by Maria Ribas.
Winter is the perfect time to cook from the pantry, but it’s also a great time to rethink what goes into our pantries. One of the exciting cookbook topics making a comeback this year is homemade pantry staples–good ol’ making it yourself for yummier, healthier, and cheaper results.
One of my favorite books in this category is The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila, who lives right here in Massachusetts. While she lives out on the west side of the state, she often has signings, readings, and teaches classes all over the state, so keep an eye on her events page if you’d like to meet her in person. (I know I would!)
The Homemade Pantry is really such a fun cookbook to have on hand. Not only is it a gorgeous book, but it’s softly personal and full of stories that draw you in quietly, without a hint of the self-promotional sheen of many other books. It’s a cookbook to read before bed, and also a cookbook to keep on the kitchen counter. And it’ll change the way you look at 101 foods you usually buy that can be homemade–from toaster pastries, to fruit leather, to mozzarella, to butter.
For making your own cheese and butter, it’s important to have super fresh, natural milk, which isn’t too hard to get your hands on in our state. And if you don’t want to brave the next Snowmageddon, Hornstra Farms in Norwell will deliver their farm fresh milk right to your door. If having their beautiful glass bottles lined up on your doorstep doesn’t take you back to a more homemade time, then these recipes for cornbread and butter sure will. Both recipes are from The Homemade Pantry, and they’re are a great way to use our amazing local dairy products to make something special and soothing–perfect for a snow day spent at home!
Homemade Butter (no hand churning required!)
Makes about a cup of butter and 3/4 cup buttermilk
1 pint heavy cream
A pinch of salt (approximately 1/8 teaspoon)
Pour the heavy cream into the bowl of a food processor or stand mixer and add a pinch of salt. If using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment and turn it to medium high speed (4 or 6 on the settings), then cover the bowl with a towel so it doesn’t splash all over your kitchen. Let it churn for 1-2 minutes, and you’ll have whipped cream.
But if you keep going another few minutes, the solids (the butter) will separate from the liquids (the buttermilk), and you’ll be done! Place cheesecloth or a fine sieve over a bowl, pour the contents of your butter and buttermilk into it, and squeeze out any remaining buttermilk from the butter.
Run the butter under cold water and knead it for a minute until all the buttermilk seems to be out–this will help keep your butter fresher for longer.
Makes one 9-inch round loaf
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal (or polenta, they’re actually the same thing!)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup buttermilk (homemade or store-bought)
1/4 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease your loaf pan with butter (go ahead and use your homemade butter!).
Combine the four, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter to a large measuring cup and microwave for 30-60 seconds to melt. Beat the eggs into the butter, then add the maple syrup, buttermilk, and milk directly to the measuring cup and stir to combine.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Pour the batter into the pan and slide into the oven.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve with a pat of your homemade butter and a sense of satisfaction!
Old Time-y Tunes: If you’re in the mood for some homespun folk music with your homemade cornbread and butter, try “Cornbread and Butter Beans” by the Grammy Award-winning band Carolina Chocolate Drops. They’ll be touring in our area at the end of March!
Full disclosure: I edited a cookbook of homemade pantry staples, but I won’t say which one so as not to influence you! (It’s not The Homemade Pantry, by the way.) But I really encourage you to browse the books in this category–it’s a incredibly fun way to expand your culinary repertoire and try recipes you never imagined could be made at home.
Maria Ribas is an editor, blogger, and connoisseur of all things pecan pie. By day she acquires and edits cookbooks and lifestyle books, and by night she cooks, writes, and snaps photos for Cooks & Books. She thinks a good cookbook can help anyone create restaurant-worthy meals and take control of how and why they eat. You can find her talking publishing, cooking, and life at www.cooksplusbooks.com.