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

Graham Crackers

I buy way too many graham crackers-- my husband loves the cinnamon ones, so I would start by learning to make those.

Pop tarts? For real?

I've been a fan ever since I made your strawberry vodka. A cookbook to keep me out of the processed food section and in the kitchen? I'm on it!

Fig Newtons! I was JUST

Fig Newtons! I was JUST looking for a recipe for them!

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