I was intrigued when I first saw The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila. It is a cookbook full of recipes for foods “you can stop buying and start making”. Do you like Twinkies? You can make them at home! Pop Tarts, Peanut Butter Cups, and Oreos are just some of the treats Chernila has adapted so we can make them ourselves.
As you can tell, the sweets and junk food caught my attention right away, but there is a wide variety of recipes from ricotta and cream cheese to hamburg buns, fish sticks, graham crackers, fruit roll-ups and homemade pasta from the pasta dough to the pasta sauce.
Chernila teaches cheese making and sells vegetables and these recipes are born from sharing recipes with those that stop by her stall at the farmer’s market. She is budget conscious and due in part to being a mother to two girls, wants to change the way we think about food and draw us away from packaged foods. She created the blog Eating From the Ground Up and lives in western Massachusetts with her family. The Homemade Pantry is her first cookbook, but she has since authored two more: The Homemade Kitchen and Eating From the Ground Up.
Each section has an introduction and each recipe has a story behind it with tips and encouragement when recipes might not go the way you want it to. After her introduction, in which she is transparent about her messy kitchen and the stress that can accompany meal time, she discusses different kitchen equipment and food storage techniques. And though I could always do with more pictures, there are numerous pictures throughout the book and each of them is beautiful.
My sweet tooth was begging me to try the recipes that would make it happy, but I was intrigued by the condiment section, especially the hot sauce recipe. I have a number of family members that love hot sauce. Hot sauce on eggs, hot sauce on burgers, hot sauce in soups. Hot sauce. Hot sauce. Hot sauce. I decided I would make the hot sauce, the ketchup, and the mustard.
I made the ketchup first. The recipe was easy to follow with step-by-step directions. She offers three ways to store the finished ketchup and notes how long the ketchup will last in each storage option. The most challenging step to the ketchup was getting it smooth enough with my ancient and needs-to-be-replaced blender. To be honest, her recipe calls for 1 tsp of cinnamon. I found it too much. At first taste, I didn’t notice it but it lingered in the aftertaste. My family did like it, and I will try it again, but will decrease the cinnamon or leave it out all together.
My husband loves brats (no, not our kids when they’re overtired, but a type of sausage), so mustard is very important to him. Again, very easy step-by-step directions with few ingredients, and it really was mustard when it was done. She does note that the mustard will be spicy at first but will mellow over time, and she was right. I honestly don’t think you could tell the difference between her mustard and store bought mustard except for the difference in color. The homemade is not quite so yellow.
I was nervous about making the hot sauce, it came out great and my family loved it. At first taste you think it tastes fine, but there’s nothing amazing about it, but if you wait a few seconds, you feel the heat. The family has requested that I always have some on hand, and the recipe is so easy, it’s definitely do-able. It was such a hit at home that I brought some in to work one day. It was a winner. This recipe has few ingredients. It calls for a variety of hot chiles so you can play with the level of heat you want. Easy step-by-step instructions and storage ideas.
The Homemade Pantry was fun, and I might even need to buy my own copy as it will be a staple in my kitchen. Wanna give it a try? Stop by Topsham Public Library and check it out!