Pantry Hacks!
September 1, 2007 6:42 PM   Subscribe

Help me build a pantry!

I work at a grocery store that allows us to take home free produce...this is pretty sweet, but after a pasta-sauce-making- marathon i've realised that i don't utilize this enough...especially in making everyday things. I do use it for things like jam, pasta sauce and other things you can make, and freeze or can.

So what i'm trying to do is put together a pantry of spices, dry goods and other odds and ends to allow me to make....everything. I hate having to run back to the store to get one spice, or one little this or that. I'm trying to outfit myself with the correct ammount of dry-goods and nonperishables to make just about anything. Oh, anything i can freeze too. Even after my pasta sauce binge i have tons of room in my freezer.

So what does a good, well-stocked pantry have in it? Any tips or suggestions?

Give me your pantry hacks (not to be confused with panty hacks).
posted by furnace.heart to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Dried hot peppers. Get a dehydrator for $20 (or use an oven) and dry your own hot peppers - you can crush by hand or get a cheap coffee grinder for any recipe that calls for crushed red peppers.
posted by true at 6:45 PM on September 1, 2007

I would be very surprised if a copy of the Joy of Cooking didn't had a good list for a first draft of your pantry. It's also a good reference to have around, since it covers the basics on a huge range of foods (I think squirrel hasn't made it into some of the more recent editions though). It certainly isn't the only cookbook one should own, but is a good place to start.
posted by Good Brain at 7:34 PM on September 1, 2007

This excellent previous answer may help.
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:40 PM on September 1, 2007

and salads
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:52 PM on September 1, 2007

How I envy that free produce! Use it well!

Here is what I always keep on hand. I cook lots of Italian/Mediterranean food, but I also enjoy Mexican foods and am trying to learn more about stir-frying and "pan-Asian" cooking. Your mileage will vary, but this is what works for me. All of these things last for at least 6 months, most last 1+ years.

>> Canned tomatoes (the single most useful thing in my pantry) -- get either whole or diced, not stewed or pureed. If you can, find ones packed in water or puree, as opposed to packed in sauce. Don't get the flavored ones ("with Mexi Spices!" or "with oregano and garlic!"); they taste rancid.
>> Canned beans: chickpeas, black beans, pintos, etc. If you find that you often have time, you can keep dried beans on hand as well -- they are usually better than canned but take a long time to cook. You can always prepare (dried) beans and freeze them in their liquid; Mark Bittman advocates this as an alternative to canned.
>> Canned stock (chicken stock is better if you're getting canned or boxed).

>> Oils: a good extra-virgin olive oil (Trader Joe's has a good brand that's $8 or so for a quart), vegetable oil, peanut oil, sesame oil (used more as a seasoning with stir-fries, etc).
>> Vinegars: balsamic, white wine, rice wine. Black vinegar is great, and cheap, if you can find it. It reminds me of an Asian balsamic.

>> Long-keeping root vegetables: onions, potatoes, garlic, all in large quantities. Keep in a cool, dark place.

>> Spices: I don't use dried spices as much as most people. I would say get some good paprika, cayenne, cumin, and black pepper (Penzey's is apparently great; I've been meaning to order from them). Also, kosher salt, kept in a small container by your stove, is great -- I like to pick up pinches of it with my fingers when I cook. Makes me feel like Emeril.

>> Pasta: I like to keep lots of different kinds, but you'd be fine with a long pasta (spaghetti/linguini) and a cut pasta (penne, rigatoni, even corkscrews or wagon wheels, both of which I have forgotten the Italian names for). Soba noodles, Chinese egg noodles, rice noodles, etc. are all super cool to have, and they cook fast (or in the case of cold soba noodles that you keep in the fridge, are already cooked).
>> Rice: short grain, medium grain, long grain.
>> Other carbs: flour, cornmeal, etc.

>> Fridge: eggs, butter, milk, half-and-half, if you think of it. Also hard cheeses for grating: parmesan, pecorino romano.

>> Misc: I like to keep some nuts on hand (peanuts, cashews, walnuts, whatever) for baking and for throwing in stir-fries. I also like to have some dried fruits for baking.
posted by rossination at 12:44 AM on September 2, 2007

Check out the late novelist/food writer Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. Not only will you read some of the best food writing ever, but you will also get some good ideas for what to put in your pantry.

You'll also get very hungry while reading!

(Her novels are excellent, also. It's sad that she died so young.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:29 PM on September 2, 2007

If you can get free old bread, make bread crumbs. I toast mine and then just put it in the blender. You can then season it however you like, if you're into that.

Pickle your own jalapenos, onions (delicious!), pickles (cucumbers)? Always great to have pickled onions for a salad or sandwich.

If I were you, I would get the Blue Book on Canning and an old pressure cooker/canning setup and go to town on all the produce you can get. Can everything. I had a friend who worked at a health food grocer who did that and last I heard she hadn't bought groceries in years because of her giant, apocalypse-proof supply. She also had the best compost I've ever seen.
posted by bradbane at 1:40 PM on September 2, 2007

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