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Ever made basic staples for your kitchen? Mustard, mayo, jam, crackers etc.?

I've been playing around with recipes (made a little preserves) and reading up on ancient ones (mustard made with wine must in the early centuries etc.) and got to wondering if anyone makes many of the basics in their kitchen - and how that turned out?

I liked the fresh preserves I made better than gourmet store preserves. In the past I've actually made crackers that turned out wonderfully (normally, crackers wouldn't be something I'd think of making - just buying). The mustard thing was intriguing but I've never tried that nor successfully made my own mayo.

Has anyone made a whole bunch of kitchen basics from scratch? What did you love, and how much better was the taste vs. commercially available?

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  1. I make jams/jellies all the time, I like to make them because you can put whar ever you
    want in the mix. like I came up with this peach jam with crushed pineapple and
    marascino cherries. and it looks pretty good too.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bigjimbray

      I'd be adding Grand Marnier to that!

    2. I make mayo from scratch always, but I don't eat much mayo. Lemon juice, eggs, oil. You can do it in a blender in about 2 minutes total time.

      2 Replies
        1. re: cheesemonger

          My grandmother made mayo all the time. I miss that stuff. She used raw eggs and we all survived. Makes you think about all the paranoia surrounding raw protein products

        2. I've made jams and jellies, fruit in booze for Xmas presents. The only crackery thing I've made is more of a cheese cookie. The butter and cheddar and flour recipe you can find everywhere on the Web, just squished through a cookie press with a heart-shaped die. Or rolled into a log and sliced off in 1/4" rounds. Good with soups or salads. Martha Stewart's appetizer cookbook has true, thin cracker recipes. Perhaps there's some on her Web site. Her recipes are generally reliable and delicious.

          I've made fresh ginger jelly for myself and as presents. It's lovely pale pink in color, sweet yet with a hint of the fresh ginger heat, and makes a great adult PB&J or melted as a glaze for a fruit tart.

          Fresh basil pesto is so much better than any jarred variety IMHO. Read the label. They have to add acidifiers to preserve it, and it just tastes vinegary to me. The same with jarred crushed fresh garlic. It's too acidic. I understand it's not wise to peel and save garlic cloves in olive oil on ones own. Something about botulism, so I'm not doing that! I have, however, roasted garlic, squished out the cloves, mashed with olive oil, and frozen flat in small freezer bags. If anyone know that that's a bad idea, please advise!

          Good topic. I'm interested to see the replies.

          1. I make jams and jellies seasonally -- apple jellies in particular are worlds better home made then store bought. I usually put up apples and strawberries every year, and every few years or so I also do peaches. I make apple jelly, cinnamon apple rings, cinnamon apple jelly, and apple butter, and strawberry preserves.

            I also usually do a batch of green tomato relish or chutney at the end of tomato season - never very much. It depends on how early tomato season ends, and how many and what size greenies I've still got on the vine.

            I enjoy making crackers, but don't very often - we're not big cracker eaters.

            And I make mayonnaise when I want to eat it (rarely, I dislike mayo), and mustard from time to time - usually when I want a very spicy mustard for something. I've tried making catsup once, but it didn't turn out -- it was really good.... but not catsup.

            I'm not sure what you consider a basic staple -- but I include stock in that, and generally make it a few times a month, and have some frozen always, and I used to home make all our bread -- a really really good artisan bakery opened up last fall though, and my bread making has sort of fallen to the wayside.

            And once, in a Martha-Stewartesque fit of over doing it, I made my own butter for Thanksgiving Dinner.

            5 Replies
            1. re: AnnaEA

              Love that! (The butter making!) How'd you do it? (Cream, mixer, salt, luck?)

              1. re: Cinnamon

                Butter is easy. Just keep whipping the cream past the whipped cream stage till it separates. You have to squish the buttery bits together and drain off the liquid. Add salt if you want.

                1. re: Cinnamon

                  I got a couple of quarts of cream and opened it up and let it rest over night on the counter, then warmed it up in a pot with a little grated carrot, strained it to get the grated carrot out, lightly salted it, and went at it with a hand mixer until it separated out into butter. Poured off the whey and used it for something... I don't remember what - used in the mashed potatoes, I think. Then worked the butter back and forth with a spatula against the side of the bowl under some cold running water until it ran clean, and patted it into a loaf on a pretty little tray I had.

                  The grated carrot gives the butter a pretty yellow color -- I learned to do this from my grandmother, who (I am about 90% certain) learned to do it from the little house on the prairie books -- she was a teacher and used to teach from those books, and I know they did butter making in her class.

                  1. re: Cinnamon

                    A food processor is perfect for making butter. I like to start it on low and then switch to high and let it run until it separates. strain the butter globs, add a bit of salt(optional) and compress into a firm ball. I refrigerate it overnight and use.If you have never had really fresh butter, the taste will blow your mind.

                    I grew up in the country and we used to do this every Saturday with whole milk from my neighbors farm. Milk that is almost ready to go sour makes the very best butter, but that is my opinion.

                    My grandmother taught me to make Dijon style mustard with whole brown seed and white wine. There are very few commercial mustards that compare, plus you can vary the hotness to your taste.

                2. Like cheesemonger, blender mayo always! A bit of mustard and the emulsification is always more assured. Salt and pepper to taste as well.

                  Also make jams, fruit syrups, quick preserves, pickles, chutneys, hot chili sauces, sun dried tomatoes, Japanese pickled ginger, yogurt, spreading cheese from yogurt, and--most recently--caviar from carp roe (which some of you helped me with).

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    What do you have to do to carp roe to make it caviar?

                    1. re: Cinnamon

                      Gently poach in a court bouillan of vinegar, water, black pepper; drain; store in jars with fish sauce and oil.

                  2. I regularly make mayonnaise myself and find it superior to store bought for most things - but for some things Best Foods has a better texture so I use it instead of my own. It is very easy to make in the food processor or blender. I have made mustard a couple times (also very easy) but didn't really like it as well as purchased dijon mustard so I don't make my own. I haven't tried vinegar yet but am thinking about starting that as a project in the next month or so, maybe to give as Christmas gifts. I just made a batch of homemade crackers today. I like them but don't always think to make them especially when it's so tempting to just buy some and there are so many good ones available.

                    I make "pickled" vegetables, especially baby carrots and zucchini in the summertime, pretty frequently but I don't do real canning. I just keep them in the friedge for a week or two in an unsealed glass jar with their brine. They are my go-to snack so I like to have lots of them around.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: farmersdaughter

                      Thanks. I got stuck reading 13th (etc.) century recipes this morning (successfully did close to zero but putter all day). One of the more interesting things was about making mustard - with wine must. Another thing I liked was some way of sweating cheese and dunking it in cold water so that an oil or 'butter' rose to the top.. and then using said butter in a sauce. Bet that would be good and may have to try it sometime.

                      Here are a couple old mustard references:

                      1. re: Cinnamon

                        I tried making mustard once and it was so pungent even after resting several days that it gave me severe indigestion, and I have an iron stomach. Should probably try a different recipe, I bet it could be really good.

                        Mayo is dead easy, by food processor is easiest and yummy. Bread yes, crackers yes, pasta yes, jams/marmalade yes, pickled veg yes, fruit flavored vodka no but some friends did with plums and it was great, butter yes, in kindergarten I think. Cream + jar + lots of shaking = butter. It was montessori school.

                        Homemade mayo is *so* yummy, but I don't use it that often and it doesn't keep.

                    2. Not sure what you consider a staple, but I always make my own skins for chinese dumplings and xiao long baos.

                      Bake my own bread and sometimes will make my own yogurt.

                      In a fit of stupidity, I once made my own ketchup. The results were not all that bad (but nowhere close to Heinz, my favorite), but the worst part was that it was all entirely too time-intensive and utterly expensive.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        I will be entirely un-Chowish and say that sometimes preservatives are my friend. Hellman's will keep for weeks after opened. Homemade - not so much. I don't eat enough mayo to justify the effort to make my own every week, but I want it when I'm in the mood for a sandwich.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          That's so funny. I know what you mean regarding the Heinz. I wonder why it tastes as it does? It can't be the tomatoes can it?!

                            1. re: xtal

                              Do you think fake cherry flavoring comes into play at all maybe? (That thought inspired by old Royal Castle hamburgers.)

                              1. re: xtal

                                Actually I think Heinz has a lot more vinegar than the other brands that claim to taste the same. I know it has a lot of sugary stuff but at least it has a bite too.
                                I also think Heinz grows their own proprietary tomatoes so you can't really duplicate.

                            2. re: ipsedixit

                              Would you mind sharing a recipe and tips for your own dumpling skins? It used to be so easy for me to just go to the store and buy them, but now that I'm in Indiana, it's not so easy to buy good dumpling skins.

                            3. My mother likes to make Japanese styled pickled vegetables - pickled cabbage, pickled daikon, pickled ginger, pickled radish, carrots, you name it. Even though they are all available at our local Japanese grocery stores, she likes to make her own.

                              She also makes preserved lemon and kumquats. Oh, and she makes plum wines too!

                              To me everything she makes tastes better than commercial because it is the labor of love =D

                              1. I've made Seville orange marmalade when the oranges were available (January, I think) and even though it was a little time-consuming, it tasted so superior to the commercial stuff it was mind-boggling!

                                1. Mayo - wasn't worth it.

                                  Made catsup once. Good but also not worth it.

                                  Pickles - yes, and they can be made simply, fresh that day, in small batches, starting with cucumber and branching out from there - much simpler than canning whole batches. Marinating cuke slices in boiling water/vinegar/sugar just left out on the counter covered for a few hours gives an impressive side dish, and doing the same to thin-sliced carrot and/or daikon works very well indeed!

                                  Crackers - I once made a few (a dinner's worth) as a special "made it all myself" offering, and it went so much better than getting some out of a box. But they're best fresh, you have to watch the baking very carefully, and be prepared with an alternate if you mess up.

                                  1. Since you mention crackers, there was a terrific recipe posted here some time ago for making rosemary crackers. i've done them several times and they are always a huge hit. Seems others have had the same experience


                                    I keep meaning to teach myself how to make real mayo but I never get around to it....

                                    1. Mayo is easy, and you can vary flavorings for it with garlic, herbs, ginger, etc. I don't even bother to use the blender or processor--I think the texture comes out better by hand, and it takes longer for me to clean the blender than it takes to make the mayo by hand.

                                      I also discovered the joy of homemade jam and preserves. Particularly pink grapefruit marmalade and blackberry jam. We have lots of blackberries around in September, and the jam is worth every scratch I get picking them.

                                      1. Yes I have made Mayo...Easy...It's good, but actually I prefer Hellman's...better consistency and lasts longer...If you make your own Mayo, add some flavors to it...like garlic version or fresh herbs

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: jinet12

                                          Jams, conserves, chow-chow, picalilly, mustards of different flavors.
                                          Want to learn: creame fraiche, yogurt.

                                        2. Mayo - tastes great but doesn't keep, so sometimes it's not worth it.
                                          BBQ sauce - I think homemade is better than anything you can buy in a bottle.

                                          1. We bake bread every Wed; a family tradition for over 20 years now. With homemade bread baking grew the pleasure of creating homemade spreads (pesto, mayo, ketcup, jams, jelly and pickled eggplant, roasted garlic, infused oils & vinegars!

                                            We've tried are hand at homemade yogurt, cheese, butter and wine. Still working on becoming better at all. Altho when we found a small butter churn at an antique shop a few years back it made all the difference.

                                            We also love to make homemade ice cream, sherbet/sorbets with our kids providing the cranking power!

                                            Great thread!

                                            1. for more recipes, this is a great book from the 80's (during that back-to-basics era). another one from Rodale books in the same time frame is 'Stocking Up'.


                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: toodie jane

                                                I own the original printing of Better Than Store Bought and purchased another copy for a friend about six months ago on Ebay for 7.00. Amazon's low bid for used on this edition is 69.00...shop around-its a great READ and a terrific reference for kitchen basics.

                                                (The homemade marshmallows recipe remains a Halloween favorite!)

                                                1. re: toodie jane

                                                  Better-than-Store Bought is one of my favorite cookbooks. I do a lot of canning-jams, jellies, pickles, dilly beans, two kinds of BBQ sauce, 6 kinds of tomato sauce, Chinese duck sauce (way better than the orange stuff at the grocery store), stocks, chili sauce. Then I do a lot of baking and candy making at Christmas-caramel corn, candied fruit rinds, almond buttercrunch, white chocolate pistachio bark.
                                                  I make baked beans from scratch which people are amazed at. That is the thing that always surprises me is that people are really surprised that you can make these things yourself. Where do they think the recipes that Heinz and B&M came from?

                                                  1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                                                    Would you be willing to post the recipe for those baked beans, perhaps even in a new thread? Do you go straight to oven after soaking, or do a simmer to cook the beans fully before adding the other stuff and baking?

                                                  2. re: toodie jane


                                                    In case anyone is interested, Better than Store-Bought can be found at a few online stores beginning at around 25. + shipping. See the link above.

                                                    Sure wish I'd found a 7. ebay copy! The cheapest one on ebay right now is about $75. Great find, HillJ!

                                                  3. I regularly make chutneys, because homemade is so much better than anything storebought. I've also made jams, but there are good ones available commercially, so unless I find a great deal on fruit, I usually don't do this regularly. One year we planted WAY too many cucumbers, and I put up a lot of bread and butter pickles. They were delicious, but gosh, so much work! We don't plant as many mounds now. I also put up pesto and freeze roasted tomatoes each summer our yield is good. We did have a couple years that there wasn't enough to put up much of anything. I have made crackers, but didn't love them, so probably won't do that often. Oh, and I make my own japanese style pickles, because I can't find brands without preservatives and artificial colors. I've brought home good ones when I've visited the west coast, but more often just make my own with daikon, red radishes, eggplant, etc.

                                                    1. I've made ketchup from the S.Beach Diet cookbook. It was actually very good.

                                                      1. Oh great, not again! Every once and awhile, I get the urge to start making all kinds of condiments and staples, but then I never follow through with it, and then I feel guilty about it, and then I get over it- it's a vicious cycle!! :-) I have Better Than Store Bought, and love it, but so far I've only accomplished looking at it! This thread, and looking through my great grandma's recipes this weekend have started the cycle all over again. I'm working on my family cookbook, and one of the recipes that my grandma submitted is for a onion and pepper relish that my great grandma perfected- my mom says it was awesome, but I don't remember it. I think it's probably similar to the Harry and David's relish, so I would like to try it sometime. My grandma had written notes by it that said "Canned in 1966, made 9 1/2 pints" and "Canned in 1972, made 10 1/2" pints and so on! The only staples I make on a regular basis are pasta (we freeze it) and chicken stock. I made lemon curd at Christmas time and that was easy and good. These crackers I made about a month ago were fabulous: http://www.leitesculinaria.com/recipe... I've always wanted to make my own mustard- I am a mustard fanatic!

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Katie Nell

                                                          oh Katie, I'm addicted to that cracker recipe and so grateful that the web owners generously share (with permission) terrific recipes they try straight out of so many outstanding cookbooks. I'd be hard-pressed to purchase a cookbook for one recipe!

                                                        2. I'm willing to do the work for jams, relishes, and chutneys because the price in the store tends to provokes a little outrage in me. What I make isn't always better than store-bought, but it's always cheaper, and is a lot of fun!

                                                          My daughter likes her crunchy snacks, so I've started making pita chips and keeping them in tubs. Again, this was provoked by a fit of outrage at store prices. I'm definitely going to try some of these cracker recipes to add to the stash!

                                                          1. I made mayo the other day using balsamic vinegar instead of lemon juice. It was a little on the odd side. I've always wanted to make ketchup from scratch (my brother has refused to eat ketchup because of the stories we'd heard from friends who worked in the canneries in our hometown), but every recipe I find for ketchup makes it seem more like a freakin' RELATIONSHIP than a cooking process, and the payoff just didn't seem worth it.