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Food Foolishness: Why Make it When You can Buy it?


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#1 maggiethecat

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Posted 02 December 2010 - 07:42 PM

I was chatting with friends about frozen puff pastry -- the excellent product from Trader Joe's in particular. I've bought it, I've used it, I think it's swell. But I'd rather sacrifice a pound of butter and a couple of hours and make my own, because it's so easy and so much better than even the TJs product. I started making puff in my twenties, thanks to "Mastering the Art" -- which is the real deal, tonnes of turns. Later I made Jacques Pepin's Quick Puff Pastry, and now I'm besotted by the method in "The Acme Bakery Cookbook." Whoa, that's some perfect Puff!

For me, even the best commercial product lacks the lift, the crispyness, the buttery bath of home made, um, "artisinal" puff pastry. I prefer to roll my own.

I buy bacon from the supermarket, but I know people who proudly smoke their own. I have a friend whose garage looks like a set from an Italian movie, so many hams and salume and sides of bacon hang from the rafters. Trust me, this guy is rich enough to buy any fine pork product in the world, but he rolls his own.

Do you have a kink about making something you could buy, probably cheaper and almost as good?

Margaret McArthur

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#2 Snadra

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Posted 02 December 2010 - 08:12 PM

For me a part of it depends on the price. I love the pane croccante from Brasserie Bread, but it's pricey, so I make a version of it at home that I think is as good.

Same goes with pastry (although not puff pastry in my case). I have easy access to Careme pastry now, but I like to make my own, even when it's not perfect I somehow prefer it to a purchased product.

#3 janeer

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Posted 02 December 2010 - 08:59 PM

ditto on the puff, I just don't think anything comes close. (you've got me curious about the Acme method...) Stollen. Mincemeat. Plum pudding. Tortellini and ravioli. And veal stock.

#4 runwestierun

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Posted 02 December 2010 - 09:52 PM

I heartily second veal stock. Now that I live in the hinterlands I can only get the bones in a 50# box. That takes up alot of freezer room but it's worth it. It's such a luxury to be able to add veal stock to an everyday soup.

Panettone.

Croissants.

Everyday bread.

Any meat dry rub.


I would like to get to the point where I always make my pasta but I am not there yet. I bought an extruder attachment for my Kitchen Aid and I love it, but still sometimes I wimp out and boil up a box.

#5 djyee100

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Posted 02 December 2010 - 11:38 PM

I'm curious about the Acme puff pastry method also, not to mention the cookbook. The Acme Bakery Cookbook isn't on Amazon. Where are you finding it?

I make my own ice cream & sorbets, and most homey baked goods like scones, muffins, tarts, loaf cakes & cookies. The quality and flavor beat any commercial ice cream or baked goods. I rarely bake my own bread, though, because it's easier to buy Acme's Bread. Sometimes in a mood of self-improvement I do a run thru my bread repertoire, and when I realize once again that my bread doesn't match up to Acme's, I go back to buying Acme's.

#6 Carlovski

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 04:26 AM

There is also a flipside to this - people who make their own who think it's better than they can buy, and it really isn't. Fine if you enjoy the process, or it makes sense economically, but there are people who are using no better ingredients and inferior domestic equipment who kid theselves that their product is 'better than anything you can buy in the shops'. Bread is the usual suspect - using normal white flour, easy blend yeast and a breadmaker with minimal proving times might be a bit better than an average supermarket loaf, but isn't going to match anything made by even an average baker with a real hearth.
I'd like to make more myself (Although I will still keep clear of puff pastry!) but sharing a fairly small kitchen with housemates who want to be able to come in and whack something in the oven makes it tricky.
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#7 David A. Goldfarb

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 05:27 AM

Was the pastrami I made last week better than Katz's? Hard to say. In some ways yes.

#8 sparrowgrass

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 06:37 AM

I approach this from a little different direction. I spend countless hours in the garden, and I raise my own chickens, for eggs and meat. Yep--I can buy canned tomatoes, or chicken leg quarters for thirty nine cents a pound, but. . . .

Mine taste better, and more importantly, I know where they have been, and I know that there aren't any pesticides or antibiotics involved.

(I also bake my own bread, roll out my own pasta, and, when the Boy Scouts came around for food bank donations last week, I had to really scrape out the pantry to find a couple cans of evaporated milk and beans.)
sparrowgrass

#9 Dakki

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 07:27 AM

There is also a flipside to this - people who make their own who think it's better than they can buy, and it really isn't. Fine if you enjoy the process, or it makes sense economically, but there are people who are using no better ingredients and inferior domestic equipment who kid theselves that their product is 'better than anything you can buy in the shops'. Bread is the usual suspect - using normal white flour, easy blend yeast and a breadmaker with minimal proving times might be a bit better than an average supermarket loaf, but isn't going to match anything made by even an average baker with a real hearth.
I'd like to make more myself (Although I will still keep clear of puff pastry!) but sharing a fairly small kitchen with housemates who want to be able to come in and whack something in the oven makes it tricky.


Flipside to the flipside - things that are better when you make them not because of better quality ingredients or equipment (is it even possible for us "civilians" to have better equipment than a commercial kitchen?) but because you use a recipe that suits your taste better.

I find commercial desserts, pasta sauces, etc. bland and much too sweet so I make my own.
This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

#10 Kevin72

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 07:54 AM

Pasta.

Ever since I started using the flawless no-knead bread recipe, I refuse to buy store-bought, even when we're in desperate need and it's just a couple bucks. I had to get up at 4 earlier this week to turn out a batch just to avoid buying some.

#11 Darienne

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 08:13 AM

Not to mention all the specious ingredients and preservatives which are in the commercial varieties of much of anything.
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#12 Special K

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 08:26 AM

Bread is the usual suspect - using normal white flour, easy blend yeast and a breadmaker with minimal proving times might be a bit better than an average supermarket loaf, but isn't going to match anything made by even an average baker with a real hearth.


True, I guess, but if you bake your own bread you get to enjoy the aroma! :wub:

#13 Katie Meadow

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 10:22 AM

There are lots of reasons to make your own and lots of reasons not to. If I can't buy something that meets my taste, I try to make it myself. If it is something I enjoy making, I keep on doing it, perfecting it, etc. For me it is a combination of desire and talent and sometimes price.

My husband and I make our own marmalade. I know exactly what I like in a marmalade, and commercial products don't cut it. We've been improving ours for several years, and now there is only one artisan in the area who makes a marmalade as good or better. By good or better, I simply mean the way I like it. We buy seville oranges in quantity during January and February, and make enough for the year. And it costs far less than buying good quality marmalade.

I make my own ketchup. It was an accident. I made a ketchup to use to frost a meatloaf and it was so good I decided using Heinz was pointless. Home made ketchup is not cheaper than Heinz, I don't think, but a whole nuther universe. Then there's soup stock. I'm pretty sure it costs more to make my own chicken, ham or beef stock, but it makes me happy and tastes so much better than anything I can buy. And soup is major for me.

I make those things because I love eating them and care about them. I don't make my own croissants or my own dijon mustard. Tartine Bakery in SF makes a croissant that's so good it's criminal. And then, croissants are not a staple for me. I'm very happy with Edmond Fallot mustard, and don't have the slightest desire to make an approximation. If I enjoyed making pastry or mustard perhaps it would be a different story, but there's only so much time. I'd rather make soups.

As for bread, I simply got lucky. I have a husband who likes to bake bread, and he's pretty good, although his repertoire is limited. There are so many good bakeries around here, so we supplement and get variety that way. We eat a LOT of bread. Given that a good loaf of bread is pretty pricey nowadays, I think we break even there.

#14 maggiethecat

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 05:39 PM

I'm red in the face. My source for the puff pastry recipe I prefer is from The Grand Central Baking Book, not the non-existent one from Acme. D'oh!

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#15 nickrey

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 06:29 PM

Let me see. I fairly regularly make Bacon; Pancetta; Duck Prosciutto; Chicken, duck, lamb, and fish Stock; Veal Demi-Glace; Ice-Cream; Ham; Sausages; Chopped Garlic; Ginger; Dashi Stock; Hollandaise/Bernaise; Mayonnaise; pickled vegetables; Indian-style pickles; preserved lemons and limes; duck confit; rendered duck fat (from cooking, frozen in ice cube trays for later use; pasta sauces; pastry; pizza bases; US-style barbecue sauce; curry powder; dehydrated bits and pieces; bread; harissa; fresh pasta (I do buy artisanal dried as it gives a different result and matches some sauces better); used to home-brew beer (not so much now as my place is too small); don't eat much jam but have made it...

Thinking of Cheese as next project.

Looking over list, it would be easier to say what I do buy pre-prepared: puff pastry, but after reading Maggie's description of home-made, think I'll do it myself. If I run out of something and it is out of season, I'll buy from the store and sometimes smaller producers have a better recipe than mine. Most often, however, I do prefer the taste of home-made.

Possibly it's pride of ownership that makes it better but I've had too many people saying that the home-made version is markedly different and markedly better than mass produced. I know I use premium ingredients such as organic chicken for my stocks (less the breasts which get use for other purposes) and free-range belly for my bacon so perhaps I can do things that the producers who are understandably interested in making a profit can't.

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#16 TeakettleSlim

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 06:37 PM

Bread. Jam. And perhaps least defensibly, I can my own beans. I don't know that they taste especially better than boughten ones, but I like to do it (and I can leave the salt out if I want).

#17 butterscotch

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 08:02 PM

I had to find the recipe (not Acme;s see Maggies correction below) too! and I did- so here is a nice tutorial on it

http://www.thecookbo...icles.com/blog/

Edited by butterscotch, 03 December 2010 - 08:04 PM.


#18 DanM

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 08:26 PM

I love pick your own farms and farmers market. I am blessed to have an abundance of both near me. I gladly can anything I am able during the summer. This includes making sauces and preserves. I also make my own bread, beer, any many many other products?

Why? When you get it fresh from the farm, it just tastes better. Secondly, I can play and tweak the recipes to meet my tastes or to experiment. Finally, it is a great way to enrich myself and develop new skills.

My wife jokes that in the case of nuclear war, I will be quite useful once the dust settles. The only thing I will lack is the meds I need to keep kicking.

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Edited by DanM, 03 December 2010 - 08:28 PM.

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#19 Sheryl D

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 09:56 PM

Yogurt - my kids and husband thrive on the stuff. It is easy to make and SOOOO much cheaper (I make 7 quarts at a time - yep 7).
Gluten free pizza crusts - also easy to make for my son and cheaper than store bought.
Ice cream - because most store bought isn't worth it and I enjoy creating new flavors.
Lately I've discovered the ease of making pickled veggies. I might head into that territory soon.
Oven dried tomatoes and we freeze beans we cook, but don't can either.
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#20 Snadra

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Posted 04 December 2010 - 01:21 AM

Let me see. I fairly regularly make Bacon; Pancetta; Duck Prosciutto; Chicken, duck, lamb, and fish Stock; Veal Demi-Glace; Ice-Cream; Ham; Sausages; Chopped Garlic; Ginger; Dashi Stock; Hollandaise/Bernaise; Mayonnaise; pickled vegetables; Indian-style pickles; preserved lemons and limes; duck confit; rendered duck fat (from cooking, frozen in ice cube trays for later use; pasta sauces; pastry; pizza bases; US-style barbecue sauce; curry powder; dehydrated bits and pieces; bread; harissa; fresh pasta (I do buy artisanal dried as it gives a different result and matches some sauces better); used to home-brew beer (not so much now as my place is too small; don't eat much jam but have made it...

Thinking of Cheese as next project.


Nick, you rock!! (I can't believe I just wrote that...) Every day I am amazed by the things eGulleters do on a regular basis. So much to learn. I do a few of these things (mayo and ice cream, for example), but only on ocassion.

I've been thinking about making some fresh mozzarella and ricotta (or maybe queso fresco). Have you found a supplier for cheese making ingredients in Australia?

#21 Chris Amirault

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Posted 04 December 2010 - 07:56 AM

I think we're missing one aspect of DIY which is the "D" part. I like to devote time, thought, and energy to the production of foodstuffs I could otherwise grab as commodities because I can learn more. Sometimes those DIY items stay in my regular rotation -- like stocks, bacon, confit, kimchi, mustard, fresh pasta, liqueurs -- and sometimes after a few efforts I decide I'll go back to store-bought. But I always am glad I made the stuff; the process of learning was valuable even if, say, the sourdough was a bust.
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#22 andiesenji

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Posted 04 December 2010 - 11:36 AM

I have written in many other threads about the things I make at home that a lot of people do not bother with because they simply do not have the time, the space or the wish to do so.
For many years I worked at a full-time job and had a long commute in heavy traffic but as I never needed the "normal" amount of sleep, I had plenty of time to allow me to exercise my desire to make things from "scratch."
Since retiring, I have more time and have spent a lot of it doing just as I please.

I bake my own bread and today there is no reason anyone can't get a good result because no one is limited to supermarket flour brands. Specialty flours are available online and some are reasonably priced if one wants a superior product. Also pasta.

Being a diabetic and feeling that 95% of the commercial bakery products for diabetics are, in a word, ghastly and contain some ingredients that are weird but certainly not "wonderful," I prepare my own so I know what they contain and they taste better to me.

Some things that I prepare at home take a lot of time and effort, although in some cases I have achieved an excellent product without the extended time and energy - sometimes this happened by accident, but repeated turned out just as well so I've changed my routine. Clotted cream for instance.

Other things that I make that most people buy: Sour cream, yogurt, butter, candied ginger and citrus peels, chestnuts, glacé fruits, sambals, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise and other condiments. Also pickles and etc.
"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
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#23 Rover

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Posted 04 December 2010 - 12:47 PM

Without question, homemade stock - primarily chicken, for me. I justify (as if I needed to) the extra expense of buying only free-range, with the knowledge that the amazingly superior stock it generates is worth every penny. I started out making my own stock 25 years ago and can't imagine not getting this bonus from bones and vegetables. I save peelings from onion, carrots, mushrooms, etc., in the freezer along with the bones and scraps from any chicken which graces my kitchen. It's frugal and it's so much better than store-bought.

#24 JTravel

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Posted 04 December 2010 - 02:50 PM

I am a real lazy person compared to most here. But I decided if I was going to eat bread it would be homemade so I make myself one loaf of my old "4 cup basic yeast bread" about once a week. I freeze some slices for later in the week and vary the recipe with soaked 7 grain cereal, or whole wheat flour in different proportions. Always better than "sliced" bread, probably not better than artisan bread....Wegmans and Italian bakeries have good stuff. Perfect for me. No need to ever run out...DH eats the cheapest of store stuff.
I make a few batches of jam the end of summer, mostly peach, or peach and plum. Have slacked off on strawberry which I should get back to.
Have gotten out of habit of yogurt, need to get back to that too, so easy. Love homemade fresh pasta, perhaps tomorrow.
Have in past done Asian Dumplings, have the book. That should be next.

#25 Angela Knipple

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Posted 05 December 2010 - 12:01 PM

For me, lemon curd, stocks of any variety, pasta sauces (even the most expensive ones at the store don't cut it), rolls, any non-yeast breads, caramels, soups, pickles, mayo, chicharrones, lard. Speaking of lard, refried beans are so easy. I make pastas fairly regularly, but that's something we do eat it very often, so I do use boxed pasta as often as I make it. I keep saying I will make ketchup, but we don't eat it often enough in our house for us to even have a bottle of Heinz around. I sometimes make jellies, but there are wonderful people at our farmers markets who make beautiful ones; ditto with yeast breads. I like supporting those people. Winter is the worst for me. The farmers market is closed, and my kitchen is too drafty to get yeast breads to rise. I need a real oven with a proofing setting, and someday I will have one.

I want to make puff pastry now thanks to you guys, and since it is potpie season, I have a reason to do it.

#26 Romy

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Posted 05 December 2010 - 01:55 PM

I dream of the day when I can retire and have some sort of routine for making my own staples, but for now, I have to make do with experimentation when time permits. I make dinner from scratch almost every night, but it doesn't involve having prepared my own canned goods or stock in advance. In an ideal world, it would!

I make my own pizza dough, since making it is easier than trekking to buy the fresh pre-made stuff. I could go over to Arthur Avenue, but that's an hour round trip on the bus, plus shopping time and waiting at the bus stop time, so it doesn't happen on a regular basis.

I make all of my own desserts, that much I can say. I can't see spending $30 on cake I can make at home, even if ingredients cost almost as much.

Steaming live lobsters recently was wonderful. I could have bought them steamed, but doing it myself was a learning experience. Too expensive to do routinely, but certainly quick and easy.

Ditto on sausage and pasta making. If I could do it weekly, I would. Nothing like homemade sausage and ravioli. But with shopping and clean up time added in (with no doorman for special order ingredients, and no dishwasher), it is often not practical.

Oh that I could pay the bills with a part time job!
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#27 thock

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Posted 09 December 2010 - 01:05 PM

Other things that I make that most people buy: Sour cream, yogurt, butter, candied ginger and citrus peels, chestnuts, glacé fruits, sambals, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise and other condiments. Also pickles and etc.


How do you make sour cream?
Tracy
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#28 andiesenji

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Posted 09 December 2010 - 01:47 PM


Other things that I make that most people buy: Sour cream, yogurt, butter, candied ginger and citrus peels, chestnuts, glacé fruits, sambals, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise and other condiments. Also pickles and etc.


How do you make sour cream?



I use Ricki's sour cream starter culture
Scroll down until you see sour cream. The instructions are simple and the product is superior to anything you can buy.

Edited by andiesenji, 09 December 2010 - 01:47 PM.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
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#29 bmdaniel

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Posted 22 December 2010 - 09:23 AM

Andie -

Do you freeze it? Sour cream is one of those things that I use infrequently enough that I don't always have it on hand, but often enough that I'm frequently upset I don't have any. It would be nice to keep some in the freezer. Also, how long does your homemade last in the fridge?

#30 Darcie B

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 02:04 PM

Andiesenji,

the photo you linked to for the sour cream made it look like the texture was a bit grainy. I've had this happen sometimes with yogurt - does it happen with the sour cream or is that just a bad photo? I cannot abide that gritty texture.

Thank you for all of the wonderful information you provide to this board and on your blog - you are a treasure! :smile:
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