Review: Preserving with Friends

I got my first promo item in the mail a month ago, for review. I felt pretty big. Harriet Fasenfest, author of The Householder’s Guide to the Universe, and my ethernet mother-in-spirit, sent me her DVD called Preserving with Friends: An easy step-by-step instructional guide to putting up the harvest. She had hoped that I might watch it and review here.

First of all, I told her honestly, I don’t much promote buying stuff. That’s what this is all about right? Preserving is mostly straight forward– a book from the library, a few recipes from a reputable source, or an afternoon with a friend should set you in the right direction. But then again, I’ve been doing it for 12 years. I’ve forgotten the intimidation of Beginning, and maybe some of you don’t have a friend to show you the ropes. Many people learn much easier from watching than reading. Maybe a DVD is just the thing for anyone out there who wants to get in on all the hip preserving fun, but feels shy to it.

Time is precious ’round these parts. Preserving with Friends is an exhaustive 3 1/2 hours (as well it should be, it covers the classic jam-making and canning fruits and tomatoes, and then goes into making pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and kombucha, as well as pressure canning vegetables, drying, freezing, and root cellaring. Phew. That oughta do it!) I watched the first 40 minutes, then I will admit to skipping ahead to see Sandor Katz, whom I have a massive crush on. So I can’t give you the full report, but the parts I watched were excellent. The explanations of each step were extremely clear and thorough. There were a few subtle wisecracks thrown in to keep you on your toes, but none of the mindless banter and fluff anecdotes that can plague instructional videos. It’s concise and focused.

It’s hard for me to speak to how well it explains things, since I am hardly a beginner and most of what I saw was very familiar.

So here’s the deal. We need you. You novices out there. Anyone who would love to have a little visual boost of confidence in the preserving kitchen, leave a comment here. As usual, I will not be following the regular blogging rules, this is not a standard giveaway. I might pick a winner randomly if you all sound eligible, or I might exersize my Blogstress power and pick the person I feel most needs and deserves it– so tell me your story. And then, don’t think you are getting something for nothing! When you have watched the DVD, I want a short report back. You can email it to me, and I will post it here.

I’m not much for protocol, as you know. I’ve never done a giveaway before. I feel like I give quite a lot of myself, in my posts. How about y’all send me a good book, is how I figure it.

That said, I got this DVD for free, and I don’t really need it. Some one of you might really appreciate it, and furthermore give a more relevant review. It seems like a win all the way around.

Ready… Set… Convince me!

33 thoughts on “Review: Preserving with Friends

  1. Dear stringz,

    What the hell??????? Give a gal a gift and she can’t wait to unload it. But I get the spirit and I will up the ante.

    If you give me the the names of the ten folks you think I should send a copy to, I will. I will be the Janie apple seed of preserving – spreading the gospel of jam throughout the land. What the hey? I’ll start with jam and move on to, well, to upending the corporate culture (and I ain’t talking yogurt).

    Much respect,

  2. CJ! It’s got to be more than a coincidence that the day that I am making strawberry jam and preserves, and sweating my prego buns off in the process, you post about a canning dvd give-away!!
    I’ve only made jams and chutneys successfully. This year I plan to can tomatos, make sauce, pickles, salsa and pie fillings. I am trying to decide if I want to get a pressure canner and do some “serious” canning, but I have to admit, I’m a little nervous about taking that step. A dvd might help…
    I’ve been on a hard-core pickle kick the past month or so and tried my hand at lacto fermenting – FAIL! I ended up with a mushy mess. My attempt at sauerkraut last fall, also a FAIL. Clearly, I am one of those watch and learn types, not read and do.
    I’ve got radishes out the ying right now and I woud love to make a daikon-esque radish pickle but don’t quite know where to start since my lacto-ferm pickle experiment was a bust.
    Although my posts are not nearly as entertaining as yours, I’ll be blogging about today’s activities later on tonight at doingdomestic.
    So seriously!!! Send me an instructional DVD and hook a girl up!

    Mrs. R

  3. I’m a novice. In fact I’m clueless, although enthusiastic. This is possibly a dangerous combination. I love (and have attempted to make) jams and chutney and am very keen to give pickling a go. I’d love some help, to be frank.

  4. Two words….FROG BALLS!
    Aka as spicy pickled brussel sprouts. I am addicted and have to (shhhh) mail order them. I rarely buy anything that needs to be shipped to keep my carbon footprint to a minimum. But admittedly (only to you and your readers), this urban farmer orders frog balls on line because I am too intimidated to pickle em myself (embarassing, right?). It’s that whole botulism thing that scares me (I know, acidity kills it), but some reassuring instruction would be just the thing I need to launch my preserving part of my homestead.

  5. Wow, nice giveaway! I could use it too, after taking our local Master Gardening course, I’ve attempted several times to get our extension office to give a canning class but to no avail : ( which is really a shame since its a very rural local surrounded by farmers and gardeners (who it must be said are probably old pro’s at this) but a lot of my friends and I are “comehere’s” with absolutely no experience and an absolute terror of screwing up royally, lol! This may be just what we need to get it together, suck it up and plow ahead!!

  6. I would love to learn to can, and although I’ve taken a class on it and bought all of the supplies I need, I haven’t yet done it because I don’t feel very confident in making the right choices at home. I’m sure having a teacher in my home (on video) would be really useful!

  7. Oh Jeeze, I’d love this. Seeing as I have three friends who are like me totally clueless as to canning. We are however very eager to learn and have all our supplies. Just too frightened to begin! I have tried kefir and it died in less than a week which is really unfortunate because my son is lactose intolerant and loves the stuff. I have to buy him the commercial stuff which kills me because I know that isn’t the good kind!

  8. Calamity, I’m not one bit interested in preserving with or without friends. So ignore my comment in the giveaway. But I just HAD to say that I love that you’re doing your giveaway your way, not following the blessed ‘rules’. x

  9. i would love to take a look at this! ive done jam and salsa but nothing else yet and i was given a pressure canner 2 years ago but im scared to try it by myself!!! not sure how much canning i will get to do this year with the wild almost 2 year old and new babe (in arms constantly to keep him safe from sisterly “love”) but maybe ill get some daddy help and give some more food preservation a go!

    still loving the blog but rarely commenting as my computer time is often limited to late night nursing (one handed surfing…)

    take care,


  10. Wow, my heart is going pitty-pat! I do want this very much, but you’ll think I’m daft- only because of the homework! I’m excited to get into preserving food, but will carry on putting it off unless there’s someone I have an obligation to, so you’d have to give me a deadline for the feedback!

    I’m pretty much a complete beginner- made fairly disastrous marmalade for my Dad one Christmas when I was a teenager, and dried a bunch of pears last summer at my in-laws’- yum! And, we just finished off last summer’s blackberries, gathered from wild areas all around the neighbourhood and shoved in my freezer.

    I’ve always been nervous about canning. I was given a dehydrator for Christmas, and am about to have a chest freezer and a proper garden! (Well, an American yard.) We’re moving from our little south of London flat to a less-little south of London house, next month, touch wood! I have been longing for years to have space to grow food, and taking gardening classes, growing things in pots and grow-bags, and dreaming…

    I love growing food more than anything in the garden, except composting. I do love my worms most of all.

    Thanks for your chook wisdom, too, my dear. I think I could get into this new garden and bite off more than I can chew. One thing at a time, or at least only a few, and they better be compatible with a 2 1/2 year old and a 6 week old!

    There’s also going to be child-safe space in the new house for my sewing machine to come out of storage! A very dear friend has just asked me to help make the decorations for her wedding- big, big bunting!

    Ooooh, now I’m making myself nervous. Perhaps I’m not ready for canning. Yikes. Reading blogs about it is good…



    1. Now, see what you’ve done, CJ?!! Now I’m back here to say no, perhaps you’d better knock me out of the running here- I want chooks! Canning can wait til my kids are bigger, just please don’t blog next about how fabulous canning is with real littlies.


      1. traditional canning isn’t much for the littles. lots of super hot, burny stuff. but there are other canning projects that are great with littles. pesto is a winner. no rush, no critical moments, they get to push the buttons on a machine (always a favorite), and put the lids and rings on. no sterilzation (put the jars in the freezer, they keep fabulously) no worries, and the stuff isn’t even sloshy and spilly. i should do a whole post on good DIY jobs to do with kidlets. in the meantime, you can search for my pesto post, one of my first.

  11. Another Australian here.

    I’ve made a few jams. Some worked, some burned, one I even managed to make one in to toffee….oops!

    I snaffled 24 Size 31 Fowlers Vacola jars at a second hand shop a few years ago, but have been a bit too daunted to preserve anything in them. I’ve managed to buy rings, clips lids. Have even gotten a big pot that will fit a few jars in at a time and lucked out and got a round rack from my mum which will fit in the pot (she got it at a garage sale and was wondering what to do with it!)

    I’m all ready to go but too scared to take the plunge. Help me!

  12. I’m usually so good with my foods. I’m a great gardener. I always end up with way more than the family needs so I’m constantly bringing food in to work to share. I’ve been told that I’m a great cook and dessert maker. (I’m always asked to bring desserts at potlucks.) I am wonderful with my food dryer. I’m a freezer expert. The one thing I don’t know much about is canning. I think it is because of an experience I had when I was just 10. My great grandmother, grandmother and mom were canning tomatoes one summer. They used to do this every year. This was the first year I was allowed to watch. I don’t know what went wrong, but for the first time they created a huge mess. They had just put the jar into the canner and we walked into the living room to cool off and enjoy some tea. Next thing we knew there was a loud boom. When we walked inside we say the 12 ceiling covered and dripping with tomato pieces. Seems that one batch of jars exploded. It took some time to clean the mess. What a first lesson. Since that time I’ve never attempted to can. I think after those 30 years the shock has worn off and I’m ready to try again. However this time around I need to learn to do it the right way!

  13. I would love to win the DVD. Have canned, preserved, frozen for years but the stumper for me is the pressure canner. I have one and for years have just used as a water bath canner. I read the directions over and over and still balk at trying it. The whole fermenting business is new to me too. We love sauerkraut and I have my grandmother’s crock, but cannot follow any of her hand written recipes as re’ pickling.

  14. This DVD sounds fabulous…have been canning for a year now, but still have so many things to learn and more stuff to can and pressure canner is a mystery to me! Thanks for a great giveaway!

  15. I would’ve love to be one of the recipients of your DVDs. Gardening, wild foods foraging, and cooking with fresh ingredients are domestic skills I feel quite comfortable with, but preservation and fermentation is an area I lack experience. I was just discussing global history of fermentation with my pals over at … and yesterday I learned about a technique using “ginger bugs”. I have my canning pot, ball jars, cheese cloth, beer-making carboy, thermometer, and most importantly FRIENDS all ready to go. Now all we need is a “nifty how-to” to get us started.

  16. I was just looking at this on Harriet’s Preserve website! I thought about getting it, as I’ve only canned a couple types of jam. I’m branching out to pickling this summer… I currently have beets in the fridge for this express purpose. But I’m a little nervous… never done it before… and sometimes the unknown is the most daunting thing of all. I’m also hoping to try fermentation… but that too falls into the daunting-unknown category. I have the garden, the CSA food… and it’s too much. I have to preserve it somehow… and yet it’s intimidating… *sigh*… seems like a jar of pickles shouldn’t beat me at this game…

  17. 1. I am trying to TEACH my granddaughter, 11, the basics and she is very eager to learn. A video would sure help!

    2. I need HELP! lol … – while I can do runny jelly and jams, and tuna and ground clams, I have NO CLUE about veggies! I am trying to convert from drying veggies with the dehydrator to canning them… HELP! I lack confidence to venture into new fields!.

    3. I moved and just put in a huge new garden and fruits and berries… I need to learn FAST!

    Nice of you to do this giveaway! Enjoying your blog!

  18. I so need this video!!! I have never canned. Ever. This year I started on the journey of being a (suburban) homesteader and I have done so many things for the first time; planting a garden, utilizing as much space in my townhouse backyard as I can to grow as much food as I can, making as much as I can from scratch, sewing/knitting/crocheting/embroidery, and much more. This summer I desperately want to learn how to can because I’m working on storing food, but I have never even touched a canner (pot? Canning pot? I don’t even know what it’s called! See how much I need this??) I don’t have anyone in my family to teach me either as any homesteading skills have been lost in my family a couple of generations ago. Fermenting is also something I want to do, but that intimidates me more than canning. I’ve read a few great books that have touched on these subjects, but I am a visual learner and I would love a really great video to teach me the ropes.

  19. The DVD sounds wonderful…. I just got Harriet’s book a couple of weeks ago and love it. I seem to have lots in common with her! (including some of life’s hardships with grown kids) As a woman who has been doing canning and preserving for many years, I still love learning new things. I am 60 years old (I really can’t believe I am 60!), and in 1975, I had a pear tree experience much like Harriet’s. We had an old pear tree in the back yard of our little rental house in Roswell, GA. I used those rock-hard pears to make the most delicious pear butter ever….using a book from the library called, “Putting Up Stuff For the Cold Time”, by Crescent Dragonwagon…..probably her first little book. Then, I tried blackberry jam, with berries picked with my first baby, Ethan, on my back, and with that success, I was on my way. My favorites now are fig jam, apple butter, and strawberry jam and jelly. I just did the strawberry jam last week, and froze plenty of berries for smoothies as well. My husband, daughter, grandson, and I spent a Sunday afternoon at a pick-your-own farm nearby, picking double what we did last year!
    We have a small garden, and I can tomatoes every year. I used to can and freeze more of a variety of fruits and vegetables , but where we live now, (on top of a small mountain), we don’t have the good dirt and full sun we did where we used to live. Someday we hope to find a better place!
    Anyway, even though I have been doing some of these things for a while, I have so much more to learn! Please consider me for the DVD!
    I just looked up Sandor Katz and will order his book with my next Amazon splurge. This is so exciting! Learning new ways to improve my family’s health, is my kind of fun!

  20. Oh, Sandor Katz. It’s the way he rhapsodizes about foraging, right? And ripening cheeses.

    My Gran was a champion preserver and had a farmhouse walk-in pantry wall to wall with preserved everything. I was a bit late getting interested and the big boiler and all the Fowler Vacola jars were long gone, very sadly my Gran too, before I cottoned on that this might be the thing.

    I know not one single person who’s ever preserved anything, and I’m limited to jam I keep in the fridge. I’d love a friend to show me how, and Harriet sounds like the best kind.

  21. Would love to give the DVD a look-see! I’m still pretty new at canning. This will be our third year with jam and pickles, but that’s about all we’ve done. We did beets once with iffy results and garlic last year that was um…. gross. I’m really interested in pressure canning, canning tomatoes and veggies, possibly meats, and fermenting. I LOVE me some sauerkraut and would love to learn to make it myself!

    Also I’m really interested in alternative methods of preserving lie root cellaring, dehydrating and stuff. Would love to actually SEE how people do these things!

    Pick me! Pick me!

    1. Ok – maybe it’s bad form, but I’m coming to say if you haven’t already picked all ten, PLEASE pick me! I literally have to do some preserving with friends ASAP! I have about 50 pounds of frozen plums in the freezer that I intended to make into plum jam last year. But I never got to it, and now, at 8 months pregnant, it’s starting to seem daunting. But if I don’t do it soon, it’ll be fruit season again and my freezer will still be full! I’ve offered to some of my friends that whoever comes over to help me can keep half of the jam. But it would be the perfect time to watch and review the DVD! Pick me please!! ;)

  22. Last year was the first time I ever had a garden. I planted my guts out and had quite the harvest… mostly tomatoes of which I thought “What the HELL am I going to do with all these tomatoes?!?!!?!” So, I picked up a Ball Canning book and went to work. SO.MUCH.FUN!!!!!

    I made salsa, spaghetti sauce and stewed tomatoes. I had cherry tomatoes coming out of my ears so I pickled some of those as well… then the bug bit me and I went to the local farmers market and got green beans to can! Weeeeeeeee!!!

    It’s gardening season! Pick me! Pick me!! I’m a sponge, I tell ya!

  23. I’m glad you left this open another few days, because, dude. This past week plus a little. It wasn’t so much wiping bums or snotty noses but more like the fun and joy of a dental infection sucking my soul straight out through my nostrils. Its been a fantastic week, let me assure you.

    I’ll be honest. I’ve attempted canning exactly once. Violet jelly. did not work. I have a flat of strawberries sitting in my freezer from this past weekend when I dragged myself and the kids (through sometimes blinding pain, dear god) to the farmer’s market. And I have a garden in the the back that will soon be throwing cucumbers, zucchini and tomatoes at me faster than I can say “UNCLE!”

    I have the barest of basic knowledge about how to do all this – I call my grandma up on a regular basis to ask for advice on things. But this whole..canning..thing? It feels way more daunting than just calling grandma up for a recipe and more like I need a visual aid to guide me through strapping on my boots and *doing* it. I want to be able to confidently work this whole preserving thing!

  24. Thank goodness for today’s post – yes, I am one of the Mamas who might get a chance to just quickly read a new post, but not enough time to actually respond between refereeing duty, nose wiping, grocery shopping, cooking every. single. meal from scratch.

    I yearned to get online yesterday and ask, pretty please, to be a lucky top ten winner. But, it was a late nap (with me falling asleep, breastfeeding does that to me) and bedtime with The Man working late. All I managed was to think about this post, my own need to compose a blog post rattling around in my mind, and the need to go to bed.

    Today is full of sunshine (in Seattle it’s a treat this time of year) – and theoretically with this second chance/day to enter the DVD contest.

    Background: I have only scattered memories helping my aunt can peaches – I’d wash, blanch and peel for hours stealing bites from the random imperfect slices (she was a perfectionist). Last year, I started really cooking from scratch, and wanted to learn canning. But, between a 1.5 and 4 year old, I never found the time to sign up for one of those full day classes at the local community college.

    If I get a DVD, I will watch all of it – but, probably only in spurts of 30min-1hr. Any 3 hour slot of time is scarce around here.

  25. OK, I’m not even going to try to compete with all these posts for the canning DVD. Suffice it to say that I’m just plain ol’ uninitiated when it comes to canning. I’m growing my first garden and plan to attempt canning tomatoes. I bought a book (won’t name it) that is pretty much worthless in my opinion. So…I will gladly PAY for a DVD Harriet, if you just let me know where to go on the web to buy it where you will benefit the most. The link above sends me to Chelsea Green. Is that where I should purchase it?

    Just let me know.

  26. Ok Miss CJ, I’ll admit I’ve been absent! I missed looking in to the comments until this morning and mainly because I’m busy mixing up my arsehole with my elbow.

    So on with the convincing…the begging…the pleeeeeaaaaading!!!

    This dvd would be perfect for my womens group that meet here at my home each friday morning. We currently call ourselves the Easy Mama’s, cos we’re pretty Easy. Well, we do most things by natural means and we’re pretty happy to meet every week, despite the soap curing or the knitting or what ever that is going on.

    And this year is THE year for the start of our permaculture adventure. The fella just ripped out most of our suburban nightmare palm-ridden garden, and as this little part of the world cools we’re planting in apples and almonds, citrus (I mean, we neeeeed limes, for beer, ya’ll!), and low crops of silverbeet/spinach and pumpkins and stuff like that. Not to mention how I will eventually have my way soon, and have me my chickens!

    So getting the ability to have a watch and do in the open kitchen here with my ladies and jamming up some jam, krauting up some kraut? Would be perfect.

    So fingers crossed!

  27. Aw man, I am so ready to learn! I really need this DVD! I’m in my thirties, and I do remember that my grandmother did preserve her harvests, but I was never nearby when she did. I so wish I could learn all the ins and outs of it all & teach my 3 children! This year is our very first attempt at a garden here in suburbia… everything is planted in 5 gallon buckets, lol. I got tired of waiting for the perfect home to garden at & decided to just try my best! I would love to know what to do with the harvest! I’m going to hang out here at this blog for a while, cuz I have LOTS more to learn!

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