Crunchy Granola Pizza?
January 8, 2008 10:41 AM   Subscribe

I want to make pizza from scratch. I mean From Scratch. Just how far can I go?

After reading Barbara Kingsolver’s excellent book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I bought my wife a 30 minute Mozzarella kit for Christmas. We thought it would be fun, next summer, to make some homemade cheese, harvest some tomatoes and basil from the garden and make a pizza. Then I thought perhaps I could buy some wheat berries and mill my own flour for the dough. Hmmm… maybe I could harvest some wild yeast to make a sourdough crust. Then I thought… can I grow wheat in New England? How much wheat do I need to make a batch of dough?

My goal would be to make a pizza, several pizzas actually, using as many home-grown and homemade ingredients as possible.

What pizza toppings can be easily grown in a New England summer? Peppers, of course. I won’t have the time to become an expert mycologist by the summer, but are there non-hallucinogenic mushrooms I can grow in the garden? What else?

What toppings/ingredients are easy to make? For a number of reasons, I am unable to raise and slaughter a pig, but I am willing to make my own sausage. Maybe I could buy some locally raised pig. What else is in a sausage? Is fennel easy to grow? What other meat toppings could I do? Can I raise clams in a fishtank?

Side dishes? What does one serve with pizza? (Anyone who says CheesyBread™ doesn’t get invited to the pizza party)

Anything else? Make an oven out of fieldstone and burn the cherry tree we just cut down?

I’m not doing this as some idealistic hippie crusade (though the idea is appealing) and this is partly a thought experiment, I don’t know if I’ll grow my own wheat for example, but I am looking for ideas that I hadn’t thought of and just maybe next summer I can have a truly homemade pie.

(Extra special note to my lurking brother: SHUT UP!)
posted by bondcliff to Food & Drink (36 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should add that I already have the basics of pizza making down. I make a decent dough and sauce, and I use quality cheese. Up until now, though, I’ve bought my ingredients.
posted by bondcliff at 10:45 AM on January 8, 2008

It might be worth listing the ingredients you'll need so folks can help identify where they could be sourced/etc. Pizza and it's toppings don't have a defined ingredients list most of the time.
posted by iamabot at 10:48 AM on January 8, 2008

For making sausage, I'd suggest reading Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. It should give you an great intro to the process and ingredients.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 10:49 AM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well, according to Carl Sagan, "In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe."

Do you have a basement? You should easily be able to grow shrooms in your basement, ESPECIALLY during a NE summer. You'll just need to order the right spores.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 10:49 AM on January 8, 2008 [4 favorites]

You know, in the right area you might be able to turn from-scratch pizza into a successful business.
posted by jjb at 10:49 AM on January 8, 2008

Best answer: What does one serve with pizza?

Beer. Also a great thing to make yourself.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:52 AM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

You could shoot a deer and make venison Pepperoni.

(You could build a muzzle loading rifle from a kit, nap a flint yourself, cast your own bullets.)

Can you grow garlic? That's another seasoning you'll use along with basil.

Tomatoes and fresh diced garlic are good as toppings. Also spinach, which I think you can grow there. Onions are another topping.

If you're on municipal water collect rainwater. You could use a dutch oven to cook in, and work from a real fire or from a charcoal fire (and even make the charcoal yourself.)

I'm guessing you'll use sugar either with your yeast or sourdough or in the sauce. You could probably refine your own from purchased cane, grown beets, or tapped maple trees maybe?

You could brew some beer to go along with the pizza.
posted by Jahaza at 10:56 AM on January 8, 2008

You could easily grow several of the herbs, not just basil but oregano, parsley, etc., either outdoors in summer, or in an indoor container garden year-round. Definitely grow your own garlic.
Vegetables you could grow could include zucchini, broccoli, eggplant, etc. Grow your own salad ingredients, too, starting with a variety of lettuce. Make your own vinegars. Sadly, olives won't grow in New England, so if you want olive oil, that'll have to be bought.
posted by bassjump at 10:57 AM on January 8, 2008

Response by poster: Iamabot:

I’m pretty open as far as ingredients go, especially since this would be a new kind of pizza for me. I normally do a simple sauce using San Marzano tomatoes (can I order seeds? Will they grow here? Will they be anything like the genuine San Marzano tomatoes?) and perhaps some basil. My standard dough is King Arthur’s Sir Lancelot high gluten flour, though if I ended up milling my own flour it’d probably be a whole wheat dough. I guess… I’ve never done this before. For cheese I use a good mutz and maybe some asiago and parmesan.

This will not be my standard pie. Obviously, I’m not in Parma so I probably won’t be making a decent parmesan, which is why I’m open to suggestions.
posted by bondcliff at 10:57 AM on January 8, 2008

The best mozzarella for pizza is buffalo mozzarella. Do you have room for a buffalo in the backyard?
posted by caddis at 10:58 AM on January 8, 2008

You could make a pizza oven out of cob...
posted by Gianna at 11:01 AM on January 8, 2008

OK, an Asian Water Buffalo.
posted by caddis at 11:03 AM on January 8, 2008

If you want to be seriously homemade about it, you'll have to raise a dairy animal for the cheese, which would be seriously time and money intensive unless you have grazing land for the animal and the calf/kid. Although I suppose you could sell or slaughter the calf/kid, which could be a good source of meat for topping. Apart from that I would recommend chicken, as they are small, fast-growing, and cheap to buy and raise.

Herbs and tomatoes can be easily grown indoors, which is what I would recommend if you have the space and lighting for it (or have the space to construct the artificial lighting for it). Wheat you will have to do outdoors, of course, and I'm sure there are varieties that grow just fine where you are.

You should probably consult your local agricultural extension office or 4H club.
posted by jedicus at 11:04 AM on January 8, 2008

you might be able to get a head start on your tomatoes by growing them in a bucket, as seen here (courtesy of Joel Johnson).

it looks like there are courses you can take on finding edible mushrooms and other plants, here.

Good luck - keep us posted!
posted by heeeraldo at 11:06 AM on January 8, 2008

Response by poster: The best mozzarella for pizza is buffalo mozzarella. Do you have room for a buffalo in the backyard?

I’m not sure the neighbors would like that.

Strangely enough, when I was a kid there was a buffalo farm not far from here. I think there’s a Wal-mart there now. I wonder if they sell buffalo.
posted by bondcliff at 11:07 AM on January 8, 2008

Best answer: You can forage for wild fennel, watercress, ramps, and countless other ingredients. You don't need to be an expert mycologist to forage for chanterelles, porcini, morels, hedgehogs, black trumpets, and a handful of other easy to identify mushrooms - join a mycology group for a foray and have someone that knows what they are doing check the mushrooms you find.

I've never grown wheat but I'd imagine it's pretty straight forward. Sourdough is easy, especially starting from whole wheat berries.

Depending what you're trying to make, the 30 minute mozzarella kit may not produce the result you're expecting - they make something much closer to grocery store shrink-wrapped mozzarella than fresh mozzarella.

For sausage, your best bet is probably to find a friend that hunts and mooch some venison, duck, or goose meat from them. Making sausage is easy enough - you'll need casings, some spices, some meat, and some fat. The Charcuterie book DrGirlfriend suggests is a good starting point. If you're trying to make everything yourself you'll probably want to do sausage patties to avoid the purchased casings and you'll want to do something like ground duck, fennel fronds, crushed dried chili pepper, salt, pepper, and a few herbs. Aside from the salt and pepper you should be able to grow or find all the ingredients.
posted by foodgeek at 11:07 AM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

You can buy wheat in bulk and grind it, if you have a steel grinder.
posted by herbaliser at 11:19 AM on January 8, 2008

Grow your own mushrooms.
posted by colt45 at 11:25 AM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Since you mention this is partly a thought experiment, and given some of the responses which say you'll need to raise livestock, perhaps consider writing about it whether you succeed or not. You can name it "I, Pizza", as a derivation from the classic "I, Pencil".
posted by cashman at 11:29 AM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

you'll need casings, some spices, some meat, and some fat.

For pizza sausage, you don't necessarily need casings (although I have eaten pizzas where the sausage was slices of round links). When I used to make it at a pizza shop, we's basically just toss a bunch of sliced pork in the meat grinder and then mix the results with spices. We'd put the result, a tub of gooey, spicey meat, in the fridge and that was pretty much it. To put it on a pizza, you just grab a handful of it and toss little bits of it all around the pie, which turns into the little sausage crumbles that you see on most pizzas once it's cooked.
posted by LionIndex at 11:39 AM on January 8, 2008

Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book has lots of good information on whole-wheat baking, including sections on milling your own flour, making your own sourdough starter, and building your own brick oven in the backyard.

As for toppings -- one of the tastiest pizzas I've ever eaten goes as follows. All the ingredients (except the salt, pepper, and olive oil) are totally within reach for even a casual home gardener.

1. Make an individual-sized pizza crust and parbake
2. Top with a layer of each:
- chopped garlic
- oven-roasted tomatoes
- chopped oregano
- thin slices of fresh mozz
- a drizzle of olive oil
3. Cook it until it's warm and melty
4. Take it out of the oven and top with a heap of fresh baby arugula, salt, fresh-ground pepper, and another drizzle of olive oil.

You could even make your own sea salt with filtered sea water.

On the milk front, I'm sure you could find some organic raw milk if you looked around. And if you're lucky enough to find goat's milk, you could make feta cheese, which is also delicious on pizza.
posted by ourobouros at 11:49 AM on January 8, 2008

I love Lehman's and their Amish kitchen tools, like grain mills.
posted by rhizome at 12:39 PM on January 8, 2008

Is fennel easy to grow?
Is the Space Pope reptilian? Fennel is a very close relative of dill. I'd imagine that you'd have more trouble making it not grow.

As mentioned previously, tomatoes are pretty easy to grow in limited space. Peppers are similar. Garlic is pretty easy. Chives, Onions, etc are as well. Most herbs are basically weeds, so that part shouldn't be too difficult.

on the topic of sausage, my local grocery store sells 'Italian Sausage' in the same foam tray + shrink wrap packs that hamburger is sold in, so casings aren't really required, unless you are going for a particular type.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 12:51 PM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

San Marzano tomatoes (can I order seeds? Will they grow here? Will they be anything like the genuine San Marzano tomatoes?) and perhaps some basil.

Maybe, but you might also try tomatoes that are recommended for your climate. You'll want to grow a meaty, rich tomato with a growing season that's adapted for your shorter summer and moist air. Growing wheat- huge amount of work for very little payoff. You can certainly try for fun, but plan on buying and grinding wheat berries. Basil should be pretty easy, but don't grow it with your tomatoes; basil likes cooler climates (or it will bolt earlier and become bitter) and more water, tomatoes like HEAT and are more flavorful when you let them get to wilt point before watering. Leafy plants need an endless spring (or mild fall), so they won't reach sexual maturity; annual fruiting plants need hints of impending doom in order to reproduce, i.e. make fruits.

Tomato varieties you might try are Glamour, Earliana, Moneymaker, Soldacki, or Stupice. You generally want to look for tomatoes that are early (shorter growing season), humidity tolerant, and crack resistant (rain will make them crack). Seedsavers, Victory Seeds which also has a good tomato growing guide.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:56 PM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I grind an excellent hard white wheat (from in a Country Living grain mill (arm powered).
Norm is great and his wheat makes excellent bread. I planted some in the fall (it's winter wheat), so I won't know how it harvests for a while yet. I'm thinking about an outdoor oven, too, if I can find a design that complies with zoning regulations.
posted by rikschell at 1:10 PM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Grow your own black pepper.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:26 PM on January 8, 2008

It takes forever to grow peppercorns. I've been at it for two years, it looks like I'll get the first peppercorns in the late spring or early summer. It'd be crazy to use them as black pepper since fresh green peppercorns are nearly impossible to get in the states and a completely different ingredient than the dried version.
posted by foodgeek at 2:20 PM on January 8, 2008

I don't have any advice at all, but I just wanted to say that I'm enjoying this thread enormously. As someone who, upon being given a pasta maker from a kind friend thought, 'Yeah but shouldn't I grow the wheat too? Then I could really say that I made my own pasta', this absolutist approach and attitude is right up my alley.
posted by ob at 3:18 PM on January 8, 2008

This sounds like such a great project. Please document all this on line and come back (to Meta I guess?) at the end of it with a nice update.
posted by nax at 5:31 PM on January 8, 2008

Growing your own wheat.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:20 PM on January 8, 2008

I agree with nax. Please blog it.

I don't have any suggestions that haven't been covered, other than to mention that a goat would be more manageable than a cow if you truly want to make your own cheese.

As for harvesting yeast, it's not that hard. It's already on the wheat berries and just needs a little coaxing to get going. Peter Reinhart has some excellent advice on starting a sourdough culture. Let me know if you want me to copy it out of his book for you.
posted by O9scar at 9:23 PM on January 8, 2008

My parents' fennel grows eight feet high and eight feet wide, seduces every nectar-sucking insect into perfect docility, crops thousands of big tasty fennel seeds, and takes care of propagating itself for next year. That's in the Pacific Northwest, with three months of clear skies a year. So yes, fennel is easy to grow. Insanely easy. Figuring out what to do with it all, now that might be a trick.
posted by eritain at 11:24 PM on January 8, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, all.

If it turns into a big project (as opposed to a batch of homemade cheese and some home-grown tomatoes) I'll throw some sort of blog together.

O9scar, I'm very familiar with Reinhart, he's sort of the Yoda of bread to me. I have yet to attempt a culture though.

My wife is the gardener of the family and she's taken some classes on edible plants so that opens up some other possibilities. I just began re-reading one of the most influential books I ever read as a kid, My Side of the Mountain so now I'm wondering how cattails and acorns would work on a pizza...
posted by bondcliff at 8:43 AM on January 9, 2008

That was a favorite of mine as well, and it led to purchasing books by Bradford Angier and Eul Gibbons about wild foods and living off of the land. (This newish book by Angier seems suited to our modern world while still getting back to nature - One Acre & Security.) It's a wonder I never poisoned myself.

If you are going to use the acorns, let them dry for a long time, months (?), pound to a flour and then soak that flour to rinse out the bitter taste. I think it is the tannic acid which causes it. Soaking and rinsing will eventually improve the flavor dramatically. I don't recall Sam doing this in the book. Anyway, then you can use it to make dough I guess. Didn't Sam make bread or pancakes? It's been a few years since I read that book.
posted by caddis at 9:32 AM on January 9, 2008

Best answer: This pizza place might be of interest - apparently they try to make everything on site.
posted by fermezporte at 10:07 AM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

« Older How should I pronounce "February?"   |   Is this the right time to buy a HDTV? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.