so I feel compelled to include it. Several years ago, just as I had turned 40, I felt bad. Sluggish. Overweight. My thyroid had gone south. My joints ached. And then this book challenged me to re-think everything I knew about nutrition: that red meat is bad, grains are good and whatever you do, DON’T eat the egg yolks! I don’t follow a strict Paleo diet…I gotta have my cheese!…but the health results I’ve experienced speak for themselves. 40# lighter, cholesterol is down, thyroid is much happier, joints don’t crunch anymore! If you order nothing else from this list, spend the $4 and read this book. It’s a real lifesaver!
What would you add to the book list?