Mrs. Gus Wright, Farm Security Administration client with her canned goods, Oakland community, Greene County, Georgia, November 1941. Digital ID 1260071, New York Public LibraryThe first time I made my own cheese, it was a revelation. It was so simple and easy, it was ridiculous to me that I had spent years buying it at the store like everyone else.
I wasn't making brie or cheddar or anything fancy or aged at all, just the standard fresh ricotta that usually comes in a tub in the dairy case. Making your own ricotta is only slightly more involved than brewing tea. You slowly warm up whole milk in a pot. When it gets to a certain temperature (around 185°F), take it off the heat and add acid in the form of lemon juice or vinegar. Separate curds from whey, drain in a cheesecloth, and voila, your lasagna just got that much more homemade.
More and more, Americans are thinking hard about where their food comes from and whether improvements can be made from a nutritional or supply chain perspective to improve our health and the health of our environment. When you control the ingredients, you know what is going into the food you eat. Author Michael Pollan says we should "eat food," as in food our great-great-grandmothers would recognize and not products filled with unknown preservatives and shelf-stabilizers.
I have been experimenting with quick pickles, mayonnaise, sauces, granola, candies and other basic recipes for a while now. You don't necessarily have to invest in equipment or hard-to-find ingredients in order to get some satisfaction from DIYing your fruit, veggies, dairy, condiments, drinks, or sweets. The extra effort can pay off in many ways.
Browse this list, or the library shelves in the 630s and 640s. Just look for an easy project that catches your interest; whether or not you decide to raise chickens in your backyard, it might surprise you how easy it can be to make homemade fruit roll ups...
- Small-space Container Gardens: Transform your Balcony, Porch, or Patio with Fruits, Flowers, Foliage & Herbs Fern Richardson, 2012
- The Urban Farm Handbook: City-slicker Resources for Growing, Raising, Sourcing, Trading, and Preparing What You Eat Annette Cottrell, 2011
- Mini Farming: Self Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre Brett L. Markham, 2010
- Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square Inch Gardener's Guide to Year-round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting R.J. Ruppenthal, 2008
- The Edible Container Garden: Growing Fresh Food in Small Spaces Michael Guerra, 2000
Check with the proper authorities before you start foraging in your local park! "Enjoy Park Greenery, City Says, but Not as Salad" The New York Times, July 29, 2011.
Pickles and Preserves
- Food - Focal Exhibit - Sketch of display on preservation, Digital ID 1673297, New York Public LibrarThe Preservation Kitchen: The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves, and Aigre-doux Paul Virant, 2012
- Preserving: The Canning and Freezing Guide for All Seasons Pat Crocker, 2011
- Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round Marisa McClellan, 2011
- Preserving with Friends (DVD) 2011
- Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It: And Other Kitchen Projects Karen Solomon, 2011
- The Complete Guide to Food Preservation: Step-by-step Instructions on How to Freeze, Dry, Can, and Preserve Food
Angela Williams Duea, 2011
- Put 'em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling Sherri Brooks Vinton, 2010 (also available as ebook)
- Canning for A New Generation Liana Krissoff, 2010
- The Art of Preserving Lisa Atwood, 2010
- Pickles & Relishes: 150 Recipes from Apples to Zucchini Andrea Chesman, 2010 (also available as ebook)
- Homemade Living: Canning & Preserving with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys & More Ashley English, 2010
- Tart & Sweet: 101 Canning Recipes for the Modern Kitchen Kelly Geary, 2010
- Preserving: Self-sufficiency Carol Wilson, 2009
- Well-preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods Eugenia Bone, 2009
Cheese, Butter, and Yogurt
- Cheese laboratory, South Building, Department of Agriculture. Beltsville, Maryland. (1935 Nov.) Digital ID 4000651, New York Public Library Home Dairy with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Cheese, Yogurt, Butter & More Ashley English, 2011
- The Joy of Cheesemaking: The Ultimate Guide to Understanding, Making, and Eating Fine Cheese Jody Farnham, 2011
- Artisan Cheese Making at Home: Techniques and Recipes for Mastering World-class Cheeses Mary Karlin, 2011
- The Complete Guide to Making Cheese, Butter, and Yogurt at Home: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply Richard Helweg, 2010
- Cheesemaking Rita Ash, 2010
To make small beer, Digital ID 2015204, New York Public LibraryIf you need more beer inspiration, try George Washington's recipe... or not.
- Beer Craft: A Simple Guide to Making Great Beer William Bostwick, 2011
- Beer: Tap into the Art and Science of Brewing Charles W. Bamforth, 2003 (also available as ebook)
- The Homebrewer's Garden: How to Easily Grow, Prepare, and Use your Own Hops, Brewing Herbs, Malts Joe Fisher, 1998 (ebook)
- Home Winemaking for Dummies Tim Patterson, 2011
- The Way to Make Wine: How to Craft Superb Table Wines at Home Sheridan F. Warrick, 2006
- Making Wild Wines & Meads: 125 Unusual Recipes Using Herbs, Fruits, Flowers & More Pattie Vargas, 1999
- The Encyclopedia of Home Winemaking Pierre Drapeau, 1999
Before you question the inclusion of bees and chickens here... I live in Brooklyn and I know for a fact both are being raised in my neighborhood!
General DIY/Homesteading Resources
- Eat the City: A Tale of the Fishers, Foragers, Butchers, Farmers, Poultry Minders, Sugar Refiners, Cane Cutters, Beekeepers, Winemakers, and Brewers Who Built New York Robin Shulman, 2012
- The Homesteading Handbook: A Back to Basics Guide to Growing your Own Food, Canning, Keeping Chickens, Generating your Own Energy, Crafting, Herbal Medicine, and More Abigail R. Gehring, 2011
- The Complete Idiot's Guide to Urban Homesteading Sundari Elizabeth Kraft, 2011
- The Locavore's Kitchen: A Cook's Guide to Seasonal Eating and Preserving Marilou K. Suszko, 2011
- Urban Pantry: Tips & Recipes for A Thrifty, Sustainable & Seasonal Kitchen Amy Pennington, 2010
- The Complete Idiot's Guide to Self-sufficient Living Jerome D. Belanger, 2009
- The Self-sufficient Life and How to Live It: The Complete Back-to-basics Guide John Seymour, 2009
- Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of A Handmade Life Jenna Woginrich, 2009
- The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City Kelly Coyne, 2008
- Extreme Simplicity: Homesteading in the City Christopher Nyerges, 2002
A "demonstration team"... 4-H fair... canning their farm products, October 1921 , Digital ID 464359, New York Public LibraryCheck out this list in BiblioCommons: Grow, Preserve, Pickle, Cure, Brew, Do It Yourself. Have you grown or preserved anything interesting lately? I don't have much in the way of websites listed here, but there are many. Which informational websites do you read and recommend?