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With so many people stockpiling for social distancing, self-isolation and self-quarantine, local grocery stores have been short on some of the staples of our diets — literally, our bread and butter.
Luckily, if your local grocery store is still stocked up on some key ingredients, you can make some of these common foodstuffs for yourself. I know, because I have done it. Writing Sam Tries Things has given me the opportunity to experiment with tried-and-true methods for making things like butter, bread and cheese, as well as more recently popularized items like almond milk. They are all easy, delicious and fun to prepare.
Here are 5 kitchen staples you can make if they are no longer available on grocery shelves.
If you have a little bit of flour (and a few other basic ingredients, depending on the type of bread you want to make), you can make your own bread if your local supermarket is out of loaves. Unless you want to make a quick bread (like Sandy Oliver’s delicious Quick French Bread or Sarah Walker Caron’s 5-ingredient Cheddar Beer Bread), learning how to make bread from scratch is a multi-day process filled with fun observations and daily maintenance, so it is a great way to pass the time during the social distancing period.
I made sourdough starter from scratch and had pretty good luck with it. The loaf of bread that I made was a little bit spongy, but still delicious. It is also fun to experiment with sourdough starter. You can use all different kinds of flour (so don’t worry if your standard all-purpose flour isn’t in the grocery store) and funky mix-ins such as pineapple juice or raisin water.
Non-dairy “milks” are having a moment. This is not just due to current trendiness, but also because they are suited for consumers who are lactose intolerant or vegan, and they tend to keep for slightly longer than dairy milks (a tip, though: you can freeze milk to make it last longer). Many grocery stores have run out of almond milk, oat milk and the other popular varieties.
A few months ago, I made almond milk and had a great time doing so. Plus, the leftover pulp made an excellent facial exfoliant and baking ingredient. There are also recipes online to make your own oat milk ( I like this oat milk recipe from Minimalist Baker, a blog that I engaged with a lot during my week eating vegan) if you have a nut allergy or just prefer the oaty goodness.
Sticks of butter are in high demand right now. Folks need them for cooking, buttering bread and the influx of boredom baking (I, personally, can attest to that). If you can’t find any though, don’t fret. You can make your own butter easily if you have some heavy whipping cream.
I made my own butter in two different ways: by agitating it in a jar and by using a food processor. Using the “jar method” is a fun activity if you’re looking to keep kids entertained and teach them a quick lesson about fats and colloids, but it isn’t exactly efficient. The food processor method will give you fresh, creamy butter in no time at all. You can also use a stand mixer, if you have one. Butters can be made to be salted, unsalted or flavored in fun ways to make tasty compound butters that will add a little extra flair to your daily meals.
Peanut butter is a cheap, delicious and protein-rich item with a long shelf life and many uses. However, the shelf-stable item might be harder to find these days.
If there are nuts still available, it’s pretty easy to make your own nut butter. Believe it or not, all you need are a food processor, nuts and perhaps a pinch of salt. I teamed up with Natalie Williams, the Bangor Daily News’s digital editor, and made a wide variety of nut butters, so even if you have a less conventional nut available in your grocery store, consider trying something new.
Ok, maybe cheese isn’t your top priority. Still, if you can find a source of rennet (specialty stores like Central Street Farmhouse in Downtown Bangor and health food stores are usually a good bet), milk and a little bit of salt, making cheese is a fun, interactive way to pass the time (with undeniably delicious results).
I made mozzarella from scratch with a few simple tools that I already had in my kitchen. Other easy cheese to make for beginners include chevre, feta and ricotta.
Did you try any of these with your family, or do you have any other questions about what you can do to be more self-sufficient? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.