What are the best things to make at home?
November 29, 2022 6:48 AM   Subscribe

So I made homemade bread. It was awesome. I’m making homemade Castile soap this weekend. Very excited. What other stuff should I be making at home?
posted by leotrotsky to Home & Garden (68 answers total) 140 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: For me, the difference between store bought and home made mayonnaise is vast, and mayo is pretty easy to make (though I'll confess that I do still buy it from the store and only make it at home for special occasions).
posted by primethyme at 6:59 AM on November 29, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Saurkraut. Cabbage, salt and a container.
posted by LaBellaStella at 7:00 AM on November 29, 2022 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Candles and wax melts are easy, fast, and customizable, and require very little in terms of equipment.

Homemade pasta is awesome.
posted by specialagentwebb at 7:00 AM on November 29, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: If you can do homemade bread, you can do cinnamon rolls. These are my favorite; I make them once a year.

Custard. This recipe is from my MIL; I make it in a double boiler and have never had luck with her microwave method.

½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 ½ cups milk
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine sugar, salt, and cornstarch in a microwave safe bowl. Stir in milk gradually. Microwave on high for 7 minutes or until slightly thickened. Stir some of the hot mixture into the eggs, then stir the egg mixture into the hot mixture, blending well. Microwave on medium for 4 or 5 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Let stand until cool.

Vanilla extract. Buy vanilla beans, split them lengthwise, put in alcohol (svedka vodka or trader joes spiced rum are my favorites, but I've done a whole taste test comparison), wait 6 months.

Lasagna. The key is ALL the things - spinach, lots of cheeses, sun dried tomatoes, vegan sausage, roasted red bell peppers, everything.

I think handmade journals are pretty cool and fun.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 7:03 AM on November 29, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Ricotta cheese is unbelievably easy for the tenfold quality increase.
posted by veery at 7:06 AM on November 29, 2022 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Marshmallows are fun just because people are so shocked that you can make them.
posted by FencingGal at 7:15 AM on November 29, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: If you want an extended contemplation of DIY calculus, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter is a moderately delightful book on the subject.
posted by zamboni at 7:15 AM on November 29, 2022 [19 favorites]

Best answer: Ginger beer!
posted by monologish at 7:16 AM on November 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Preserved lemons! Absurdly easy, 1/10 of the price of what they cost in the store, and they keep forever in the fridge for whenever a soup or stew or pilaf or even mayonnaise needs something salty-sour-citrus-brightness-flavor. I like to make mine with Meyer lemons which are showing up in grocery stores in many parts of North America in the next few weeks.

Homemade bagels are also surprisingly easy (I don't use lye in the boiling liquid, and they've worked fine), with incredible payoff because you can use exactly the seasonings you want. And fresh, just out of the oven bagels are INCREDIBLE.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:17 AM on November 29, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: *Pulls up chair and sits down*

Fancy liqueurs is one super-easy thing. Fruit or other flavorings, hooch (preferably Everclear, but strong vodka will do), and time. That's all you need. Dump everything in a jar, let it all sit for a couple months, then strain out the fruit and add some sugar syrup to taste and let it sit another couple months. You end up with something pretty that you could totally see the people on Downton Abbey sipping out of tiny cut crystal glasses with dessert.

Vanilla extract is made exactly the same way, only with a higher flavoring-to-hooch ratio. You can even use bourbon or rum instead of the vodka if you want a little of those flavors in your extract as well.

Jam. I sometimes turn just-before-it-goes-bad fruit into jam by pureeing it all, measuring how much I got, and adding half that amount of sugar; then it goes into a pot and I boil it until it reaches 220 degrees. Dump that in a jar, stick it in your fridge, done. You don't need to faff about with pectin if you bring the thing you're boiling to 220 degrees, and if you're just making one jar, you can just stick it in the fridge so you don't have to faff about with the canner. And if it doesn't set for some weird reason, you can just call it a fruit sauce and serve it over ice cream or something.

Speaking of which - ice cream, but for best results spring for an ice cream maker with a compression freezer. I got this little thing this summer and it was a GAME. CHANGER.

Apple butter - same deal as the jam, only made even easier with a slow cooker. I had a backlog of apples so I took most of them - about 3 pounds' worth - and after peeling and coring, threw them into a regular pot and boiled them for a half hour; then hit them with a stick blender to puree. I actually could have stopped there and called it "applesauce". But I dumped it into a slow cooker with a little sugar and some cinnamon, put it on "High" for a few hours with the lid cracked, and I ended up with 2 cups of apple butter which I put in the fridge in two little jars, one of which is almost eaten through already.

Pickles and pickled peppers - chop things, stuff them in a jar, heat up a mix of vinegar, water, salt, and seasonings, pour into the jar, close the jar, stick it in your fridge. Done.

Preserved lemons - you will use this SO MUCH. Start with a bag of about 8 lemons, a clean 16-ounce glass jar (you could totally re-use a jar of spaghetti sauce or something), and some kosher salt. Cut two of the lemons into wedges to start; then drop a tablespoon of salt into the bottom of the jar, then two wedges of lemon. Then another spoon of salt, and another layer of lemon wedges. Keep doing that, packing down the lemon wedges as you go (not to the point where they're totally smushed, but it's okay if they leak a little juice; you want to cram as many lemon wedges in as you can), and wedge a third or fourth lemon if need be. When the jar is full, top with another spoon of salt. Then juice enough of the remaining lemons to cover the stuff in the jar with lemon juice. Seal the jar and leave it on your counter for a week, shaking a couple times a day to stir the liquid around. Then stick the jar in your fridge ...The resulting lemon wedges can be cut up and mixed with herbs and butter and smeared over your chicken before you roast it, or a wedge can be spread across fish fillets before broiling. I have a go-to recipe where I chop up a half pound of potatoes, dump that into a baking dish, cut up a wedge of lemon and scatter that among the potatoes, and then plop a chicken thigh on top and bake that for about an hour.

Tomato sauce - Marcella Hazan's recipe for a basic tomato sauce calls for only 4 ingredients (canned tomatoes, butter, an onion, and salt) and about an hour of cooking time, and makes a good basic sauce. You don't even chop the onion, you just peel and chop it in half.

I'll come back with more.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:32 AM on November 29, 2022 [28 favorites]

Best answer: I also make homemade tomato sauce, heavy on the tomato chunks, usually when tomatoes are in season. Dry farmed Early Girl tomatoes, if you can find them, are incredible in a homemade sauce.

One thing I've been wanting to try is homemade gummy candy.
posted by May Kasahara at 7:41 AM on November 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Stock. Fish stock, chicken stock, turkey stock, whatever. Keep a big Ziploc in your freezer and throw in bones/carcasses, onion/garlic skins, carrots/celery/other veg that aren't fresh enough to eat raw anymore. Costs nothing but time and freezer space; way better than store bought.
posted by dr. boludo at 7:43 AM on November 29, 2022 [15 favorites]

Best answer: Pickles, jams and jellies. Not difficult, a little time-consuming, but very delicious.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 7:44 AM on November 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding candles! Be forewarned that it can take some trial and error to get something that looks, burns, and smells like a storebought candle, but you can get absolutely something useable on your first try. If you're a candle person, there's nothing better than burning all your nice-smelling-but-not-overwhelming-or-sneezy-making candles with abandon, with the knowledge that you can make more easily.

Also seconding mayonnaise, though that might just be because I never buy it and enjoy how quickly and easily it comes together when I'm in mayo-need. There are lots of other food things that could go here, but it really depends on what you like, what you're likely to actually use up, and what your local options are like.

And this could be a big time and money investment, but I sew most of my clothes and it has measurably improved my quality of life! Having stuff that fits well and that I've actively chosen to create (as opposed to kinda-fitting, I-bought-it-because-it-was-what-was-available clothes) is so, so nice.

Finally, growing cannabis if your space, logistics, and consumption habits allow for it/make it appealing! I live in a legal state, and it's low effort with a great return on investment to grow a couple plants alongside my tomatoes in the summer. Bonus: this also means I can have a basically endless supply of homemade sleep aids in the form of CBN caramels. Win/win!
posted by quatsch at 7:46 AM on November 29, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Even easier than ricotta is farmer's cheese. You can use the final product as a dip, spread, ball, filling, in sweet or savory baked goods, as replacement for cream cheese. I use my Instant Pot to cook mine, and if you have a model with the yogurt cycle you can use the BOIL stage to scald the milk. Note: some recipes get a little dire about how cheese can't possibly work with ultrapasteurized milk, but even in LA I would have had to go to the hippie store to get non-ultra-pasteurized, so I generally used cheap jug milk if I was being frugal or Horizon or store-brand Organic for fancy and it was fine. It may have wanted a smidge more vinegar.

Ricotta is "re-cooked"; the whey left over from the process above is forced to give up its remaining proteins, and it takes gallons to make ounces. You can make a sort of cheater ricotta with a method similar to above that uses cream to create a higher-fat higher-protein base, though you will need something like an 8qt pot. This recipe will give you something a LOT more like cream cheese especially if you up the acid a tiny bit (powdered citric acid is optimal, but vinegar or lemon juice work especially if you're adding a lot of salt and/or any additional flavors).

Two-minute Stick-blender toum, a fluffy garlic spread/dip similar to the stuff everyone freaks out about at Zankou Chicken, and you might be able to find something like it in the store but it's going to be made with the worst possible oil and stabilizers. The previous recipe is fastest but uses egg, which isn't entirely traditional. This five-minute version still uses a stick blender but does require blending with one hand and drizzling in oil with the other, but is vegan/doesn't have uncooked egg and does taste even better than the two-minute version. This version is easier if you have three arms or an assistant.

Homemade stock or bone broth or whatever fancy name it has now is better than anything at the store, again because of the stabilizers and preservatives. It's also the only way to make any stock or broth that doesn't have onion and garlic in it, making it unsafe for pets and people on low-FODMAP diets. Homemade is also completely under your control with regard to sodium and all the other flavors going into it, and tastes just warmer and brighter and realer. You can easily make low-water concentrates, or reductions, to take up less freezer space if you're going to store it. Instant Pot is, again, a game-changer here and worth at least the cost of a Black Friday deal if you cook with stock fairly often. As much as I use the hell out of Better Than Bouillon and it's good enough for weeknights, it's still just got nothing on the flavor of a soup or stew with a home stock base.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:47 AM on November 29, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Ice cream, definitely. You can make very good ice cream with this reasonably priced ice cream maker. And it's easy! Commercial ice cream hardly seems worth eating once you get used to homemade.

Cake and pies. But you will have to experiment to find the right recipes and techniques. Some homemade versions are not much better than store-bought, but if you figure out how to make them right, they will be much better than what you can buy.

If you like tomatoes at all and you have any space to grow your own, it is definitely worth it. If you grow enough, you can make your own fresh salsa and that is also definitely worth it.
posted by Redstart at 7:51 AM on November 29, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: My wife and I make our own hummus (I don't have our recipe in front of me, but there are a million good ones online), which is easy (aside from some cleanup), much, much cheaper than store-bought and delicious.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:00 AM on November 29, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Heat canning is a pain imo but I'd like to specifically suggest pickling simple lacto-fermented vegetables, since any non-cucumber pickle is hard to find and expensive in my (US) experience. You can just cut up any veg mix you like into finger-size chunks, add whatever herbs or spices, cover in brine, wait for a week or two, then move to fridge. I'm partial to cauliflower and carrot with Indian spices.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:03 AM on November 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Came in to say stock also. Adding paneer. The Waste Not series in the Guardian may have some other ideas - the most recent is making mulled wine spice pouches.

Also carpet freshener.
posted by paduasoy at 8:10 AM on November 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Keep them coming! Best answers for all!

FYI, this isn’t the right thread, but I just crossed my 20 year MeFiversary!
posted by leotrotsky at 8:17 AM on November 29, 2022 [43 favorites]

Best answer: I'm back - labneh is a super-easy Middle Eastern soft cheese that you make simply by straining yogurt. Seriously - take a thing of full-fat yogurt (preferably the Greek yogurt) and stir in a pinch of salt, line a strainer with cheesecloth, set that over a bowl and dump the yogurt in the strainer. Let that sit for about a day and you end up with this smooth soft cheese that's a marscapone texture; let it strain longer if you want something firmer.

Oh, and if you do that - you can make little marinated cheese balls. Get a big clean glass jar, a bottle of olive oil, and some chopped fresh herbs and maybe some red pepper flakes; pinch little fingerfulls of the strained yogurt labneh and roll them into balls. Then layer them in the jar with some of the herbs and red pepper flakes until you fill the jar, then pour in enough olive oil to cover everything and stick that in your fridge. Then for a cheese course or appetizer you just need some crackers; fish out one of the little balls and spread it on a cracker and there you are.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:21 AM on November 29, 2022 [10 favorites]

Best answer: If you can make cheese, you can make tofu.
posted by mumkin at 8:25 AM on November 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

You can make tofu! Here's how we do it.
posted by 10ch at 8:28 AM on November 29, 2022 [3 favorites]

Homemade mustard is pretty great.
posted by neushoorn at 8:29 AM on November 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

Nthing mayo!

If you can do that, you can make aioli.

Then there's pesto, mustard (but my ground everyday mustard made a really hot mustard spread, so be careful), tomato paste (it's just reducing), nut butters, infused oils and vinegars, and eggnog.
posted by jgirl at 8:31 AM on November 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

I just made banana cream pie for the first time and it is orders of magnitude better than store bought. It's basically homemade vanilla pudding in a pie shell with bananas. My vote is for that!
posted by zoetrope at 8:33 AM on November 29, 2022 [3 favorites]

Vanilla sugar.

Add several vanilla beans to 2-4 cups of sugar in a covered container. Give a few shakes of the container and keep it with your other sugar. Use vanilla sugar for most recipes that call for sugar and vanilla--créme brulée, créme Anglaise, puddings, vanilla cake. Leave the beans in the container and just add sugar after you use some up. It's not a substitute for vanilla extract but an additional vanilla boost.
posted by Elsie at 8:34 AM on November 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

Granola! I love the minimalist baker peanut butter recipe.
posted by bookworm4125 at 8:42 AM on November 29, 2022 [4 favorites]

Keeping on the bread theme: homemade soft-baked pretzels are awesome. Homemade hamburger buns are light-years better than storebought. Homemade pita and naan - phenomenal!
posted by hydra77 at 8:44 AM on November 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

I haven't tried it yet, but a woman from Indonesia told me that homemade tempeh is nothing like what you buy from the store.
posted by FencingGal at 8:55 AM on November 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

Sorry, not minimalist baker, though she has one too. Here's the recipe I like.
posted by bookworm4125 at 9:00 AM on November 29, 2022 [3 favorites]

Quick pickles. Red onion is especially good, but many vegetables work well; my aunt used parsips with excellent results, and you can change up the flavors.

You know what's great with quick-pickled red onion and cucumber? Pasta with Peanut sauce.

Salsa is crushed tomato, red onion, fresh cilantro, long green peppers, jalapeno, garlic, lime juice, salt. A food processor is useful; don't process it to mush. Vastly better than store bought, even with canned tomatoes. You can change up the peppers according to what you like, and vary the heat.

Muffins. I make them with dried apricots, walnuts, and bran, but your preferences will vary. You can vary them to suit your tastes and nutritional needs.

I make my own curry powder, and having the ingredients in the cupboard opens the door to such delicious Indian food.

LaBellaStella may have inspired me to try Sauerkraut. I've made naan with good results, and have been wanting to try tortillas.
posted by theora55 at 9:01 AM on November 29, 2022 [3 favorites]

Nthing stock. It is basically free if you are using your rotisserie chicken carcasses and onion/celery/etc trimmings. It is super easy. I do about three chicken carcasses in the pressure cooker with enough water to mostly cover them, about 1 hour, then add veggies and pressure cook another 15 minutes. Then I freeze it into ice cubes. I use it for sauces, soups, couscous, cooking meats, so many things! And it is way better than what you get in a box from the store.
posted by snofoam at 9:02 AM on November 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

Cleaning fluid.

4 parts distilled water
2 parts vinegar (standard concentration, 4-5%)
1 part rubbing alcohol (50%)
2 drops dish liquid

Put in a spray bottle. Cleans just about everything, costs almost nothing.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:05 AM on November 29, 2022 [10 favorites]

Also, compound butter is really great to have around. I do a basic parsley, garlic, sometimes green onions one that we call master butter. It is a great way to use some extra parsley before it goes bad and we always have a roll in the freezer so we can put it on a steak or sautée with some chicken or whatever.
posted by snofoam at 9:06 AM on November 29, 2022 [4 favorites]

I am very particular about my lip balm so I started making my own a few years ago. I make a biggish batch once a year now and am very pleased. I enjoy baking so most of my baked goods are homemade, including soft pretzels, scones, cakes just because we need some cake, and the chocolate babka we eat for breakfast on Christmas.
posted by SeedStitch at 9:09 AM on November 29, 2022 [4 favorites]

peanut butter or nut butter of choice: add nuts to food processor. Process until butter. Salt/honey/spices as desired.

hand lotion: weigh out 4 ounces of coconut oil, 1 ounce of olive oil, 2 ounces of shea butter, 1.5 ounces of beeswax; melt and stir until thoroughly mixed. Pour into glass/heat proof containers and let cool. Use less beeswax if you prefer a less stiff lotion. And there are lots of options for oils and ratios, so play around with it.


yogurt - I put mine in quart jars, wrap them in a towel, then stick it in a mini cooler for the incubation stage. Soft cheeses are also wonderful. Seconding ricotta and farmer's cheese and adding paneer.
posted by carrioncomfort at 9:17 AM on November 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

Waffles. I tried one of those frozen Eggo things and it sat in my stomach, a leaden lump, burning. Don't go there; whipping up some batter is child's play, and the results are delicious, especially if you do the overnight sourdough version.
posted by Rash at 9:27 AM on November 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

I got a lot of great food answers in this question!

I’d also add - I’m in the process of making vinegar and haven’t tasted the final product yet but there are some very cool ones that you can make (asparagus vinegar??). I also went to a restaurant recently that made their own cultured sour cream and it was sooo good so I’m planning on trying that soon.
posted by catcafe at 9:28 AM on November 29, 2022 [4 favorites]

yes yes yes to all of these things. but regarding the waffles...if you want the BEST homemade waffles: whole-wheat plus, very healthy, yet not too dense. delicious with butter, fruit, whatever floats your waffle:

1/2 c whole wheat flour (104g)
medium corn meal 59g*
oat bran 37g*
heaping 1/4 c buttermilk powder
baking soda 1 1/2 teaspoon
salt 1 tsp
sugar 2 tbsp
oil 2 tbsp
water 1 1/3 c 260g

*these are heaping 1/4 c measures

don't sub the sugar, its there to provide some crispiness. this recipe is also very tasty in the pancake format :)
posted by supermedusa at 10:07 AM on November 29, 2022 [4 favorites]

we have made Nocino and its very fun, esp if you have access to some walnut trees to harvest.
posted by supermedusa at 10:08 AM on November 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'm fond of making my own hot sauces. Here is my favorite recipe for fermented sauce. Here's one that's non-fermented and is very good (though I use considerably less garlic).
posted by alex1965 at 10:08 AM on November 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

You can make things from very scratch. Example, soap. Gather some wood, burn it, collect the ash, make lye. Grow or glean something that produces oil, press the oil, make soap.
posted by aniola at 10:10 AM on November 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

I like making peanut butter from scratch. It is super easy if you have a food processor and you can try different varieties of peanuts as well as doing things like honey roasting the nuts before you grind the butter.
posted by synecdoche at 10:28 AM on November 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

Ooh I love this ask for all the great food answers! Here's a non-food one, fits a need that is occasional only, but still: paper lampshade. Works well now that lightbulbs are LED / not hot.
posted by marlys at 10:29 AM on November 29, 2022 [5 favorites]

Yogurt is especially easy if you have an instant pot!
posted by tangosnail at 10:49 AM on November 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

When some of that bread gets a few days too old, croutons!

Also, salad dressings — mix up oil, vinegar, herbs, spices, salt, sugar in a bottle, shake well. Keeps for a week or two outside the fridge.
posted by beagle at 10:50 AM on November 29, 2022 [3 favorites]

Oh! Pickled red onions aren't even readily available in stores in most of the US, and they are so easy and amazing on basically everything - and I don't even really LIKE onions!!
posted by Lyn Never at 10:55 AM on November 29, 2022 [5 favorites]

For cooking, this cookbook is pretty great - Make the Bread, Buy the Butter.
posted by Dotty at 11:55 AM on November 29, 2022

Ink - recipes here and here.
posted by paduasoy at 12:01 PM on November 29, 2022

We make all of our own bread, yoghurt, kimchi, tofu, mayonnaise, cakes, cookies, hot sauce, jam, marmalade, chutney, "HP" style sauce, summer drinks (iced tea, lemonade etc), ice cream, peanut butter, hummus, baba ghanoush, guacamole, preserved egg yolks, various pickles.
I made mustard once but it wasn't worth the effort for me to grow, harvest and process all those tiny tiny seeds!
Oh, plus acorn flour sometimes. But less and less, I don't love acorn flour, I just kind of like it, so the return on investment isn't great.
When I had access to fresh fish, I pickled my own herring and anchovies.
And metric tons of pesto with whatever herbs are growing like crazy or bolting.
posted by conifer at 12:04 PM on November 29, 2022

don't know if this counts but basic oatmeal takes 10 minutes to make properly on the stovetop and is miles tastier and a fraction of the price of the "instant" stuff with the sugar in the pouches.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:20 PM on November 29, 2022 [3 favorites]

homemade frosting for cakes is a totally different beast than the stuff in the cans
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:22 PM on November 29, 2022 [7 favorites]

chicken soup must always be homemade. I was honestly shocked when I was offered chicken soup from a can.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:24 PM on November 29, 2022

Lemonade. Ratio we use is 6-1-1 water-lemon juice-sugar.

Winter hats and scarves. I still haven't mastered knitting, but crocheting is remarkably low-bar easy.
posted by Mchelly at 3:09 PM on November 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

Depending on how much you're willing to invest in the equipment, homemade bacon is stunningly good. There are recipes all over the internet, but EQ curing is the style I go with, rather than liquid brine (giant tub of liquid sloshing isn't fun) or salt box curing (too imprecise, takes a ton of salt). It's all about the weight of the cut of meat, and the percentages you want to use. My base is 2% salt, 1.5% brown sugar, .25% curing salts, and then I build from there, from Southwestern spices (oregano, cumin, various chili powders), Jalapeno Bourbon (sliced jalapenos, garlic, coriander, little bit o Beam) to my favorite, Cubano bacon (onion, oregano, white pepper, cayenne, cocoa). It's possible to do the curing in ziplock bags, but they can and do leak, so I use vacuum sealing while curing the meat.

You spice it, pack it, and leave it in the fridge for ten days or so, flipping it every day to let the liquids move around a bit. When you're ready, open up the pack, rinse the bacon, and then let it soak, submerged, for about 30 minutes to drain excess salt. Drain, blot dry, and put in the fridge on a tray with a rack underneath the bacon to let it dry out a bit. This will help the smoke stick to the bacon better.

Smoke in indirect heat, around 100C/200F, until the internal temp reaches 63C/145F. This will take a couple hours, and as far as smoke wood to use, I personally like hickory, but apple or cherry are fine, too. When it's finished, let it cool, and refrigerate overnight before slicing.

It's good. And it freezes well. And if you can do bacon, you can also do (boneless) hams, pastrami, and all sorts of things. And then, one day, you find yourself at an outdoor store, wondering what in your life led you to this moment, where you're looking at meat grinders and sausage stuffers, because making your own sausage is pretty damn awesome, too.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:26 PM on November 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

I just made banana cream pie for the first time and it is orders of magnitude better than store bought. It's basically homemade vanilla pudding in a pie shell with bananas. My vote is for that!

And make the crust from scratch -- preferably with lard!
posted by jgirl at 3:50 PM on November 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

Lox! So much cheaper than store-bought.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 7:33 PM on November 29, 2022

One more: cornbread. Can't believe boxes of cornbread mix are sold, it's so easy - just use the recipe on the box of corn meal. And that way you can control how sweet it is.
posted by Rash at 8:56 PM on November 29, 2022 [6 favorites]

The best thing with homemade bread is homemade butter! Buy heavy whipping cream and using a mixer, mix past the whipped cream stage and it turns into soft creamy sweet butter. Or if you have kids, pour the whipping cream into glass jars and have them shake til it turns to butter
posted by a humble nudibranch at 8:58 PM on November 29, 2022 [3 favorites]

This is going to sound a little weird, but - chickens! Your very own fresh eggs will elevate breakfast and baked goods (and the above-mentioned mayonnaise) far beyond what you might imagine.
They are tough, relatively cheap to feed, and 3 or 4 laying hens will keep you in eggs for 3 years or so. You *do* have to figure out what to do once they stop laying, but that’s a ways off.
Just check your local ordinances and make sure they are legal, and be sure to get hens only - no noisy roosters in a city or town (the girls can be loud enough). We’ve had lots of different breeds over the years, and have found the Rhode Island Red to be a good layer, sturdy, and nice temperament.
posted by dbmcd at 10:05 PM on November 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

I love growing sprouts, especially in the winter (in the summer it can be tricky to keep them from getting funky). It's a nice way to create something lovely and fresh when those things are in short supply in the cold, dead, north. Caveats apply -- make sure you use sprouting specific seeds, which should be free from nasty pathogens, and judge whether you're comfortable with the safety profile of sprouts. I've never had any trouble, but I also throw out anything that seems remotely funky.

I'm having a piece of sourdough with labneh from homemade yogurt and sprouts for breakfast this morning.
posted by another zebra at 5:23 AM on November 30, 2022

Pickle some red onions at home. It's super easy and they're great on tacos.
posted by maighdeann mhara at 6:53 AM on November 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

Do you ever make pancakes? Do you use the premixed stuff? Why? Let me tell you about the rule of ones. All you have to do is remember the ingredients and the measurements are (at least to me) the obvious ones.

makes enough pancakes for like 2 reasonable adults, (maybe 3-4 total?) or 1 if you think enough pancakes is a big stack of them.

1 cup flour
1 (light) tablespoon of baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 heavy shake of salt
1 tablespoon of melted butter
1 egg
1 (light) cup of milk
1 sploot of vanilla extract because it makes everything taste better

(you mix the dry, then the wet) voila, pancakes batter. and better pancakes than the powdered kind.
although (and this is bit of a cheat) it's even easier if you use self rising flour because then you don't have to worry about the baking powder and salt which somehow makes it even easier.
posted by aspo at 12:34 AM on December 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

Lip balm!

I’m not going to send you to an online recipe as there are dozens, and you need to find a mix of oils and butters that suits your preferences. Common ingredients are mango butter, jojoba butter, coconut oil, beeswax or candelila wax, sweet almond oil. I played around with my recipe for six months before I nailed a balance between buttery and waxy.

Find a health food store, stock up on your chosen mix and some empty jars or tubes. I melt mine gently in a Pyrex glass in the microwave, then pour into the containers. I have a setup where I can make a year’s worth of lip balm for myself in 10 minutes (pretty easy to find suppliers for tubes and filling trays, etc) and it costs almost nothing. AND I can reuse the tubes to cut down on plastic waste. I give them away as gifts all the time.
posted by chronic sublime at 4:26 AM on December 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Whipped cream.

Buy heavy whipping cream. Whip it. Use a little electric hand mixer, takes like three minutes. Add sugar and vanilla. Never go back to using aerosol cans or CoolWhip (bleh!) again.
posted by evilmomlady at 10:55 AM on December 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

Just ran into this article from the 70s and thought of this question. Here's the bit that's relevant to the question:
Now I've produced everything from tomato crops to suits of clothing which I've hand spun on my own homestead and I've kept very careful records of every expense that went into these experiments. And I think the evidence is pretty clear that probably half to two-thirds-and it's nearer two-thirds-of all the things we need for a good living can be produced most economically on a small scale . . . either in your own home or in the community where you live. The studies I made at Dogwoods-the "experiments in domestic production"-show conclusively that we have been misled by the doctrine of the division of labor. Of course there are some things-from my standpoint, a few things-that cannot be economically produced in a small community. You can't make electric wire or light bulbs, for example, very satisfactorily on a limited scale. Still virtually two thirds of all the things we consume are better off produced on a community basis.
posted by aniola at 11:00 PM on December 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

Icing. I don't know why, but 90% of the time store-bought icing on store-bought cakes and cupcakes is just... ugh.
posted by clawsoon at 5:16 PM on December 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

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