Like the back-to-the-land movement that inspired the Woodstock generation, the do-it-yourself movement popular among today's twentysomethings is all about taking control of your life.
While back-to-the-landers are known for organic farm communes and the like, the do-it-yourself (DIY) crowd doesn't necessarily need a garden to start taking charge of what they eat.
In "Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It," Karen Solomon has given anyone with the ambition to make their own kitchen staples all the information and inspiration they need.
Heard the virtues of making your own vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, barbecue sauce and vanilla extract? Solomon is here to help.
Are you a home cook who's interested in making some of the grocery store staples you take for granted? Sure, pickle recipes here might not be expanding your do-it-yourself repertoire. But what about pastrami, or on the other end of the vegan scale, tofu?
As it turns out, making tofu is quite simple, similar to making paneer, the Indian cheese. Heat up some liquid, soy milk in the case of tofu, add a coagulant. The proteins solidify into curds, and once they're pressed together, success.
"Can It" is filled with such little revelations. Smoked apples? Why not?
What about filling your freezer with homemade ice cream sandwiches for the kids, or salted margarita cream or berry cabernet pops for the adults? Or dazzling a party with your own soft pretzels, caramel popcorn or pork rinds?
That last recipe assumes that you have a source of pig skin handy. For the most part, though, the book's ingredient demands seem well within the reach of most Western New Yorkers.
Solomon's instructions are clear and relatively brief, especially considering that entire businesses are built around similar recipes, although on an industrial scale. Her first DIY food book, "Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It," was almost as helpful.
There are a few choices that seem more far-fetched for beginners, like turning raw cacao beans into cacao nibs, or taking three hours to make bagels. But that's part of the thrill of this collection -- it promises to inspire cooks to consider the ingredients they take for granted, and seriously consider making them better themselves.
Photo reprinted with permission from Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It: And Other Kitchen Projects. Copyright 2011 by Karen Solomon, Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA. Photo Credit: Angie Cao.
ON THE WEB: go to blogs.buffalonews.com/hungryformore for a recipe from "Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It."
Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It
By Karen Solomon
Ten Speed Press
$24.99, 160 pages