If you come across a copy of this book at your local thrift store, as I did, snap it up! This, the second printing “Special Deluxe Edition,” goes for up to $50.00 online. I lucked out and got a spotless copy. Of course, any book with canning information and recipes in it won’t stay spotless . . .
Having no foreknowledge of this book when I spotted it in between yellowed copies of microwave cooking manuals at Value Village, the reason I snatched it up was the words “Rodale Press” on the spine. Rodale Press is the publishing arm of the Rodale Institute, the people who bring you Organic Gardening magazine (Organic Gardening and Farming at the time that Stocking Up was published). Rodale was founded by J. I. Rodale, who founded the magazine in 1942 to encourage farmers to see the soil as a living organism and to try to educate them against using the tantalizing new “modern” fertilizers and pesticides which were largely leftovers from WWII. Since then, the Rodale Institute has performed decades of research and experimental farming. In short, I consider them a very trustworthy source. One caveat to my gushing praise: this book was published in 1977, so some of the canning guidelines may have been revised – anything involving tomatoes, surely. (Oh, and many of the resources have gone out of business or changed significantly.)
This is a hefty volume at almost two inches thick, and covers just about every food preservation topic: choosing fruits and vegetables based on their keeping qualities, freezing, canning, drying, root cellaring, pickling, canning, juicing; making butter, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream; dressing, freezing, canning, curing, and smoking meats and fish; harvesting and using nuts, seeds, grains, and making sprouts. And every chapter has recipes. The editor explains in the introduction that they wrote this book for the person who has “more than a backyard garden, but less than a big farm operation”. [pg xi] It was compiled from Organic Gardening and Farming reader interviews, out of print books (from a time when all food was organic by default), USDA and college extension research, and first-hand research by the staff at Rodale to create a book that is a fairly complete guide to “preserving everything that could be raised on a homestead . . . as naturally as possible, without the use of any chemicals or overprocessed ingredients”. [pg xii]
So long as you have a recent copy of the canning guidelines from your local extension, the USDA, or the National Center for Home Food Preservation, to bring you up to date on the latest research, you really don’t need any other book on keeping your harvest. Directions are straightforward and thorough and really do focus on what you can do on a homestead. For instance, in the cheesemaking chapter gives direction on making cheeses with purchased starters but also with thistle, which you may have growing on the edges of your property. No white sugar can be found anywhere in the book, chiefly because the Rodale staff prefer more nutritious sweeteners, but also because other sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, sorghum) can be produced on the homestead. Additionally, the jam and jelly recipes all call for low-methoxyl pectin, which requires calcium salts rather than sugar to gel, allowing you to use less or no white sugar (I like tart preserves. This is also a boon for diabetics who wish to make their preserves with sugar substitutes.). Furthermore, they also give directions for a homemade alternative to the calcium salts and even detail the making of homemade pectin from apple thinnings. Plans with clear diagrams show multiple methods of constructing root cellars, food smokers, dehydrators, and cheese presses from materials you may have on hand. I even found a handy chart detailing the amount of trimmed cuts I can expect to get from our piggies at butchering time – along with rendering directions for all that lard I’m going to have to get creative with.