Storing My Preserves & Cookbooks

In our new(ish) home, I am fortunate to have a cold storage room in the basement where I can keep my canning overflow. This is such a big change from my last place, where canning was stored wherever I could fit it: out of reach in high closets and cupboards, in boxes shoved underneath the couch and the bed. Over the years I became very adept at finding places to stuff jars of food. Of course, these were less than ideal conditions for storing canning long-term as the temperatures were a bit too warm, and it was extremely difficult keeping track of stock.

Now where are the pickles again? Underneath the bed, or at the back of my closet behind the socks?

The new storage room is fabulous, but it is in a difficult to access part of the basement. I have to climb over a hazardous mountain of bikes and bike parts to reach it, and since there is no light, I must also fumble in the dark in a spooky, cobwebbed room with a flashlight or make sure that I only traverse down there before night fall. I’m pretty sure this is where the former occupants kept their pet monster.

Since moving in, I’ve been keeping some of my most popular canning stock in the kitchen so as to avoid THAT ROOM. So when we finally got around to setting up our dining room properly a few months back, I decided that it would be nice to dedicate some space to house a larger quantity of food in jars. The convenience was required, but I have to admit that vanity was also a major factor. Canning is handiwork that I take a lot of pride in and I wanted to be able to see and enjoy those beautiful jars of apocalyptic snack foods regularly, rather than keep it hidden down in a dark and dingy, nightmare-inspiring, cell-sized food prison.

My out-of-control cookbook collection is also kept in the kitchen. It seemed the most likely place to keep cookbooks at first, but to be honest, I tend to use cookbooks for the experience and pleasurable enjoyment of food culture than for the recipes. I think of them more as photobooks and prefer to pursue the pages at my leisure when I need inspiration or am suffering a bought of wanderlust. For that reason, they are better kept close to a comfy sitting spot than a busy kitchen. Furthermore, our new kitchen is awkward and does not have much cupboard space. My cookbook collection was quickly outgrowing its place, and I thought that the shelf space it was using up could be best put for storing pots and pans and the like. So it was in a moment of inspiration that we hauled our old, buckling from the weight of too many books, red (I think this colour is discontinued) mid90s Ikea Billy bookshelf down into the dining room as a place to display and enjoy both my canning and my cookbooks.

I love this new system. The dining room is just the right spot for both collections. Unfortunately, as you can see, the cookbooks are already outgrowing their new home.


The above photo was originally taken with my cellphone and uploaded to my Instagram account (@yougrowgirl).

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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8 thoughts on “Storing My Preserves & Cookbooks

  1. A camping/hiking headlamp really helps when dealing with ‘dark, spooky, cobwebbed’ areas. When using a headlamp you have both hands free to deal with monsters, zombies and other tasks – like carrying canned goodies to safety.

  2. That built in storage stuff reminds me of the apartment my husband and I lived in when we lived in Minneapolis- dated back in the 1920′s and 30′s. Ir was nice to have.. I’m missing it now.

    Your cell phone takes lovely photos!

  3. Just imagine that much cookbooks + equal amount of gardening books. When our new house is build I really need to think of a special place for them. I love the idea to pair them with the preserves.!

  4. We used to keep our cookbooks on a bookshelf in the living room. I loved that because I could easily pull a couple off the shelf and page through them while sitting in my cofmy chair. We had to move them due to space issues and now they are in Husband’s den and not quite so easy to get at. Ah well.

    Your shelving with the preserves and cookbooks looks lovely!

  5. When I was younger, say thirty years ago, I collected any cookbook that I could get my hands on, regardless of the quality of the content. I believed that there must be at least one redeeming recipe inside. But then I bought into the idea of “Terroir” and dumped all the books that were not local and then dumped those that didn’t use local ingredients. There isn’t enough space to comment here, but I do recommend that you research this word “Terroir”and come to your own conclusions.

  6. It looks beautiful Gayla! I love how the jars and the cookbooks look together. I am like you in that I enjoy reading the cookbooks for inspiration, but don’t often use the recipes in them.

  7. Sam: I’m familiar with the term. I eat & cook with ingredients that are produced close to home. However, I also have a curiosity about the world and the way people eat, including the rituals and social traditions that come with. I can’t afford to travel the world, but I can afford cookbooks that are full of beautiful pictures and rich, personal stories that surround food. My favorite books are the ones that include lots of contextual photos that show a place and not just the food. I rarely cook the recipes. It is overwhelmingly about the chance to learn about people and places in the best way that I can.

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