Review and Giveaway: The Homemade Pantry

With so much interest being focused on homemade food, it seems only natural that curiosity will eventually lead outgoing folks beyond the normal canning and cooking and start looking at ways of making their own versions of those grocery store items we always seem to have around.

In The Homemade Pantry, author Alana Chernila brings us into her admittedly “unexpected” kitchen to share her takes on popular pantry staples. After offering some tool recommendations (air popper, blender, dehydrator, food processor, stand mixer) Chernila tackles the subject of whether or not making all these items at home is actually financially feasible, a subject that often arises when comparing homemade to store bought foods. Her take on it not only concerns cost, but taste, time and thrill as well. She cleverly leaves the decision to the reader since quantifying whether something is “worth it” has more to do with personal taste than the number on your grocery receipt.

Then we move on to a section on making good use of your freezer. Why make enough lasagna for one meal when you can easily make two and store on in the freezer for a later date, saving you time down the road? Vegetables and snacks can also be frozen to extend their shelf life, helping you save that massive amount of green beans you bought on sale a little bit longer.

Once the basics have been covered, we head to the various grocery store aisles on a quest for healthier alternatives to the often preservative laden treats and staples we purchase on a regular basis. A lot of these things would seem like no-brainers to those of us who spend a lot of time in the kitchen: Soups, salad dressing, spice mixes. While others, like the homemade toaster pastries (recipe below), potato chip or fig bar recipes give more experienced cooks something to appreciate as well.

The recipes are easy to follow and well written, and cover a plethora of food types including, soups, cereals, snacks, baking needs, condiments and more. If you've ever thought about making your own ketchup and mustard, you can find out how here. While I never would have taken the time to make my own hot sauce, the recipe offered here makes a nice alternative to the stuff you get in bottles. It also allows you spice it to the perfect amount of hotness for your personal taste.

The chapter on dairy will also be illuminating for a lot of people. Some cheeses, such as cream cheese, mozarella and ricotta may not seem like easy home projects, but with the help of a yoghurt maker, they are somewhat of a breeze. Surprisingly, most of the time involved in cheese making is waiting for the curds to form. Little gems of information like this is where The Homemade Pantry really shines.

In addition to those, you’ll also find ways to make your own granola and instant oatmeal, and even frozen treats like chicken nuggets, fish sticks and ice cream. There are chapters devoted to canning (jams, sauerkraut, pickles, tomatoes) and baking (bread, tortillas, crackers) as well.

Overall, this is a solid book, though perhaps not ideal for someone short on time. To keep up with a lot of these things regularly would require a herculean strength and a lot of time and money. However, many of the recipes are fairly quick to throw together. I’m a big advocate of making your own condiments, especially ketchup and mustard as they are easy to make quickly and last for a while. After reading the hot sauce recipe, another fairly fast prep, I’ll definitely be adding it to my list of make-at-home staples.

If you are an experienced home cook or big proponent of homemade foods, The Homemade Pantry will probably not reveal any great epiphanies. However, it would make a great gift for those friends you’re trying to bring over to your way of “natural” food thinking or just a good reference book for your own shelf. It is also highly recommended for anyone preparing to dive head first into taking control over the foods they eat in a proactive way.

Want a copy? I have one copy of The Homemade Pantry to give away. In the comments on this post, tell us what product you currently buy in the store that you would like to learn how to make yourself. (Pro tip: For greatest ease of leaving comments, be a logged in member of the site by clicking "Join/Log In" in the upper right so you don't have to wrestle with the CAPTCHA code.)

Screen Shot 2012-08-14 at 2.34.48 PM And here's a way to get more chances to win: Click here to tweet about this post, or pin this post on Pinterest (make sure the above image gets pinned so we can find it). All comments, tweets and pins must be logged by midnight PDT, Monday, August 13 to qualify for entry.

Wow, you guys! We had 87 comments, 32 pins and 22 tweets. I had no idea so many of you wanted to make crackers, ketchup and mustard, not to mention toaster pastries. (Good thing we've got a recipe for you, below.) Congratulations to Darlene Meek-Ames, whose pin was the winner.

Toaster-Pastry-page-56

Recipe: Toaster Pastries

Summary: Reprinted with permission from "The Homemade Pantry" by Alana Chernila

Ingredients

  • One recipe Basic Pie Crust (recipe follows)
  • Flour for the counter
  • 1 large egg, beaten with
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 6 tablespoons filling of choice (below)
  • Optional: powdered sugar, Best Frosting

Instructions

  1. Prepare the pie crust in two discs according to the recipe and refrigerate for at least 2 hours but up to 2 days.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Roll the first disc of pie pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 9-x12-inch rectangle, cutting with the sharp knife any errant edges.
  4. Cut the rectangle into six smaller rectangles. Gently separate the rectangles from the counter and lay them on the prepared baking sheet with at least 2 inches between them.
  5. With a pastry brush, paint each rectangle with the beaten egg. You will have some egg mixture left—set it aside.
  6. Scoop 1 tablespoon of filling onto each rectangle in a thin line down the center. Roll out the second disc of pie pastry, repeating the steps to create six rectangles.
  7. Lay the new batch of rectangles over the rectangles with filling and seal by pressing a fork around the perimeter of each rectangle. Using the pastry brush, paint the tops of each pastry with egg wash and poke several times with the fork.
  8. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before dusting with powdered sugar or spreading with frosting.

Variations

sweet fillings: 

jam: the classic [Ed., I'm guessing you have some on hand.]
nutella: if you happen to have a jar around [Ed., or make some]
• cinnamon and sugar: mix 2 tablespoons cinnamon with 5 tablespoons sugar 

savory fillings:
pesto and ricotta: a toaster pastry worthy of a cocktail party
tomato sauce and cheese: make your own pizza pockets
• potato: combine leftover mashed potatoes with sautéed onions, sprinkle the top of the pastry with sesame seeds

Number of servings (yield): 6

Recipe: Basic Pie Crust

Summary: Reprinted with permission from "The Homemade Pantry" by Alana Chernila

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, plus additional for greasing the dish
  • 2¼ cups (12.5 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus additional to flour the counter and the dish
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch squares and combine with the flour in a stand mixer bowl. Using your hands, toss the mixture to coat the butter in the flour. Put the bowl in the freezer. In a measuring cup, combine 1⁄3 cup water, the vinegar, and salt. Stir until the salt dissolves and put the measuring cup in the freezer. Freeze both mixtures for 10 minutes.
  2. Take the mixing bowl out of the freezer and blend the mixture on low speed with the paddle attachment until it starts to become the texture of crumbly meal. Take the measuring cup out of the freezer and, with the mixer still running on low speed, slowly pour the wet mix into the bowl. The dough will be crumbly at first, then after 10 or 20 seconds, it will come together in a ball. Stop the mixer.
  3. Turn the dough out onto the counter and press it together into a large disc. Cut the dough in two equal parts, wrap each piece in waxed paper, and press each into a disc. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, up to 3 days.
  4. Grease a 9-inch pie dish with butter and give it a light dusting of flour. Take the dough out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before you are ready to roll it out. Unwrap the dough and place one of the discs on a lightly floured counter. Starting from the center, use your rolling pin to shape the dough into a circle about 12 to 14 inches in diameter and ¼ inch thick.
  5. Fold the crust in half, then fold that semicircle in half again so that you have a quarter of a circle. Line up the corner of the quarter with the center of your pie dish and unfold the quarter into a semicircle, then into the full circle.
  6. Fill the crust with your pie filling. Repeat the rolling process with the second disc of dough, and either lay it on top of the filling, or cut in strips to form a lattice. Use your fingers to crimp the edge of the dough along the circumference of the pie dish.

Quick notes

Makes two 9" pie crusts

Number of servings (yield): 2

mustard! i just grew some,

mustard! i just grew some, and they are all going to seed, would be great to have a use for them, beyond just sowing them next year.

Jam! Have a big herb garden

Jam! Have a big herb garden for the first time and I'm excited about making variations on the old classics... orange mint marmalade and trying totally new stuff too... cinnamon basil jam?!? Never tried canning before but am thinking its time to give it a shot.

Pop tarts and jam.

Pop tarts and jam.

Cheese and crackers

My favourite snacks. I would be nice to replace these highly processed foods with ones of my own making.

I'm hoping to learn how to

I'm hoping to learn how to make ketchup this summer.

I pinned the above image to

I pinned the above image to Pinterest.

contest

I love pop-tarts, but what I would really like to figure out is how to make cheese & crackers...the grandchildrens' favorite snack!

Mmm...less processed food in

Mmm...less processed food in the pantry. All over it;) I use your website a lot for condiment inspiration. Cookies? Crackers? What a way to expand upon it:)

Kombucha. It is expensive to

Kombucha. It is expensive to buy in the bottle.

big pretzels - although those toaster pastries look REALLY good!

According to my friends and family, I'm beginning to get carried away with the DIY stuff (although they regularly ask to see my pantry). I think that they will change their tune when I start to share toaster pastries!

Cheese and crackers

My favourite snack. Unfortunately these are two highly processed foods. How nice it would be to make my own!

Curry chutney

A friend served curry. Chutney with their grilled chicken.
It was delicious
but instead of going to the pricey specialty store I'd like to make my own.
I've never made chutney and I'm looking for a recipe

well i just can't narrow it down...

there are several delectable things i would love to learn how to make...pickles, jams, ketchup, bread of all kinds, cheese...basically name it and i'm sure i would be game for giving it a try!

Crackers are always on my

Crackers are always on my grocery list but so many are full of junk.

Cheese!

I would like to get more into cheesemaking, I've only made ricotta a couple of times.

Chips, crackers and cheese.

Chips, crackers and cheese. Meals I can make from stratch my snacks need more work.

Ketchup - I need to check out

Ketchup - I need to check out a few of those links while the garden is still producing!

Kettle chips, cottage cheese and sour cream.

It seems like we go through more of these than about anything. This sounds like a great book, I'm running out of ideas on what to pickle next or do with another tomato.

...want to make from scratch

ketchup and mustard would be my choice

um, EVERYTHING!

I have all these food-pets all named by the way (sourdough starter, kefir, vinegar mother and sometimes sauerkraut). I digress, I want to make ketchup, mayo, bbq sauce, toaster cakes, oooh fig newtons yes, infused liquors, mustards, the list goes on. I need this book.

um, EVERYTHING!

I have all these food-pets all named by the way (sourdough starter, kefir, vinegar mother and sometimes sauerkraut). I digress, I want to make ketchup, mayo, bbq sauce, toaster cakes, oooh fig newtons yes, infused liquors, mustards, the list goes on. I need this book.

Pickles

Pickles are one of those things I get cravings for. I'd love to have home made ones in the pantry. I have to learn how to do canning first but I'm looking forward to it. This book might help!

I would love to learn how to

I would love to learn how to can my own jams and jellys!

Cheese or yogurt.

Cheese or yogurt.

Oh man, what do I want to

Oh man, what do I want to learn how to make from scratch? It's more a technique than an individual thing--I want to get over my fear of the pressure canner and start making more shelf-stable homemade food of all kinds. Just think--all kinds of homemade soups and homegrown vegetables filling up the pantry shelves! Hooray! Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

Crunchy things

I need to learn crackers/chips - we still buy all of ours.

ketchup

I adore ketchup and would love to learn more about different ways to make it.

Learning how

I'd love to learn how make spices, and handle fresh herbs, as in drying and storing for later use

Worcestershire sauce and vinegar

I don't use it myself, but my husband loves it so it would be fun to make him his own. And vinegar.

We had this come through the

We had this come through the site a while ago: http://www.bruceandmark.com/we-cook/2012/5/23/worcestershire-sauce.html

oh and mayo too!

oh and mayo too!

Mayo's a breeze, and we have

Mayo's a breeze, and we have many variations: http://www.punkdomestics.com/category/tags/mayonnaise

Toaster pastries! My kids

Toaster pastries! My kids have never eaten pop-tarts but I would be happy to serve this version to them. I borrowed this book from the library before and just love it - I love the instant oatmeal. It's on my list of books to buy!

Potato chips - must learn how

Potato chips - must learn how to dehydrate now!

Crackers. I make all our

Crackers. I make all our bread now but I can't seem to get into the rhythm of making crackers.

Crackers

I would love to stop buying crackers.

Salad Dressings!

The whole list is intriguing, and if I win I will certainly try a ton of things, but salad dressings are an area I've been thinking of making an everyday change with lately.

Lots of options there!

The Homemade Pantry giveaway

I would love to be able to make my own 'Cheez-It' type of crackers - love them, but hate the fact that they use GMOs and they are one of the companies that is trying to 'take over the world'...

Canned Tuna! My partner was

Canned Tuna! My partner was lucky enough to get invited out finishing in San Diego with friends and brought home a few nice tuna this week. We've never pressure canned (always seems so intimidating) but hopefully we'll find someone to teach us the ropes in exchange for some of the finished product.

Yup, I've wanted to do this

Yup, I've wanted to do this too, and there are several posts on the site: http://www.punkdomestics.com/category/tags/canned-tuna

Ketchup!

Really, truly good ketchup. I can't resist the cheapy Heinz kind but need a non-corn syrup-y alternative!

Condiments

Would like to make condiments...better taste and ingredients than store-bought!. I also tweeted (kdff) and pinned!

We've got all kinds of

We've got all kinds of condiments: http://www.punkdomestics.com/topics/condiments

cheese and KETCHUP!!

i want to make my own cheese and KETCHUP! mmmm...ketchup! this books looks really great!!

Ketchup's fun to make!

Crackers!

Seriously, I need to figure out how to make light, crispy crackers!

I would love to learn to make

I would love to learn to make condiments, salad dressings, etc. I have multiple food allergies, including many spices, so it would be awesome to be able to make condiments and know exactly what is in them instead of just the generic "spices" making it inedible for me.

Cottage cheese! I use cottage

Cottage cheese! I use cottage cheese in so many things. I would love to know how to make it myself.

Here's the recipe for cottage

Here's the recipe for cottage cheese from Alana's book: http://www.eatingfromthegroundup.com/?p=4523

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