January 4, 2013

Saving the Season with Kevin West

Photo of Kevin West by Scott Sternberg

Paper Chase Press: Can you tell us about what led to you start Saving the Season?

Kevin West: I started making jam in April 2008, after I got carried away and bought a whole flat of strawberries at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. My original idea was to make strawberry shortcake and invite friends over for a party, but then I realized there was no way I’d be able to use all the strawberries before they went bad, so I decided to try to recreate my grandmother’s strawberry jam. (My grandparents were farmers in Blount County, Tennessee, and Gran was a very capable preserver.) That first experiment was a bust, so I tried again, and again, and again. Before I knew it I was in the midst of a full-blown jam obsession. My friend Dana Goodyear, the poet and New Yorker writer, suggested I start a blog to document my kitchen experiments, and Savingtheseason.com was the result. From there, I got busy making pickles, relishes, sauerkraut, kimchi, cordials, chutneys, condiments, and practically everything else you can put in a jar.

PCP: What are some favorite recipes for the winter season?

KW: In most of the country, winter is a slow time for “putting up.” It’s more like you’re “taking down” jars that you filled in the summer. But we’re super lucky in California to have the winter citrus harvest. February is the peak of marmalade season, and my all-time most favorite preserve—my desert island preserve, so to speak—is Seville Orange Marmalade, made with the potent and unforgettable bitter orange.

PCP: We’re excited to learn that you’re launching an online shop. What should we expect to find once the site is live?

KW: The shop will be up sometime early in the new year, and I’ll be selling my jams and marmalades, as well as a line of paper products, such as note cards and notebooks, and a collection of useful canning equipment, from jars and canning labels to jelly bags, preserving pans, and aprons.

PCP: Which of the products did you work with Paper Chase on?

KW: Paper Chase printed a set of folded greeting cards (featuring my photographs from the book), a set of flat notecards (with pen-and-ink illustrations by Scottish artist Nicola Atkinson), and the canning labels. I wanted to work with Paper Chase on this because they were already printing the labels I use for my retail collection of Saving the Season preserves, and people are always commenting on how beautiful the printing is. I agree, so I wanted them to do my other Saving the Season printed products.

PCP: You’ve traveled the world and picked up a few recipes along the way, when can we expect to see a book?

KW: I sold the pitch for a cookbook based on my blog way back in June 2010, and I’ve been working on it ever since. Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving (Knopf) will be published on June 25, 2013, and it’s dedicated to Gran, who inspired my whole passion for making preserves. By eerie coincidence, the book’s publication date, which was set by Knopf without any input from me, happens to be her birthday.

Photos by Robbie Acklen