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'cooking from scratch'-discuss  RSS feed

 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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I'm familiar with the term, but it's just called 'cooking' over here
That said, many NZers would buy lots of ready made food, although I'd say less than many Americans.
I don't buy ready made food at all.
I have a hippie/professional cooking background and no kids though...
I'd be interested to hear thoughts on things like:

What do people take 'cooking from scratch' to mean?
I assume there's a bit of a...pyramid...with sort of accepted minimums like, I dunno-pasta sauce.
While actual pasta, cheese, alcohol etc go further up the pyramid and are not 'from scratch' requirements.
I actually have a feeling that of the ready made foods, pasta sauce might be one of the most common?

do you buy some 'ready made' food and some not?
Why/why not?
If you do, is it always the same type of thing-say pasta sauce-?
Do you have 'philosophies', say, always avoiding HFCS, or more 'it depends'?

For me it's simple: I like the taste of my food better

*edited* to try and make better sense
 
Julia Winter
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Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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There are so many possibilities, for me, it usually comes down to time.

I have made ketchup/catsup, it was lovely, but right now in my fridge is some organic ketchup made in Portland (sold at Costco). I have made mac and cheese, but my kids actually prefer the stuff from a box. It is a completely different product. I bought Annie's brand for a while, but now apparently they've been bought out, and my local Costco had a bunch of organic mac and cheese from a different company and I bought that last week.

I love making pasta sauce by quartering tomatoes and roasting them in the oven until they are slightly shrunken with black tips, and also roasting quartered onions, whole garlic cloves, maybe some bell peppers, mushrooms, all roasted first then combined into sauce. One year I made a few gallons of this and pressure canned it in quart jars, and that was wonderful, to have something just totally ready to go in the time it took to boil pasta. However, pressure canning is a pain in the a**, and I think the only way I'll do that again is if I have a group of people to work with.

So, if I have a philosophy, it is to avoid bizarre ingredients (I will buy ice cream, but only if it has, say, 5 or 6 ingredients maximum) and to get organic or local whenever possible.

Today I spent more than three hours in the Ecovillage community kitchen (big restaurant style kitchen) and we processed three boxes of (kinda sad) apples into 9 quarts of applesauce and 4 quarts of apple chunks. It felt good to take these apples that nobody else was going to work with (they are an odd variety, shaped like an upside down pear and heavily russeted) and make some yummy/useful food from it, but it was a lot of time. I think it would have been better to take more time, there would have been less effort (we used the oven to cook the quarter apples prior to running through a food mill, and my partner was in a hurry, so we ended up needing extra muscle to push the apples through the screen).

So, for me, who loves to make things from scratch (I've put an inordinate amount of time into a half gallon of lacto-fermented tomato salsa) but who is also the primary breadwinner for my family of four, it's all about available time.
 
Cj Sloane
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Leila Rich wrote:
What do people take 'cooking from scratch' to mean?


I think cooking the pasta sauce is mandatory for "cooking from scratch." If you buy the sauce, you're barely cooking - really you're just boiling water! But really, if I'm going to employ the "from scratch" label, I'll make the pasta - with my own eggs! I do have plans to kick it up a notch this year - I'll attempt to make pasta with my own eggs and acorn flour from acorns foraged on the property and then ground & leached!
 
Stevie Sun
Posts: 54
Location: Devon, UK
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I dont prepare my own tomato based stuff because I cant get enough tomatoes to grow in my garden. I will have access to a polytunnel next year so that might change. So there's a jar of organic passata (or however its spelt) in my kitchen which will last a week. I also plan one "cheap" meal a week, and at the moment its usually a frozen bag of chicken and chorizo and sea food rice stuff from waitrose. There's not too many nasty ingredients, waitrose are hot on sustainability of their fish, and it tastes good.

Otherwise much of the food which enters my kitchen is in the order of meat and veg. We dont tend to eat wheat but when we did I baked all our bread. I buy in butter, cheese and coconut oil.

I consider myself as mostly cooking from scratch but I know I could do more. I tend to keep things simple so aside creating a meal plan so stuff doesnt go to waste I just need to make sure the right stuff comes out of the freezer in the morning.
 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Pasta, & pasta sauce are certainly 2 things that come to mind here.

When I was little (pre-school), an Italian family used to babysit us. They made everything from scratch. Dinner was started around 10 in the morning. My mother spent about 2-4 hours on her sauce.

Today, there are quite a few good 'ready-made' sauces available (Ragu is not one of them). But, they all lack something.
Usually, I will saute up onions, garlic, sweet peppers, mushrooms, and probably some (store bought) Italian sausage. The final product will get added to the bottle of sauce, and slow simmered until all is 'married'. It is better than 'canned', but not as good as 'made-from-scratch'. It still takes some time, but I cannot justify spending all afternoon in the kitchen to make a meal that will be eaten in a matter of minutes.

If you have the time, home made pasta will be much better than a packet of spaghetti noodles.

Although 'from-scratch' is usually far better, sometimes the clock is your worst enemy.

 
John Saltveit
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Trader Joe's makes a marinara sauce that has very little sugar and no HFCS. No HFCS is crucial for me. Part of scratch to me is weighing, "Do I get to go canoeing/playing baseball/basketball, skateboarding/ rafting with my kids today or am I just going to cook." Many times it's the activity. I don't need to make the pasta. I have made some pancake like gluten free bread because the kind you can buy is often expensive and terrible. I don't have time to make all my bread, although I make some.
John S
PDX OR
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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We grind our own flour, but don't grow the wheat. We make our own noodles for chicken soup, but buy spaghetti. We buy instant potatoes.

It comes down to cost, time and convenience as long as it doesn't add HFCS or MSG or the twenty other things someone in my house is allergic to.

"from scratch" for us means only buying pure single ingredients (salt, sugar, vanilla, chocolate, etc.) and doing all the assemblage.
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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John Polk wrote:home made pasta will be much better than a packet of spaghetti noodles.

I hadn't even thought of dried pasta as maybe 'counting';
commercial dried pasta is a totally different thing than homemade fresh pasta,
and I often prefer the texture of the dried stuff.
In Italy, bought dried pasta is completely acceptable, even desirable for various dishes.

Mind you, Europeans are perfectly comfortable getting all sorts of things from their amazing specialists!
I'm a big fan of getting various things from people that are good at them-
a food-specific version of 'community-sufficiency', which is my idea of sustainability.
I'll leave my olive oil, honey, blue cheese etc to the experts
 
Dale Hodgins
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I've always called it cooking. Prepared foods like TV dinners, frozen pizza and macaroni are consumed in increasing quantity as you move down the socioeconomic ladder. Those who can least afford to toss money down the toilet, are the target market.

In the 80s comedy Momma's Family, the lead played by Vicky Laurence, is pitted against another woman in a chilli cooking contest. Her rival uses a can of store bought chilli and beer to win the contest. Momma protested the results. "That ain't cookin, that's heatin". I don't remember anything else of that show. We all wanted the cheater to lose.
 
D. Logan
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From Scratch cooking was the topic of my blog posting today and it got me thinking I should probably talk about it on Permies a little too. Good thing I checked the search first and ran across this one! I kind of see cooking/eating as having three basic categories, ignoring eating out since that can run the whole spectrum depending on where you go to eat at.

Ready Made
These are often heavily processed foods that require either simply heating up or minimal effort to make into a working product. Some don't even need that much honestly. About the most complicated these get is adding several items from the box together or adding eggs, oil and milk to their product. There's just enough effort involved for people to feel like they did something, but not enough to really be considered homemade by any stretch of the imagination. I don't like heavily processed foods, but admit there are times when being able to just mix a few things together and heat it can be a blessing amid the many things that can fill a day.

Semi-homemade
There's a cooking show focused around this as I recall actually. More or less, you are using store bought items and combining them in your own ways (with or without fresh ingredients) to make something unique. Taking store bought pasta sauce and adding onion, beef and pepper to it would be in this range. I more or less consider the use of anything canned that you didn't can yourself or the use of mixes as part of your cooking to fall into this range. There are a lot of people who say they are making something 'homemade' or 'from scratch' that I have known who are actually making semi-homemade.

From Scratch
This is the style of cooking I most often strive to achieve. I am of the opinion that this is some of the best food there is and you really appreciate it more when you've put the little extra effort in. I don't believe everything has to be made at home, but rather should be in it's basic form. To me, that means one ingredient or very simple ingredients. Semolina pasta (I make my own egg noodles), real butter, quality cheese, unfortified wines, milk, etc. These things are items I either can't make myself or simply don't have the proper materials on hand to make readily. Sure, when I have time to make butter by hand, I might, but only when I know the effort is going to be rewarded by a dish that highlights the butter itself or uses that butter as a major factor in the overall flavor. Pick your battles after all. When sourcing an item like this, I always try for the best possible quality, favoring locally made products I can verify myself.

These are my thoughts at least. I'll generally favor from-scratch over the semi-homemade if given the choice, but semi-homemade can be a delicious compromise in the right hands. Knowing where you can accept a little store bought and where to put fresher touches or higher quality products can turn a so-so dish into something really good. I don't claim any elite crown either. I'm guilty of eating pizza bites from time to time as well when I am having a busy day and just don't feel like putting any effort into a bite to eat.
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1282
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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I am a from scratch cook but even I cheat from time to time. I work full time and I have 2 toddlers on top of a farm. So basically I have like 6 jobs. Things I cheat on, gravy mix occasionally, spaghetti sauce sometimes, pre-made noodles. I buy broth instead of making my own. Condiments and bread. So I guess the question is, how far do you take it? Can you buy anything packaged or not? I try not to stress it. If I have time to make noodles, I do. If I don't, I use packaged. Somehow my kids will survive it.

Oh packaged pancake mix. We use a lot of that. We CAN make it from scratch but not being morning people we'd rather not.
 
Cj Sloane
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elle sagenev wrote:Oh packaged pancake mix. We use a lot of that. We CAN make it from scratch but not being morning people we'd rather not.


That one's easy - just make it the night before & add the wet ingredients in the morning. Probably costs much less & you can be sure there's nothing funky in it.
 
David Livingston
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I call it cooking too .
I make my own bread, pasta sauce and pies - the latter as they dont make them here in france
I also make my own pizza
I also make my own yorkshire puddings

David
 
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