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Things you'd be crazy not to make yourself


agray
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My wife and I were just discussing this as she mixed up some dressing for tonight's salad. There are certain things in the home that you should just make yourself - they're cheaper and better than store-bought and often easier than people think to make - once you know how to do them, of course.

We came up with a few off the top of our heads:

Salad dressing. (how hard is it to mix oil and vinegar?)

Yogurt.

Bread - especially with the various no-knead and slow-rise techniques from people like Reinhart and Lehay.

Pizza - the pizza we make (Neo-Neapolitain from Reinhart's "American Pie") is so much better than any delivery I've had.

Pasta sauce - banish those jars.

Beans - banish those cans and use dried.

I plan to start making ice cream this year also...

What would people add to this list?

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Pies. I have never, ever had a pie from any bakery that is anywhere near as good as one I make at home.

Of course! I completely forgot to add pies, cookies, muffins and cakes. Yes indeed, homemade is best, and you know exactly what went into them too...

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Cookbooker Challenge: July/Aug 2010 - collaboratively baking & reviewing Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home.

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Homemade stock improves everything and having bags of things that go into stock in the freezer will change one's way of cooking entirely. I always buy whole chickens, for instance, because I like to be able to cut them for whatever purpose I have in mind, and I always know that anything I don't use can go into the stock bag. I usually try to buy fish whole if the bones and head will make good stock, and many whole fish are half the price of fillets even if you only use the fillets.

And then once you have stock, you can make other handy things like demi glace, glace de viande, and sauces that in many cases can be frozen in small containers for use later.

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Sign me up with the crowd that doesn't understand who on earth is buying the salsa that is displayed on shelf after shelf after shelf at the grocery store.

Salsas are one of the easiest things on the planet to make. Whether you start with dried chiles, or fresh, or roasted and no matter how many ingredients you like to add, it can't possibly take you more than, what, five to maybe 30 (on the outside) minutes to turn out a myriad of styles, flavors, etc?

And that store-bought stuff is so awful. I guess Herdez works okay in a pinch, but Pace? Who on earth can be buying that crap?

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Jeez, it's no wonder people start to feel inadequate in the kitchen.

It's easy to assume that anything I make is easy or convenient for everyone else to make, but that's just not the case. Yes, I make my own lime cordial. It's easy and fast, but I'd never say that anyone else is crazy if they don't make it. And if I hate to bake and make crappy pies and cakes, then I'd be crazy not to buy good quality pies and cakes from someone who makes good ones (and likes doing it).

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Jeez, it's no wonder people start to feel inadequate in the kitchen.

It's easy to assume that anything I make is easy or convenient for everyone else to make, but that's just not the case. Yes, I make my own lime cordial. It's easy and fast, but I'd never say that anyone else is crazy if they don't make it. And if I hate to bake and make crappy pies and cakes, then I'd be crazy not to buy good quality pies and cakes from someone who makes good ones (and likes doing it).

Well, I'd agree with you if we're talking about pies and cakes and duck confit. They certainly do require some knowledge and effort and time in the kitchen.

But salsa?

Com'on.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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And that store-bought stuff is so awful. I guess Herdez works okay in a pinch, but Pace? Who on earth can be buying that crap?

Corn chips & crappy pace salsa are the standard nibbles for a house party in my social circles. It's bought by people who just want to provide something that will help soak up the beer.

PS: I am a guy.

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In my opinion, it not results in better quality but it also makes better sense to do yoghurt, mayonnaise, natto, and breads myself. Tiring of having to read so many labels with the caveat that this week's ingredients may change tomorrow, it keeps ingredients to a gold standard. When I construct a food item, there is only one place to inquire if something goes off. I find it also provides a sense of keeping my locavore tendencies intact.

Things seem to bear an impact from origin. Does it not sound reasonable then for purposes far removed from the economic reasons to eat foods that are harmonic to location? Even if the wheat was grown in Manitoba, does it not seem wise to blend that origin with local activity by grinding it into flour, adding the yeast,water, salt, and letting it all grow and rise, and bake locally? I know it tastes better, and I more than suspect that for all concerned, is more a locavore entity. It certainly leaves a sense of worth and accomplishment.

Burton Dale

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For almost everything listed in this topic I can think of at least one example of homemade that was terrible enough to make me wish the producer had just gone to the damned store. Frequently, the "producer" was me! Cake in particular is difficult to get right: sure, if you are an accomplished baker it may seem simple to you, but I struggled for a long time before I was able to produce a cake anywhere near as good as our local bakery. If you have the time and talent to produce these things from scratch good for you, but I hesitate to judge those who don't. I can make mayo. I have made mayo. I also have a jar of Hellman's in the fridge.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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sure, if you are an accomplished baker it may seem simple to you, but I struggled for a long time before I was able to produce a cake anywhere near as good as our local bakery. If you have the time and talent to produce these things from scratch good for you, but I hesitate to judge those who don't. I can make mayo. I have made mayo. I also have a jar of Hellman's in the fridge.

It also depends a lot on what you mean by "store bought"--I can easily make cake, bread, cookies, pesto, hummus, and so on, that are better than anything I could buy in an ordinary supermarket. In fact, I try to buy as little as possible in an ordinary supermarket. On the other hand, I know there are bakeries that can produce better than I can make. There's a local bakery that produces bread much better than mine, though of course it is expensive. On the other other hand, I've rarely encountered a pecan pie or cheesecake better than what I can make myself.

But otherwise I agree with most of the things that have been mentioned already. Also add, pasta, at least basic pasta like fettucini.

Edited by Moopheus (log)

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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Well well, aren't we all superior beings! The original post was sincere enough, but give me a break, duck confit? Do you know how many people don't even know what that is?

And BTW I buy Pace salsa. We make our own, yes, but my husband likes the jarred stuff now and then.

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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Why not? I can buy bread far superior to anything I can make myself, but I'd put my confit sausage, pancetta, etc. up against anything I can buy. It's all relative to what I can (or cannot) and want to (or don't want to) make well myself.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Yes, maybe 'crazy' was a loaded word for the title! It would have been better to say - what can/do you make yourself which is fairly simple and much more satisfying/rewarding/healthy than getting the grocery store/mass produced equivalent.

Although I'd love to try duck confit and sausage making sometime, if only for the learning of it, there are several artisan producers on Vancouver Island who make wonderful, locally sourced versions of both, and I doubt I'd want to replace their wares with my own. There are also some good artisan bakers, and I do buy from them sometimes, especially when I can get French pastries. Professionals should be encouraged and supported!

That said, if you've only had grocery store bread, cookies, hummus, mayo, canned beans etc, and you're the sort of person who hangs around at eGullet, then it seems only fair to strongly encourage you to give them a shot yourself. There was a time, not long ago, when almost every household had these skills. By giving them up in the name of convenience, we do lose something.

Edited by agray (log)

www.cookbooker.com - Rate and review your cookbook recipes.

Cookbooker Challenge: July/Aug 2010 - collaboratively baking & reviewing Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home.

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