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Old 01-15-2012, 07:46 AM   #1
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Raw Ingredients

I read an article today which said that more people are cooking from scratch, which is positive, but increasingly they are using a combination of both raw ingredients and pre prepared materials.
Do you you all raw materials or a mixture and what are acceptable pre prepared ingredients?!

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Old 01-15-2012, 08:36 AM   #2
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Both. I use most of the resources available to me. For example, my tourtiere has Jimmy Dean Sage Sausage as well as ground turkey rather than the plain ground pork of my grandmothers' day, and I use pillsbury dough boy pie crusts. I come up with a pie that I feel is uniquely mine (well, not quite unique since my sisters spent a couple of Christmas seasons consulting with me and now use my recipe to make it for my parents).

But that's the way it is with a lot of my cooking. A little something prepared, then embellished with my own twist. There are a few things I dislike prepared, and one is tomato sauces. They all seem to have a lot of corn syrup, and I just really don't think tomatoes need sugar.
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Old 01-15-2012, 08:48 AM   #3
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Just as my Grandmother did I use convenience products when it suits my needs. Which means I have it in the house or I'm too busy to do it from scratch. Some convenience products I just prefer anyway though there aren't many. I like canned corned beef hash if it's a high quality product but really don't like corned beef hash made from fresh corned beef. Go figure. It just depends on my mood and my need at the time. I feel it's silly to be too uptight about using pre-prepared products. It's kind of like being green, we all have to pick the level that we are comfortable with. I figure that if I use pre-packaged products it's not much different than going out to dinner because you know you are getting pre-packeaged foods there unless you can afford to eat at the highest end restaurants which I can't.
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Old 01-15-2012, 08:54 AM   #4
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There are many ingredients that just aren't practical to make yourself. Just look at all the "sauces" in Asian cooking. I love to make my own Thai curry pastes. Many call for Shrimp Paste. Don't think I could find all the stuff to make that from scratch nor have the knowledge of the formenting process.

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Old 01-15-2012, 09:01 AM   #5
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Joe, sometimes a prepared food preference has to do with food memories. Probably why you prefer canned hash. I saw a cooking show for something a number of years ago; it was people trying to re-create meals their grandmothers and other elders cooked. There was a "for this to taste like nana made, you have to use cooking wine," which, of course, any gourmet will tell you is a no-no. But maybe grandma was cooking during prohibition or that's all she could get. Doing it with a fine wine simply won't taste like grandma.

I don't know what life is like in Dublin. But here in NW Illinois if I could only cook from scratch, with what is fresh and local, we'd suffer from vitamin deficiencies.
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Old 01-15-2012, 09:04 AM   #6
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First, using some prepared products isn't anything terrible. It's important, of course, to take note of what's in them and to try to find products that have similar qualities to scratch-made. I use as few prepared products as practical, but I do use prepared filo dough (but all my pizzas are scratch dough), mayonnaise, mustard (and make some, too), and concentrated chicken stock. None of those are all that difficult to make, but I use little of each, except the stock, and it's a bit much to make up a preparation just for a small bit. The chicken stock is something I could make up, and the quantity would be useful, but I'd have to freeze it, and my uses are generally in quick dishes at the end of a work day. But it's one thing where I admit the quality is not the same as what I could make. I also keep some concentrated demi glace and some wine sauce base.

I could go through a list of the things I do not keep in preparation, bread, tomato sauces, etc., but a lot of it is simply my choice, and a lot of the choice is for the pleasure of making it from scratch. But I do not buy canned vegetables or mushrooms. I no longer buy orange juice. Aside from Chinese chemicals (the concentrates from which they are made are largely from China and known to be contaminated) and the way in which so-called "all natural" juice is heavily processed, fresh squeezed just tastes too much better to tolerate commercial juice. I trade the two minutes in the morning for the taste.

In general, the only major ingredient I get from a can is tomatoes in various forms. I find the good brand quite good and probably as good as I could do, given the variability of tomato produce through the year. The are something I absolutely will buy. I do not buy fully prepared meals. Absolutely no frozen pizza. (No take-out, for that matter.)

There are some things I just can't bring myself to pay the high prices for. Chutneys, for instance. I'm not paying five dollars for a small jar. For get that. I'll make up a three months supply. Same with lemon curd. Too quick and easy to make to pay what they want for a jar.

Some of it's purely a quality issue. But I readily admit that some of it's a kind of perverse snobbery, although I think that a lot of people just delight in making as much of their food themselves as possible, and their choices with regard to prepped ingredients is largely a part of that. Get to brag about it, too.
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Old 01-15-2012, 09:17 AM   #7
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I cannot imagine coming home after 10 hours of work and commute, and spending my free time canning. So ... I never learned to. I'm now retired. I just buy canned stuff when it comes to that. I do look at ingredients. I do prefer frozen vegs to canned. BUT ... only have the freezer at the top of my fridge. But when you hit the grocery store, often the stuff called "fresh" is anything but. You can't convince me that veggies harvested in south America are anything resembling fresh when they hit my grocery store in NW IL. So frozen and otherwise preserved is the name of the game.
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Old 01-15-2012, 10:08 AM   #8
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Canning (freezing, drying) food takes time. I used to go to a u-pick in late August and pick tomoatoes. I would spend the weekend making salsa, canning tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce. Now we garden and do small batches as things are ripe starting the end of July and continuing until about the 3rd week in September. It takes a lot of time, but I gotta say, I enjoy knowing I have the ingredients on hand and how they were grown.
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Old 01-15-2012, 10:49 AM   #9
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I make almost everything from scratch. A few exceptions are tomatoes in the winter (my co-op doesn't sell them out of season) and beans. Beans I sometimes cook from scratch when there's time to do so, but that seems to be a rarity. When making certain Asian foods, I also use some jarred sauces. I mean, I don't know anyone who ferments their own soy sauce, for example.

I make a lot of my own things, including wine, liqueurs, ice cream, pasta, cheese, sauerkraut, kimchee, ketchup, mustard, hot sauces, and other condiments. A lot of these things I learned to make just by trying it once. In most cases, the flavor is better, or at least different, than store-bought. Plus you have complete control over the end product.
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Old 01-15-2012, 11:07 AM   #10
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I try to use raw for scratch cooking. I don't like putting a lot of chemicals in my body. I have become an avid label reader. For veggies, always raw. I keep a bag of frozen broccoli on hand for emergency. The last bag I had, I had to toss. It had been in the freezer for over a year not even opened. But you could feel all the ice crystals in the bag.

Those cute little carrots in the produce section. Taste one of those, then peel a carrot that still has the tops on. You will never use those cute little peeled carrots again. They are treated with chemicals to keep them bright and fresh looking. And what you are tasting are the chemicals. I remember the taste of the veggies in the garden when I was a child. And that is what I want now. I always buy beets with the top on. Cook them separate. I love spinach. Could eat that every day. One of the things I like about raw veggies is the prep work. There isn't too much I can do about the meat. I do try to look for "organic" or "free range" meats. I know it will cost more, but that is fine with me. In this state, a law was passed statiing that the milk that is sold to the public has to come from free cows with no performace enhanced chemicals. We have two large dairies that provide our area with milk.
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Old 01-15-2012, 11:18 AM   #11
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I most agree with Steve and GLC. I don't know where Steve gets the time or energy, but I would love to make all that stuff too.

My first thought, when I read the first post, was, don't we all do that most of the time?

Apple pie from scratch: the lard was rendered at a factory, the flour was ground at a factory, the butter was made at a factory, I didn't process any cane or beet juice to make the sugar, I have no idea how cornstarch is made.
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Old 01-15-2012, 11:24 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taxlady View Post
I most agree with Steve and GLC. I don't know where Steve gets the time or energy, but I would love to make all that stuff too.

My first thought, when I read the first post, was, don't we all do that most of the time?

Apple pie from scratch: the lard was rendered at a factory, the flour was ground at a factory, the butter was made at a factory, I didn't process any cane or beet juice to make the sugar, I have no idea how cornstarch is made.
I sometimes grind my own flour or buy it from the local mill in Manotick. But no, I haven't rendered lard for years...and the only sugar I've ever made was maple sugar--and that was because I fell asleep while the sap was evaporating (but it was REALLY good). The advantage of spending the time and energy to do some of these things (make salsa, etc.) is that I know what is in the stuff. And, the other advantage is that it leaves money in the food budget for the things we don't grow--cheeses, better cuts of meat, higher quality olive oils, etc.

When I lived in Fargo, ND, sugar beets were a huge crop (the morning news would have an announcement for people to come and hoe the rows for "day pay."). You could smell the processing plant from miles away if the wind was blowing (which in ND it does a lot). A friend worked there, her clothes brought the factory smell home (she had the apartment next to mine....I don't like the smell of sugar beets being processed).
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Old 01-15-2012, 03:34 PM   #13
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I work, so yes, I have prepared foods that I use to cook with. However, they are carefully chosen with no additives that shouldn't be in food. No HFCS's, no preservatives or artificial colors and flavorings. Otherwise I cook from scratch. I do my best to buy locally, but that is not always feasible.
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Old 01-17-2012, 08:01 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by taxlady View Post
I most agree with Steve and GLC. I don't know where Steve gets the time or energy, but I would love to make all that stuff too.

My first thought, when I read the first post, was, don't we all do that most of the time?

Apple pie from scratch: the lard was rendered at a factory, the flour was ground at a factory, the butter was made at a factory, I didn't process any cane or beet juice to make the sugar, I have no idea how cornstarch is made.
This link explains how corn starch is made (Bert Wolf's show #107 explains it as well):

International Starch: Production of corn starch

This link explains how corn syrup is made:

How is Corn Syrup Made? | How Is It Made

Neither sound like something one could do easily at home.
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Old 01-17-2012, 10:11 PM   #15
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I think we need to find some common ground in defining what are common ingredients?

I was a bit counter to many of the forum members when discussing the Campbell's grean bean casserole (is it a tradition?). I represented the opinion that requiring Campbell mushroom soup and French's fried onion rings made it a proprietary recipe.

Yet I can't imagine making my own sugar or cornstarch. (I don't use corn syrup in my recipes.)

I think it's a valid issue, when are you using a common generic ingredient (sugar, flour) and when are you using some trademarked commercial ingredient?

And I still sometimes use commercial ingredients, e.g. Wright's liquid smoke or Tabasco sauce. I don't understand where the dividing line is and I sometimes wonder that my own dividing line is a bit snakey.
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Old 01-17-2012, 11:02 PM   #16
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I think that's as close as you can come to defining a "basic ingredient." It would be something that anyone could produce commercially or at home, all of them identical, without having to credit some proprietary owner or to be licensed by them. Any company can produce wheat flour, or sugar, or liquid smoke, and they are mostly interchangable. Catsup, then, would be a "basic ingredient, even though fans of one brand might believe their favorite is unique.

So maybe it really means that it is a single ingredient processed from one source, or that it's so unlikely that it would be made at home that it would be unreasonable to expect someone to concoct it themselves. I'm thinking fish sauce. I think it would be most unlikely to find someone making their own.

But we'll probably never get agreement on mayo and catsup and fried onion rings. Plenty of people make their own, and a fair number insist that it must be homemade. I fry shallot slices for the same purpose. But, although anyone can make mushroom soup, and many do, it's clearly a combination of many more basic ingredients and cannot be considered a basic. I think Louisiana style hot sauce is a basic, because, regardless of opinion on Avery Island, in a recipe, it makes no real difference which brand you use.

And although it's not definitive, basic ingredients are what appear in the ingredients label list.
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Old 01-17-2012, 11:19 PM   #17
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GLC that's a pretty good analysis, or at least I agree with every point that you made.

In concept I understand how I could make mayonnaise, but I've never done it and I'm unlikely to. Although now that you've made the point I wonder what homemade mayonnaise would be like, particularly if it weren't just a reprise of Best Foods. I'm sure there must be gourmet mayonnaise recipes.

Fish sauce (nam pla in Thailand) is to me a very basic ingredient. I can't imagine making my own, and here in Los Angeles (a city with a large Asian community) it would be like making your own salt or something, to not just buy some brand, any brand, any of many dozens of brands I'm certain I could buy.

I don't think it comes down to what could you make. I think it comes down to what would you make even considering the plentiful supply of different brand names all of them almost or nearly the same.

Maybe it would be a lark to make your own ketchup, but how many people would want to do that considering all the vast variety of brands available?
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Old 01-17-2012, 11:27 PM   #18
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...In concept I understand how I could make mayonnaise, but I've never done it and I'm unlikely to. Although now that you've made the point I wonder what homemade mayonnaise would be like, particularly if it weren't just a reprise of Best Foods. I'm sure there must be gourmet mayonnaise recipes...
I have made mayo at home. With a blender or FP, it's quite simple. The one thing I have determined for myself is a jar of Hellmann's is as good or better until you want to experiment with different favors.

You will also find homemade mayo will NEVER have the texture/consistency of the commercial stuff.

I'd put condiments into the basic ingredient category.
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Old 01-17-2012, 11:39 PM   #19
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You will also find homemade mayo will NEVER have the texture/consistency of the commercial stuff.
I presume that you mean home made can't be as smooth and even.

A lot of the things I make are better because of their roughness, lumpiness or unevenness. For example I love my own home made lumpy mashed potatoes, with bits and pieces of skin left in. Most people wouldn't like that.

I guess I had better put "make homemade mayonnaise" on my list of things to do some day, just to see. (Oops, I just googled mayonnaise recipes. I guess it's only a matter of time before I try it myself.)


But I wouldn't make mayonnaise just because it was an ingredient to one of my projects and I wanted to use basic ingredients. I would make my own mayonnaise only if it were a stand out part of some dish I'm preparing, perhaps a special sandwich.
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Old 01-17-2012, 11:47 PM   #20
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Quote:
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GLC that's a pretty good analysis, or at least I agree with every point that you made.

In concept I understand how I could make mayonnaise, but I've never done it and I'm unlikely to. Although now that you've made the point I wonder what homemade mayonnaise would be like, particularly if it weren't just a reprise of Best Foods. I'm sure there must be gourmet mayonnaise recipes.

Fish sauce (nam pla in Thailand) is to me a very basic ingredient. I can't imagine making my own, and here in Los Angeles (a city with a large Asian community) it would be like making your own salt or something, to not just buy some brand, any brand, any of many dozens of brands I'm certain I could buy.

I don't think it comes down to what could you make. I think it comes down to what would you make even considering the plentiful supply of different brand names all of them almost or nearly the same.

Maybe it would be a lark to make your own ketchup, but how many people would want to do that considering all the vast variety of brands available?
Well, homemade ketchup is better than any brand of ketchup I have ever tasted.
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