I have always held a particular hatred for the show Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee. I don’t need a cooking show to tell me how to open a tube of Pillsbury sugar cookies, press a thumbprint into each cookie, and fill the thumbprints with Smucker’s strawberry jam. I just don’t. That isn’t cooking, anyway, it’s merely preparing. I mean, I suppose in the loosest sense of the word, it’s cooking. Sandy does turn on her oven. I guess she doesn’t go to the store to do that.
My disgust with the quality of food we eat, all for the sake of “convenience” and “time” prompted me to add “all from scratch” to my original project idea. Originally, I planned to just make 365 (or more) unique dishes. (I’ve tweaked this a little from the original concept. I’d started out thinking I would cook 365 unique meals, but in reality, how many ways am I going to find to prepare, say, broccoli? Do I really need to force myself to prepare brand new side-dishes every meal? I’m going to say “no.”) Several of the homemaking blogs I read suggest monthly meal plans, seasonal meal plans, or theme nights– that are used over and over and over… Really? Meatloaf every Monday? Tacos every Tuesday? Sure, they make all these meals from scratch, but where is the variety? Forsaken, all in the name of convenience. So, I set out to prove that I could make a new meal (almost) every night, without becoming a harried, unkempt mess.
But then influences such as Jamie Oliver and Sandy Lee started to rattle around in my brain, and I thought, I can also prove that “from scratch” doesn’t have to mean, “my life is spent in the kitchen.” And thus, the “unprocessed.”
So let’s talk about this whole “unprocessed” business. In short, it means I’m going to make everything from scratch.
Pretty much, toots.
I say “pretty much,” but it’s more like, “almost.” I’m probably not going to make my own butter and sour cream and cheese. And my intention (for this years’ project, at least) isn’t to try to grow all my own food. So I’m not going to fill our backyard with rows of wheat, barley, rye, flax, sugar cane. I’m definitely not plopping chickens or cows in our backyard, then stringing their slaughtered carcasses up alongside our family car in the garage. So what am I going to make?
(Almost) anything that isn’t a raw ingredient. If someone else grew it, picked it, froze it, whatever… okay. If someone cooked it, added to it, whatever… not okay. So, say, fruit. Clearly a fresh pineapple is a-okay. Canned pineapple? Not so okay. It’s been cooked and soaked in “light syrup” and all kinds of nasty, so we’ll just forgo the canned. Frozen pineapple? Hm. If it was picked, diced, and frozen only (no ingredients added), then okay. If it was picked, diced, cooked, frozen, then not so much. Same goes for vegetables. Raw: duh– good. Frozen: maybe acceptable (Definitely not acceptable if it is packaged with a small pouch of frozen cheese sauce. Gross.). Canned: I do not understand the word.
Grains? For now, I’m okay with purchasing already ground grains, such as corn meal, whole wheat flour, etc. I won’t purchase something like bleached flour, but then I don’t purchase bleached flour now, so that will be no sacrifice. We have a big ol’ bucket of wheat berries sitting out in our garage, alongside our hand-powered grinder, and we have a canister full of flax seed. Over the past few months, I’ve lackadaisically sought out sources for reasonably priced whole grains, but as of yet have found nothing. As the next year unfolds, I will likely become more concerted in my efforts.
Sweeteners? Raw honey is good. Raw sugar is okay, I think. White sugar doesn’t exist.
Dairy? I’ll continue to use the Happy Cow milk, butter, sour cream. I’ll probably start making our yogurt. I’m okay with purchasing cheeses, as long as they aren’t highly processed (think: Kraft). One day, I might try my hand at making cheese at home, but for now… I’ll buy it, most likely from the local dairy (Happy Cow) and the local goat farm (Split Creek).
Meats? All raw. I won’t purchase anything that has been cooked, marinated, smoked, etc. This means I have to either give up smoked salmon (I love me some smoked salmon) or smoke it myself… Hm. I may have to re-think that one :). I won’t purchase lunch meat, bacon, sausage… If I want lunch meat, I can oven roast a turkey breast and slice it myself. If I want corned beef, I can purchase a brisket, marinate it in homemade brine for a week and slow cook it myself. If I want bacon… well. I guess I could slice it and cure it myself. We probably just won’t have bacon, though. I’ll have to look into that one a little more. If I want sausage, I’ll take some ground meat, add sage and other seasonings, form it into little patties, and toss them into a pan. Simple. I’ll have more to say about meats at a later date.
Oils, vinegars, condiments? Olive oil I’ll buy. Vinegars… I could conceivably make apple cider, white, red wine. Balsamic is a long-term project (think 12 years). I’ll likely just use the vinegar we already have in the cabinet, then contemplate making my own when I run out. I’ll make all my own condiments: mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, hot sauce, barbecue sauce, salsa, salad dressing, etc. I will have to buy pickles and relish for the first half of the year only because I didn’t make pickles this summer and do not have a stockpile of pickling cucumbers lying around the house anywhere. Once we plant our summer garden and pickling cucumbers come in, I’ll switch to homemade pickles & relish. Essentially, for condiments, if I have access to the necessary ingredients and methods, I’ll make them myself.
And everything else will be Fully Homemade by Desirée V.