The holiday rush is over, and January 1 is right around the corner. For me, January always seems like a good time to start fresh and broaden my horizons. Even if you’re not a resolution-making type, the new year is always a fun time to try something new. Maybe your big project will be staying gluten-free for a month, or just cooking at home a few times a week rather than eating out. But for the more adventurous among us, I’d like to propose a few food-geeky projects to try this year.
6 DIY food projects
Make your own jerky. This is the number one project on my list! I am investing in a food dehydrator with some Christmas cash I got, and I can’t wait to make my own. Diane of Balanced Bites explains how easy it is to make your own jerky, WikiHow has an illustrated guide, and there are even more tips at Mark’s Daily Apple.
Build a meat smoker for ah-maze-ing barbecue. Buying a smoker is expensive for a single-use appliance, and you probably don’t have a tin-roof shack you can convert into your own authentic barbecue smoker. But never fear – you can build your own ceramic smoker for under $50. Watch Alton Brown do just that and make pulled pork with a flower pot, a trashcan, hardwood smoke and a lot of patience.
Cook a chicken standing up. You’ve probably heard of beer can chicken, but if you haven’t cooked a chicken this way, you’re missing out. The skin gets super crispy and yummy, but the meat inside stays moist thanks to the steam coming from the can of beer. Now, I wouldn’t go for beer can chicken anymore because beer is filled with nasty gluten. However, there are countless other options. A can of fruit juice or coconut milk would do just fine, or use a pint mason jar filled with chicken stock, wine, apple juice, or any liquid of your choice. Get directions for making a stand-up chicken on the grill or watch Christopher Walken make a chicken with pears (it’s kind of awesome).
Pickle something. Making Jalapenos en Escabeche is super easy and here’s a video on how to do it. You can also make fridge pickles with cucumbers (no canning equipment or boiling jars or any of that). This recipe has jalapenos in it too, but leave them out for regular ol’ tasty pickles.
Grow your own fresh herbs. This spring I dug a hole in the backyard, put in some compost, planted some baby herbs that I got from the hardware store, and then pretty much neglected them all summer besides watering them every now and then. For all that effort (ha!) they repaid me by growing huge and providing me with fresh herbs to use in my cooking. Rosemary for roasting lamb, thyme for stews, basil for curries, and parsley for everything else. I love my herb garden – it almost makes me feel like a real farmer or something. Herbs do great in container pots too, and CHOW has a pretty good guide about growing them indoors too if you don’t have the space outside.
Grind your own meat for killer burgers or meatloaf. Grinding your own meat sounds a little scary but you don’t need some medieval-looking contraption to make this happen. If you have a Kitchenaid mixer like I do, there’s a meat grinder attachment for it, but you can also make ground meat in batches in a food processor. Whenever I can, I do my best not to buy pre-packaged meat. Mark Bittman’s piece on making great burgers does a good job of explaining why. He also gives tips on selecting cuts of meat as well as seasoning.
What will you make?
Are you into the DIY foodie thing? Like experimenting in the kitchen and getting your hands dirty? Tell us which of these projects you’re likely to try, or give us more ideas for some DIY kitchen fun in the comments!