If you're intimidated by the thought of canning and preserving fresh foods, these how-to books are for you.

The Art of Preserving

By Rick Field and Rebecca Courchesne with Lisa Atwood. Published by Williams-Sonoma with their usual classy look, this gorgeous tome includes easy but complete instructions and lavish photos that teach the basics of home canning and pickling ... plus dozens of yummy recipes to use the fruits of your labors. I'm planning to try the Blueberry-Plum Jam and the Pickled Rhubarb.

Preserve It!

Edited by Lynda Brown (Dorling Kindersley, 2010). As the editor says, “preserving enables you to make the best use of organic, free-range, local, seasonal, and home-grown produce, and is very much at the center of the move to a more sustainable approach … to the food we eat.” This book has a lovely layout, with photos scattered across nearly every page to demonstrate container types, storing root crops in boxes, air- and oven-drying, freezing, salting, making jams, chutneys, pastes—even brewing cider and making wine. Tons of creative recipes too; I’m going to try the one for preserved lemons.

The Joy of Keeping a Root Cellar

By Jennifer Megyesi (Skyhorse, 2010). Megyesi (who, with her husband, owns and runs the Fat Rooster Farm in Vermont) has created a love letter (albeit a practical one) to canning, freezing, drying, and otherwise preserving all manner of food, from fruits, herbs and vegetables to meat and even eggs. The inspiring photos alone—gorgeous pickled eggs, piles of fresh squash, dangling ropes of garlic—make this book wonderful, but I also appreciate the alphabetic arrangement of foods and the best preserving methods for each.

The Beginner’s Guide to Preserving Food at Home

By Janet Chadwick (Storey, 2009). Perfect for the busy person (who isn’t?). “I’ve written this book for those of you who garden and hold down outside jobs or are busy with kids and other outside activities,” says Chadwick. “You don’t feel like pickling until midnight. … [This book] helps you make the best use of your time and resources during the harvest season.” It’s simple and clear, with step-by-step instructions and drawings to illustrate technique. (One useful tip: grate zucchini and freeze for use in batters later.)

Putting Food By

By Janet Green, Ruth Hertzberg, and Beatrice Vaghan (Plume, 2010). This paperback reference book (now in its fifth edition) is considered a classic for all methods of saving food: canning, preserving, freezing, drying, pickling, curing, and root-cellar storage. It covers the science and safety behind preserving foods, as well as adjustments for altitude and different canning methods, and the recipes include fruits, vegetables, meats, even seafood—plus a whole chapter on putting by presents for Christmas. No pictures, but a thorough index.

The Complete Root Cellar Book

By Steve Maxwell and Jennifer MacKenzie (Robert Rose, 2010). For generations, people used cold storage areas to safely preserve fresh fruits and vegetables, and now this eco-friendly, “romantic” method is making a comeback. This book details exactly how to build your own root cellar – including working with an existing cold room or basement and instructions for condos, townhouses, and warm climates – and then how to use it for fresh or canned foods, cutting your food-miles carbon footprint dramatically.