DIY

xoFOOD: 6 Homesteading Recipes That Are Way Better Than The Prepackaged Stuff

These options are both money-saving and palate-pleasing.
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Publish date:
December 1, 2014
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xoFood, recipes, Homesteading

We all know that one of the best ways to eat better and save money is to cook at home. But when I can, I like to take it one step further and make some of the packaged or processed foods I would typically buy premade.

There is no getting around the fact that this indeed takes longer than dashing to the grocery store, but in my experience, organization is the key to making it fit into my schedule. Sundays are the days I do big batch cooking for the week, so while I’m roasting chicken and making pho broth, I’ll make a few of the recipes listed below, too. It’s become one of my favorite parts of the weekend.

Read on for some of my favorite homesteading recipes, and please share yours in the comments!


Tortillas

Store-bought flour tortillas are fine, but when you discover how easy (and CHEAP!) it is to make them fresh, I doubt you’ll ever look back. If you won’t be using them all at once, feel free to roll them out, stack them with wax paper or parchment between them, wrap, and freeze until you need them. Then, cook according to the recipe directions on an as-needed basis, and enjoy their soft, chewy wonderfulness whenever you want.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for bowl
  • 3/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons warm water

Directions

  1. In a bowl, stand-up mixer, or food processor, mix together flour, baking powder and salt.
  2. Slowly stream in olive oil and mix (use a fork if mixing in a bowl --run machine if using a stand-up mixer or food processor).
  3. Slowly stream in warm water, continuing to mix, until a very sticky dough forms.
  4. Knead, either by hand on a floured surface or in machine, until dough is very smooth and elastic (4-5 minutes by hand, 1-2 minutes using a machine).
  5. Transfer kneaded dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
  6. Once dough has rested, transfer to a lightly floured surface and use a sharp knife to cut into 12 pieces.
  7. Shape each piece into a round ball. Allow to rest on floured surface for about 5 minutes.
  8. Use a floured rolling pin to roll each ball into a 6-7" circle (don't worry if it's not perfectly round -- misshapen tortillas have character).
  9. Heat 2 large frying pans (to expedite total cooking time) over medium-high heat (don't add any oil).
  10. Cook the tortillas, a few at a time in the skillets, for 30-60 seconds on each side. They should have a few brown spots, but not too many. Make sure they are soft as opposed to crisp.
  11. Serve warm.

Makes 12 tortillas.


Jam

Jam is the ultimate way to stop time – or at least, to preserve beautiful fresh fruit at the peak of its freshness to be enjoyed whenever you want. This spicy tomato jam recipe is my own (and works well with Roma tomatoes, which are available year round), but in general, when I need a good jam recipe, I look to my friend Sean’s website, Punk Domestics.

I usually use this one up within a week, but if you want to seal it in jars to be shelf stable, follow the canning instructions in the pickled vegetable recipe below.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ripe Roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons (or more to taste) Sriracha or other chili sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • several grinds fresh black pepper

Directions

  1. Fill a large pot with boiling water and bring it to a boil. Drop the tomatoes into boiling water for 12-14 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon. Rinse under cool water, then slip their skins off (they should come right off). Let cool, then core and chop.
  2. Dump the water out of the pot and return it to the stove. Add the chopped tomatoes, onion, honey, balsamic, Sriracha, salt and pepper. Turn the heat up and bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 55-65 minutes.


Butter

Butter isn’t something I usually go out of my way to make, since good butter (my favorite is Kerrygold, salted) is so readily available and affordable, but if I happen to have extra heavy cream around (usually after a big baking project), I immediately turn it into butter before it has the chance to go bad. There is absolutely nothing better than good, fresh butter (try it on a homemade tortilla!).

Makes about 1/2 cup butter (approximately 1 stick).

Ingredients

  • 1 pint very cold heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

1. Place heavy whipping cream and salt in a sturdy mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand-up mixer.

2. Beat, either using an electric mixer or the whisk on a stand-up mixer, well past the stiff-peaks phase of whipping the cream, until the solids begin to separate from the liquid and curds of butter form -- about 8-9 minutes of electric beating.

3. Discard the liquid and mold the butter into the desired shape. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Note: This can be done with a whisk by hand or by pouring the cream into a large glass jar and shaking it. It just takes at least 20 minutes of non-stop shaking/whipping.


Crème Fraiche

Crème fraiche is basically fancy sour cream, and can be used in just about any way you would use sour cream or Mexican crema. It’s also fabulous on toast or crackers with smoked salmon.

Makes about 2 cups.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons buttermilk

Directions

1. Stir the cream and buttermilk together gently, place in a glass jar and cover tightly.

2. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 16 hours, and up to 24. Cream will be very thick.

3. Once cream has thickened, use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.


Ricotta

When I learned how easy it is to make fresh ricotta, I stopped buying it altogether -- even the high quality fresh kind. Not only is it dirt cheap to make it at home (and I almost always have all of the ingredients on hand anyway), but freshly made ricotta is so utterly delicious, you will want to eat it by the spoonful (and you should, drizzled with a little bit of good extra virgin olive oil and some flaky sea salt).

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons white (5% acidity) vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

Directions

1. Line a strainer with a cheesecloth and position it over a large bowl. Set aside.

2. Bring milk and 1 cup cream to a boil in a medium pot (watch it carefully so it doesn’t scorch). Remove from heat.

3. Stir in the vinegar and salt and and let mixture sit for 5 minutes, until the milk curds completely separate from the liquid (whey).

4. Pour the mixture into the prepared cheesecloth-lined strainer and drain the whey, squeezing the cheesecloth to encourage the liquid to come out. Continue doing so until the mixture is the texture of cottage cheese.

5. Transfer ricotta to a bowl, season with more salt if desired and stir in the remaining cream. Use immediately or cover tightly and refrigerate.

6. The ricotta will keep for about 4 days, but is best if eaten as soon as possible.


Refrigerator Pickled Vegetables

This pickling technique will work for just about any vegetable. I whip it out any time our CSA box comes with more of something than we’ll be able to get through within the course of a week.

Feel free to get creative with flavorings. I sometimes add fresh herbs, whole peppercorns, sliced chiles, or mustard seeds. And a jar of these makes a great gift!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cold water
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • 2 tsp red chili flakes, optional
  • 3 cups peeled, chopped carrots, cucumbers, beets, cauliflower, chard stems, or whatever else you have on hand and would like to pickle

Directions

  1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Submerge 4 pint-size mason jars and lids (with lids and rims separate from jars) and boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from from water (use tongs and be careful) and allow to cool slightly. Keep water boiling.
  2. Meanwhile, combine water, vinegar, salt, pepper and chili flakes. Whisk to dissolve salt. Set aside.
  3. Pack vegetables into jars, leaving a 1/4" space at the top. Cover with liquid and carefully put on lids, making sure they are fully closed.
  4. Submerge sealed jars into boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Remove and refrigerate until cold. Pickled vegetables are usually best after 2-3 days in the refrigerator.