Q & A with Cathy Barrow and a Giveaway

Mrs Wheelbarrow book cover

Nov. 12, 2014: UPDATE: We have a winner! Congratulations to Alto2, winner of a copy of Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry. Thanks to everyone who participated. I so enjoyed reading about your favorite preserves. Keep canning!

There is magic in the transformation of food. In the moment when a pot of simmering strawberries thickens to preserves; when milk coagulates into soft curds of cheese; when a slab of pork belly becomes pancetta. Anyone who’s ever put up a couple of pints of jam knows how satisfying that ‘ping’ sound is indicating a metal lid has sealed properly.

Of course, it’s not really magic, or at least not only magic; it’s science. Botany, biology, chemistry, physics. Cathy Barrow offers a generous helping of both science and magic in her debut cookbook, Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving. Cathy is the author of the blog Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen, and an expert all things preserved. In her book, she guides cooks with confidence and enthusiasm through various techniques for preserving fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, and dairy.

The recipes are far-ranging, from refrigerator “quickles” to duck confit, from strawberry-mango jam to homemade camembert cheese. You will learn how to can beans and how to smoke oysters ~ and because I love both these foods I have put them on the top of my to-do list. In addition to the primary recipes there are “bonus” recipes for putting all those preserves to good use.

Cathy and I met some years ago and became fast friends. One of the things I admire most about her is the many turns her professional life has taken. She’s been a retail buyer, a fishmonger (her shop in Pittsburgh was called Porgy and Bass), an event planner and a landscape designer. We caught up recently over lunch, where she answered a few questions.

* * * * * * * * * *

DM: What is the first food you ever canned?

CB: I started at age 5 with my great grandmother. Her son, my great uncle, had a small farm. He would drop off bushel baskets of produce and we would can it. My mother and I canned in the mid ’80s and it was her mango chutney that got me hooked. She wouldn’t part with more than one little jar every year and I developed such an addiction, I had to start making it myself. [NOTE: You’ll find the recipe on page 104 in the book, along with a bonus recipe for inside-out samosas with mango chutney.]

DSC_0816

Newly minted cookbook author Cathy Barrow

DM: When did preserving turn from a hobby into a passionate pursuit for you?

CB: Once I started writing the blog, and especially when I would post recipes on food52, I began to notice that people responded to the whole canning thing. And I began to understand that I had information that other people wanted. It was a natural evolution. (There was also the niche thing. I was admittedly searching for a niche.)

DM: A lot of food lovers know you through your blog, Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen. But not as many people know that you’ve had a number of diverse careers over the years. Tell us about yourself and your past lives.

CB: I have worked in so many different careers (department store buyer, fish market, marketing & membership & event planning for trade associations, landscape design and now writing). Somehow I feel that each of them has informed where I am now. I’m pulling from each experience.

DM: In the past decade or so we’ve seen a resurgence of interest in home canning and also a growing interest in food preservation through pickling, fermenting, drying, salting, curing, smoking, etc. Why do you think the preserving process holds so much appeal? And why has it made such a big comeback?

CB: Certainly the interest in reducing additives, salt and sugar in foods, trying to move away from processed food, has led a lot of people to start preserving. Also, a general interest in DIY and the availability of information on the web has made it more accessible for the curious. Finally, the local food movement ties in to preserving very organically. After all, only by preserving can you really eat locally year round.

DM: You are no-nonsense on the subject of safety in your book. Do you think people underestimate the potential hazards of home preserving?

CB: I think they overestimate it. Really, with jam, jelly and pickles? These are the high-acid foods that will mold if they go bad; they’ll never kill you.

DM: What are some of the most common mistakes people make when preserving?

CB: One is not cooking jam long enough — to the boil that will not stir down — a scary, spitting hot mess. Another one is not cutting the blossom end off a cucumber before pickling it. There is an enzyme in the blossom end that will cause pickles to go limp and there’s nothing worse than a limp pickle. Just slicing off a little bit from each end guarantees you won’t have that problem. (I say both ends because sometimes it’s hard to tell which is the blossom end.)

rugelach apricot edit copy

Rugelach made with homemade cream cheese and preserves, from Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry (photo credit: Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton)

DM: This is your first cookbook. What did you enjoy most about the process? What did you enjoy the least?

CB: I thought I was an organized person, but it turns out I’m not. It took a long time to get the recipes wrangled into an order that made sense. Thank heaven for [my editor] Maria – because I was not able to visualize it. My husband, Dennis, said I was thinking about it from “inside the jar.” Maria helped me see it from “outside the jar.” The most enjoyable part was writing. Who knew? I did not start out thinking of myself as a writer, but I’m so passionate about the subject, it just felt right.

DM: Tell us about the cover of your book. Here we have a book on preserving and yet…no jars.

CB: From the beginning I said there would be no jars on the cover. It’s not just a book about preserving. It’s about seasonality, about eating locally, about broadening your skills and your pantry. Why memorialize just that one moment? That’s why I included the bonus recipes for using what you make ~ so that what goes into the jar doesn’t stay in the jar. Early on, I told Christopher (Hirsheimer) and Melissa (Hamilton) that I wanted the cover to be like a contemporary Dutch master painting. They thought that was pretty hilarious and laughed. But that’s actually what they ended up doing without thinking about it.

DM: One of the attributes about your book that I really like is that you’ve made even daunting techniques sound completely doable. Were there any techniques that were tough to master? Or surprisingly easy?

CB: I’m very happy with the way the recipes get progressively more challenging in each section of the book. That’s the only way to get past that trepidation — by building skills. So, I wouldn’t say there were techniques that were difficult, but some of the recipes took a while to develop. The smoked oyster recipe is one I’m especially proud of — I must have made them at least 30 times to get the flavor profile right. That’s a lot of oysters.

DM: So, what’s next? Will it be yet another new career? Or a new book?

CB: I’m working on a proposal for the next book — it will include more recipes, new techniques and menus using what you’ve made.

* * * * * * * * * *

To find out where Cathy will be in the coming weeks, check out the Book Events page on her site.

FOR THE GIVEAWAY: I’m giving away a copy of Cathy’s book to one lucky reader. To enter, simply leave a comment in the comments section below telling me about your favorite preserve, whether it’s a jam, a pickle, something smoked or salted or fermented. Also, please feel free to share a link to a favorite preserve recipe if you have one. Be sure to enter your email address (which will not be posted) so I can contact you if you are the winner. A winner will be chosen at random (and by that I mean I will write all entrants’ names on slips of papers, put them into a hat, blindfold one of my kids and let him or her retrieve the winning name). The winner will be announced on the blog on Wednesday, November 12, 2014, so check this post for an update.

* * * * * * * * * *

I have my eye on numerous recipes in addition to the aforementioned canned beans and smoked oysters, including the Caramel Pear Preserves, Pressure-Canned Tuna, and Guanciale (cured pork jowl). Here, I’m sharing Cathy’s recipe for homemade mascarpone, which is as simple as they come and at the same time incredibly good ~ sweet with a slight tang, and a perfect dense creamy texture. I swirled a spoonful of it into cream of celery soup the other night (stay tuned for that recipe) and added the rest to a pumpkin pie (also coming soon).

Makes about 1 cup

Homemade Mascarpone

Cathy Barrow's recipe for homemade mascarpone is as simple as it is divine. It contains just three ingredients ~ cream, lemon juice and salt. But with just a little manipulation ~ a little heat, a little chill ~ they become something entire different, rich, creamy fresh cheese. Cathy suggests a number of uses: "Slather it on a peach half, sprinkle with light brown sugar, and broil until bubbly. Stuff dates with it, roast for 5 minutes in a 425 degree F oven, and sprinkle with crunchy salt and olive oil. Fill a meringue with key lime curd and mascarpone folded into whipped cream." (Recipe from Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry, W.W. Norton & Company)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (16 ounces) heavy cream (non homogenized pasteurized cream is best; see NOTE)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Fine sea salt

Instructions

In a small saucepan, heat the cream to boiling. Reduce the heat, add the lemon juice, and simmer the cream for 5 minutes; it should be at a temperature of 185 degrees F. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside for 30 minutes.

Set a fine-mesh sieve lined with a double thickness of damp cheesecloth over a bowl. Without stirring, gently tip the cream into the lined sieve, letting the whey run into the bowl below. Sprinkle a small pinch of salt over the cream. Cover and refrigerate the bowl and sieve for at least 8 hours, or overnight.

Remove the mascarpone from the sieve by lifting the cheesecloth by the corners and twisting it into a packet; discard the whey. Mascarpone will keep, wrapped in the cheesecloth in a covered glass or ceramic bowl, for up to 2 weeks. Wipe away any collected whey in the bottom of the dish daily to keep the cheese fresh. [DM: I spooned the drained mascarpone into a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and stored it, capped, in the fridge.]

NOTE: Pasteurized is not the same as ultra-pasteurized. Ultra-pasteurized cream has been heated to above 280 degrees F to extend shelf life. It tastes flat and doesn't whip as well as regular pasteurized cream. For this recipe I used pasteurized non homogenized heavy cream from Lewes Dairy, in nearby Delaware.

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79 Responses to Q & A with Cathy Barrow and a Giveaway

  1. Rosa Jeanne Mayland November 5, 2014 at 10:13 am #

    An interesting interview and book! Homemaade mascarpone tastes so good.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. Lisa Frisicano November 5, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    Thanks Domenica for the chance to win this amazing looking book! I’m a canning newbie, however last year and again this year I’ve managed to use my Rigamonti Il Passatutto to process 30 quart Ball jars of local, farmstand tomatoes. I freeze the jars, and use them all year long for my Sunday sauce. How satisfying not to purchase canned tomato!
    All the best, Lisa

    • Domenica Marchetti November 12, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

      I agree, Lisa. I invested in a heavy-duty tomato strainer. It’s hand-crank but it works great and I love it. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Sherry Libby November 5, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    Cranberry Amaretto Chutney is one of my favorites to preserve.

  4. Stefanie Sacchetti-Poorman November 5, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

    What a great book to add to our collections to help us keep in touch with the “basics”! I LOVE fig preserves with cheese-gorgonzola especially! Thank you for the continued inspiration!

  5. Deb|EastofEdenCooking November 5, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

    My favorite preserve is Olallieberry Jam. The jam is one my mother would make each summer. It seemed that no matter how many jars she made it was never enough! It was the Olallie that drew me into learning to make my own jams.

    • Domenica Marchetti November 12, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

      Deb, I’m not familiar with olallieberry. I’ll have to look it up. Is it specific to a certain region?

  6. annette turello November 5, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

    blueberry,peach jam and orange rind

  7. Wendy November 5, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

    I will say that my favorite is strawberry rhubarb (which I first made after a class of Cathy’s!) but this year the strawberries were a bit anemic so I branched out and tried a blueberry jam (also based on Cathy’s in the Post!. Superb!

  8. Helene K November 5, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

    Tomato jam is my favorite preserve.

  9. Betty Ann Quirino November 5, 2014 at 5:30 pm #

    I learned to make preserves, jams and pickles from my mom at a very young age. I still make some today. I’d love to expand my knowledge with Cathy’s book. Can’t wait to get hold of a copy. Thanks for sharing, Domenica and Cathy!

  10. Adele November 5, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

    Blackberry Jam is my favorite

  11. Barbara W November 5, 2014 at 7:24 pm #

    Green tomato chutney. No matter how busy, I find time to make this every late summer, when the first green apples come to the farm market and I have green tomatoes in my garden. It’s full of fruity, gingery, vinegary, sweet flavor…

  12. Mary November 5, 2014 at 10:08 pm #

    Discovered MrsWheelbarrow through Food52. Her book is gorgeous. I think we both favor sour cherry jam.

  13. linda November 5, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

    Strawberry/blueberry jam. My son and I picked the berries. A favorite memory, too.
    Thanks for the tip on cutting the cucumber blossom end, most helpful!

  14. Aaron Rishell November 6, 2014 at 5:42 am #

    Strawberry jam

  15. jamielifesafeast November 6, 2014 at 8:10 am #

    To tell you the truth, I need Cathy to inspire me! The actual owner of the hotel we are buying has built a reputation for his jams that he makes himself and serves at breakfast which means that I have to learn how to make jams and take over the task! I’m a bit daunted…. Yipes! But although we are a pickle-loving family I have to say that my favorite preserve is cherry jam. I eat cherry jam every single day.

  16. Joan Osborne November 6, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    Hard question so many I enjoy. I’ll go with my Mom’s dilly beans. They are delicious and addictive. A close 2nd is the peach vanilla jam I made. Yum! Thanks for the chance to win this one as it sounds fantastic.

  17. Mary Loring November 6, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    Cranberry chutney!! Actually, all kinds of chutney!

  18. Cindy lehrer November 6, 2014 at 8:22 am #

    Lekvar

  19. alice November 6, 2014 at 8:26 am #

    kumquat with vanilla

  20. Michelle Hawkins November 6, 2014 at 8:27 am #

    I made Cathy’s recipe for focaccia with apricot jam, caramelized onions and fennel last night. It was outstanding!

  21. Luanne O'Loughlin November 6, 2014 at 8:30 am #

    My grandmother’s butter pickles. I saved the last jar too many years after her death, but I couldn’t stand that it was the last jar. I only have the memories. I haven’t been brave enough to try to match her skill.

  22. quilters101 November 6, 2014 at 8:34 am #

    I too started canning at a young age. At about 8 , I was straining tomatoes and helping my Mom in the kitchen. I am so entirely grateful for it. While the other ladies on the street were having their coffee clutch, my Mom was busy putting up the harvest from local markets and local farms. Go Mom. Of course I did not appreciate it then but I absolutely do now.

    The book sounds amazing. I like practicality in cook books. Looking forward to checking it out!

    My favorite jam I make is Peach Amaretto- its on my blog- Loris Lipsmacking Goodness.

  23. Jessica K. November 6, 2014 at 8:45 am #

    My favorite preserve is definitely fig!!!

  24. Deborah Anne Steinau November 6, 2014 at 8:47 am #

    My Grandmother’s fresh homemade fig preserves. Translucent gold with shimmering syrup!!! I wish I could have some right now!!!
    Deborah Anne

  25. Brooke November 6, 2014 at 8:52 am #

    Triple berry jam!

  26. Moshe November 6, 2014 at 9:01 am #

    Beef jerky. That counts right?

  27. monica cesarato November 6, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    Best ever preserve? Sambuca jam! amazing!

    • Domenica Marchetti November 12, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

      Monica, I’m so curious about Sambuca jam. I’ve never heard of it. Do you have a recipe?

  28. Alex November 6, 2014 at 9:42 am #

    I would love to have a pear or Apple butter for the entire fall and winter and pair it with homemade marscapone. Savory or sweet I’d love to learn it all!

  29. Gail Magnani November 6, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    Picalilly!

  30. Jenny Hartin November 6, 2014 at 10:09 am #

    My favorite preserve is pirate peaches.

  31. Alto2 November 6, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    My favorite preserve is honeybell tangelo marmalade because the fruit is so rare. Second would be marionberry preserves from the Pacific Northwest.

    • Domenica Marchetti November 12, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

      Congrats on winning! I’ve heard of tangelos but never honeybell tangelos specifically. I’ll bet it’s delicious.

  32. Linda Gordon November 6, 2014 at 10:55 am #

    My favorite is blackberry preserves

  33. Ulla Kjarval November 6, 2014 at 10:55 am #

    apricot!

  34. Sue Vogel November 6, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    Peach almond lemon thyme preserves. A great condiment with cheese, especially honey goat.

    • deneen November 6, 2014 at 11:22 am #

      wow Sue – that sounds amazing!! care to share the recipe?

  35. Alison Arsenault November 6, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    My favorite jam is a tie between strawberry rhubarb and heavenly peach, my favorite marmalade is tied as well between pumpkin or carrot. Too many favorite pickles to name one or two. I would love to own this book to expand my knowledge & to try new recipes. The cover alone makes me want to won it.

  36. deneen November 6, 2014 at 11:22 am #

    my favorite preserve of late is Chai spiced Peach. I love it on everything!

  37. Susan Cohen November 6, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    I’m not doing any preserving at the moment but I want to start making jams and jellies like my mother did particularly her crabapple jelly.

  38. christina November 6, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    The book sounds wonderful!

  39. Lisa Barron November 6, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    Raspberry Jam… can’t wait to make your Rugeluch recipe

  40. Sharyl Wolter November 6, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    my fav preserve is raspberries!

  41. whatfoodimade November 6, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    I’m a big fan of apricot preserves.

  42. Pat Carolan November 6, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    My current favorite is bacon jam but others make it, not I. Last time I canned it was a disaster – salsa was awful and threw it all away. Willing to try again!

    • Domenica Marchetti November 12, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

      Don’t give up Pat. Start with something really simple. I would recommend apricot preserves because they thicken easily and without any added pectin. Also, you don’t even have to peel them because their skin dissolves in the cooking process.

  43. ciaochowlinda November 6, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    Thanks for introducing me to Cathy and her new book. I can’t wait to get it and try some of the recipes. I really enjoy quince jelly. It’s sweet but a little tart too, and makes a perfect topping to spread over fruit tarts. I haven’t made any yet this year, but still have a couple of jars from last year. In the meantime, I’m waiting for your pumpkin pie with mascarpone. Hurry before Thanksgiving.

  44. Sara November 6, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

    I love making plum jam–it’s not so common in stores, it’s easy to PYO enough fruit (in comparison to berries) and delicious!

  45. Tracy November 6, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

    I don’t think I’ve found my favorite preserve just yet. Growing up I can remember milling hand-picked blackberries which my mother would cook down, fill jars and then cover with hot wax. I also remember a time when my parents were making homemade sauerkraut in a beat up white barrel, held in the cellar of an old family friend. There have been loads of tomatoes squished into jars. Green beans. Peaches. It’s funny, they would haul the canned goods down to the basement, using them from time to time, while other fell pray to a layer of dust. In retrospect I wish that I had payed more attention to the process.

    • Domenica Marchetti November 12, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

      Tracy, there are so many kitchen rituals I wish I had paid attention to when I was little. And you’re right ~ sometimes it’s not making the preserves that presents a challenge; it’s making sure they don’t go to waste just sitting in the pantry.

  46. Karen S. Wirima November 6, 2014 at 3:44 pm #

    My favorite jam is Strawberry Passion Fruit!

  47. Tricia Keels November 6, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    Cranberry apple chutney

  48. Karen Chrestay November 6, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

    I’m having fun with salt-fermented, uncooked hot sauces. We grew a lot of chile peppers this year so I’ve been experimenting with 5 different versions in a rainbow of vivid colors and ranging in heat level from mild to incendiary.

  49. Jacqueline Willis November 6, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

    If the book is half as good as that homemade mascapone recipe looks, wow!

  50. Sue November 6, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

    MY favorite of my recipes is a Chocolate Raspberry Spread, however, others seem to like the Cherry Amaretto Jam best.

  51. Phyllis@Oracibo November 6, 2014 at 7:28 pm #

    Great review Domenica! I know, you like canning as much as I do! It’s so satisfying to see all those beautiful, colourful jars all lined up on the shelf, such pleasure. Love the recipe for the homemade mascarpone too…make homemade creme fraiche all the time but will absolutely be making this…look forward to checking out Cathy’s book too!

  52. Phyllis@Oracibo November 6, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

    Forgot how much I love the cover of Cathy’s book!

  53. Tracy McGinty November 7, 2014 at 9:25 am #

    I’m new to preserving and am looking for a favorite!

  54. Megan November 7, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    Black raspberry is my absolute favorite!

  55. Adri Barr Crocetti November 7, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

    What a lovely interview. I so enjoy these one-on-one pieces you do, Domenica. I love making preserves, jams and such. There’s nothing better than opening up the pantry in winter and being able to grab a jar of summer. As for my favorite – that’s easy. Pear-Vanilla Butter. But please count me out of the contest. I already have a copy.

  56. Denise Long November 7, 2014 at 7:23 pm #

    Love Rose Petal Jam and Rose Petal Syrup…http://www.divinacucina-blog.com/2006_04_01_archive.html

  57. lmsunshine33 November 7, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

    I love currant jelly and bottled gooseberries. Bottled prunes (big plums) are also one of my favorites.

  58. Teslaca November 7, 2014 at 9:53 pm #

    I really enjoy a lavender jelly I make occasionally.

  59. Tina W November 7, 2014 at 11:07 pm #

    My favorite thing to can is a Roasted Red Pepper Jelly. And I’m still searching for a recipe for a Beet Chutney a friend brought back from Australia years ago, I know it had horseradish in it, and it was divine!

  60. paninigirl November 8, 2014 at 10:23 am #

    I love your tomato jam and mostarda too! I have a little fear of canning-wondering if I’m really doing it correctly and I end up putting what I made in the fridge!

    • Phyllis@Oracibo November 9, 2014 at 11:10 pm #

      Domenica’s instructions are quite detailed about how to do the canning…but if you have concerns check out a website like Bernardin to alleviate your canning fears…

  61. Shawn November 8, 2014 at 6:27 pm #

    Pear Butter is my favorite thing to preserve. Every time I open a jar, it smells like Christmas! Also, every year I make a large batch of Cherry Chutney for a special pizza sauce. It’s a family favorite!

  62. Lynn November 8, 2014 at 8:09 pm #

    So many great items people shared above! My favorite is usually what is in season and some version of it I’m canning. I have to say though, the fig mustard made for the first time this year is high on the list.

  63. Chiara November 9, 2014 at 9:06 am #

    Un’ interessante intervista per chi, come me, non conosceva l’autrice di questo libro, grazie ! Il mascarpone è un formaggio terribilmente buono, farlo in casa è una grande tentazione!

  64. Paula November 10, 2014 at 2:42 am #

    I am pretty new to preserving/canning, but am really enjoying making jam. I find it very satisfying. My current favorites are Strawberry and Mint jam (from Cathy’s blog) and Peach Preserves with Lemon Verbena.

  65. Megan November 10, 2014 at 10:23 pm #

    Zuchinni relish is my favorite for early summer canning. Can’t wait to peruse this book.

  66. Jenna Oh November 11, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    I love strawberry jam! 🙂

  67. Carolsue November 11, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

    My new favorite is Vanilla Peach Jam
    http://sarahsjoys.com/2011/09/14/vanilla-peach-jam/

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    […] Domenica Marchetti asked me questions over lunch (and made mascarpone)  […]

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