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Appetites: A simpler way of preserving

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Take all your old notions of preserving and throw them away, says Beth Dooley.

The food writer would know — her new book is titled "Savory Sweet: Simple Preserves from a Northern Kitchen."

Perhaps it's best to mention some of what you don't actually need for successful canning.

• Whatever you're canning needn't be in season. Freeze what you don't need — small batches taste better, anyway.

• Laser precision isn't necessary. Think about cooks of the past ... they didn't have digital scales or any special jars.

• You don't need canning salt. What you cook with works fine. 

• Don't bother with pectin either.

• And you don't have to do the water bath thing.

• Your jams and jellies don't need to be sweet. Dooley's recipes use half the sugar of other recipes.

Curious for more? Use the audio player above for Dooley's whole interview.

Now, here are some recipes from Dooley and "Savory Sweet" co-author Mette Nielsen.

Honey mustard

Honey mustard
Honey mustard
Courtesy of Beth Dooley

Makes about 3 quarter pints

Honey tames the flame here, making this mustard just right for Midwest sausages on the grill.

1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds

1/2 cup Vinho Verde or other dry white wine

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Put the mustard seeds in a glass or stainless steel bowl and pour in the Vinho Verde.

Cover the bowl, and let it sit at room temperature so the seeds swell and soften, at least 1 day and up to 3 days.

Turn the soaked mustard seeds into a food processor fitted with a steel blade, and process the mixture for 1 or 2 minutes, scraping down the sides, until the seeds have broken and the mixture is creamy.

Add the vinegar, honey, allspice, and ginger, and process, scraping down the sides, until the mixture is thick and fairly smooth, about 2 minutes. If the mustard looks dry, add a little more wine or some water, and run the food processor for a few more seconds to mix well.

Wash the jars, lids, and bands in very hot soapy water, rinse them well, and place them upside down on a clean towel to drain.

Fill the jars with the mustard. Wipe the rims with a clean wet cloth or paper towel, add the lids and bands, and tighten the bands. Label the jars.

Let the jars sit at room temperature for a week or longer before refrigerating them so the flavors mellow. Once the mustard is stored in the refrigerator, the flavors stabilize. If the mustard seems dry after you begin to use it, stir in a few drops of vinegar. Store the mustard in the refrigerator.

Serving suggestions: This is the mustard for glazing a ham, brushing on pork chops as they come off the grill, and slathering on sandwiches.

Mint and chili sweet pickled rhubarb

Makes about 3 half-pints

Mint and chili sweet pickled rhubarb
Mint and chili sweet pickled rhubarb
Courtesy of Beth Dooley

The cookbook Smag, by Danish author Kille Enna, is innovative, contemporary and totally Nordic. It's upbeat, boldly seasoned recipes are the inspiration for the cacophony of flavors — cool, hot, sweet, tangy — in Mette's pickled rhubarb. It brightens appetizers, salads, meats, and sides. Make this early in the season when the rhubarb is young and delicate. Note that the rhubarb's wide foot is the sweetest, juiciest, and most tenderpart of the stalk.

3/4 pound rhubarb, cut diagonally into 3/4-inch pieces (about 3 cups)

3 sprigs mint

6 wide bands lime zest

1 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Wash the jars, lids, and bands in very hot soapy water, rinse them well, and place them upside down on a clean towel to drain.

Divide the rhubarb among the jars. Place 1 sprig of mint and 2 bands of lime zest in each jar.

In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar, sugar, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes to a simmer. Cook, stirring to dissolve the sugar, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Divide the liquid among the jars. Cover each jar with a square of wax paper slightly larger than the jar opening, fold in the corners with a clean spoon, and push down gently so some of the brine comes up over the wax paper. Wipe the rims with a clean wet cloth or paper towel, add the lids and bands, and finger tighten the bands.

Label the jars. Cool completely and tighten the bands before storing the jars in the refrigerator.

Serving suggestions: Finely dice the pickled rhubarb, and toss it into salsa. Serve it over grilled pork or salmon. It pairs nicely with soft cheeses and cured meat.