Earlier this summer, I was contacted by Sarah at AmazonEncore, who asked if I would like to review a copy of “The Berry Bible: With 175 Recipes Using Cultivated and Wild, Fresh and Frozen Berries” by Janie Hibler. She won the James Beard award for a single subject for her other cookbook, "Wild About Game: 150 Recipes for Farm-Raised and Wild Game - From Alligator and Antelope to Venison and Wild Turkey."
I love berries so I was quite excited there was a whole book on just berries. In “The Berry Bible,” Hibler talks about picking berries after she moved to Oregon, which immediately reminded me of my childhood when I sometimes tagged along as my parents picked berries on weekends to supplement their income. Hibler traveled the world to learn about all kinds of berries from the Saskatoon berry found on the Canadian prairie to the best strawberries at markets in Europe.
An encyclopedic breakdown from arbutus to thimbleberry discusses the berries' common names, scientific classification, habitat, history, how to pick, how to store, and whether they're commercially available. There are lots of berries that I've never even heard of such as the sea buckthorn berry, which apparently tastes like pineapple and is popular in Russia, Mongolia, and China where it is used in jams, jellies, juices, liqueurs, candy, tea, ice cream, cosmetics, and medicine.
The book is also peppered with random anecdotes such as when Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visited Saskatchewan, Canada and attended a dinner at the Blaine Lake Ukrainian church, one of the women told the prince to keep his fork because they were serving Saskatoon pie. Saskatoon berries!
Or how during the Great Depression, 5,000 city residents overwhelmed Native American huckleberry-picking grounds at the base of Mount Adams. A new treaty had to be determined to keep the invasion in check.
There's plenty of pies and cobblers and jams and jellies. Hibler managed to get the recipe for Marionberry streusel tart from Papa Haydn's Restaurant in Portland, where I can attest to having eaten several of their delicious desserts.
You already know I've used berries in savory recipes such as my Pork Ribs with Coca Cola and Strawberry Jam. Hibler's non-dessert recipes include blackberry-port lamb shanks that can be braised in the Crock Pot, Muscovy duck breasts with black currant sauce, beef tenderloin with Lingonberry cream sauce, and many more. There are also simple recipes for berries used in other ways such as this raspberry vinaigrette.
Or black currant dressing.
My main problem with the book though, and you've probably already guessed by now, is that there are absolutely no pictures! I need pictures! Especially when discussing all these different kinds of berries. I want to see what they look like in the wild for the encyclopedic part and then I want to see what the berries look like in the recipes.
Organizationally, the recipes are written one after the other, so sometimes a recipe would span several pages, sometimes just one or two sentences would trail on the next page. Anecdotes are inserted in the middle of a recipe, instead of in between two different recipes as a page break. With 175 recipes, it seems like the publisher was trying to cram as many as possible into the cookbook, instead of trying to present them in the best possible light.
Nonetheless, I found the "The Berry Bible" quite informative and the recipes are definitely intriguing. It just takes a truly dedicated berry fan who's willing to overlook the lack of pictures and seemingly hodgepodge organization.
But if you're that dedicated berry fan and would like to receive a free copy of "The Berry Bible," then leave a comment telling me why you'd like to win. This giveaway is open to everyone in the world. Yes, thanks to Sarah and AmazonEncore, "The Berry Bible" will be shipped to the winner anywhere in the world. I know when I was abroad, it was hard to find books in English, much less cookbooks so despite its drawbacks, I think this is a great deal.
Deadline to leave a comment is 11:59 p.m., Sunday, October 17th. I will pick a winner using random.org and update this post. Make sure you leave contact information or check back to see if you've won. After three days, if I don't hear from you, I will pick a new winner. I've had to draw for new winners in recent giveaways after previous winners neither responded to my emails, nor checked to see if they've won, so this actually does happen.
Good luck! And thanks again to Sarah and AmazonEncore for sponsoring this giveaway.
October 18, 2010 update:
Congratulations! The winner of the "Berry Bible" is #11, Ngoc!
Please check your email so you can claim your prize.
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