Scratch Cooking: Good for your health, good for your wallet and good for the earth

By Doug Williams
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Scratch Cooking: Good for your health, good for your wallet and good for the earth

Doug Williams
 
 
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If you enjoy food, like trying something different, and you fancy yourself as something of a cook, then you will LOVE the move so many people are making, the one towards ‘Scratch Cooking.’ In essence, scratch cooking is a way of going back to basics, by using natural ingredients which have not been processed in any way. It is a way of learning to combine these natural ingredients in different ways, with the end result being an attractive meal, which is both delicious and healthy.

The first step is to begin to use – as far as you are able – totally unprocessed foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat and fish, dried beans, pulses, rice, whole grains, sea salt, peppercorns, dried and fresh spices and herbs (check they are not processed) – just to name a few. Any food which has not gone through a manufacturing process or has not had additional non-natural ingredients added to it is deemed natural.

 

 

It would be a good idea for you to actually read the labels on the foods that you purchase – especially commercially canned and bottled items, sauces, flavorings and the like – for you will probably be horrified at what they contain, and that will surely spur you on to be more adventurous with your scratch cooking.

 

Since cheese, butter and even milk (when pasteurized) are processed in some way, it would be necessary for you to find a source of raw, untreated milk if you are serious about cooking from scratch. It is possible to make your own butter and cheese quite easily using the raw milk. Butter requires that you use raw cream which is relatively easy to churn into butter, while your own scratch cheese may be made by gently warming up milk with some lemon juice (you could use vinegar instead) and adding a little salt. Yogurt is also easily ‘scratch’ made.

 

Maze flour
Maze flour

Should you be interested in baking from scratch, you would have to be inventive, in that baking in this way needs you to make some adjustments to conventional recipes. Butter, flour, and sugar are all usually processed, so you may well find that you need to make your own butter, as well as obtaining natural grains in order to grind your own flour.

 

 

If you don’t have a grain grinder, you could utilize a coffee grinder instead. Sugar may present a problem too, for even raw sugar goes through processing. It is fairly simple to obtain raw honey or even home-treated maple sap, which are both natural sweeteners, as substitutes. Be aware that the recipe may have to be adjusted to allow for the extra amount of liquid.

 

 

Since most oils are heat-treated during the oil-extraction process, it’s necessary to choose those which have been extracted by the cold-press method, which are healthier. Should you accept the challenge of making your own oils, you will find it is not too difficult a task, especially if you manage to obtain a domestic oil press. Olives, nuts and many types of seeds, particularly sunflower seeds, can provide you with reasonably inexpensive oil. Should it interest you – as an added advantage to making your own oils – you may well enjoy making your own soaps, candles and even lamp oils from scratch.

Scratch cooking need not be complicated or too challenging but it does require a different type of mindset. You need to have the desire to make delicious, natural food without rushing to a store for easy-fix-mix-and-microwave ingredients.

 

Since commercially made sauces and flavorings, as mentioned above, have normally undergone heavy processing and/or are loaded with processed ingredients, the challenge in scratch cooking is for you to make your own meals which are wholesome and tasty, by utilizing natural ingredients for flavoring. Remember that there are a huge number of naturally dried fruits, meats, fish, vegetables, spices and herbs which can be used singly or in combination which will give you such tasty food!

 

Dried chilli
Dried chilli

If you are new to scratch cooking, you will probably find that there are few recipe books that don’t use ingredients which have been processed in some way, which means that you will be forced to use your own initiative in substituting natural produce instead. Today, however, there are many books that encourage the use of natural, fresh foodstuffs and give plenty of ideas for you to try out. It is interesting to note that very old recipe books (if you can lay your hands on one) are extremely helpful because they contain recipes that frequently use produce which is home grown, as they were written before the age of convenience foods arrived! Further, these old books often have many different recipes for making your own stock and soups and some great ideas on how to use leftovers – they wasted nothing, those scratch cooks of old!

 

Beans can be soaked and cooked.
Beans can be soaked and cooked.

 

When scratch cooking, as you learn more about the natural way to cook using fresh, unadulterated meats, fruits, and vegetables, you become more aware of the importance of eating ‘local.’ It stands to reason that fruit and veggies from local growers will be fresher than those which have been trucked in from far away. You also learn to use the fruits and vegetable which are in season and preferably locally grown, which means that they have not been kept in storage for a period of time since that often destroys much of their nutritional value.

It is so satisfying to know that what you are eating is natural, non-processed and healthy. Since more and more people are trying to eat well, it’s easier than ever to choose from the wide variety of natural foodstuffs available. Today there are so many different, exciting and new foods from which to choose, in order to experience, taste, combine and enjoy cooking from scratch. It may well be that you become so excited by the prospect of these healthy foodstuffs that you begin to grow some of the easier ones yourself and – at the very least – have a pot of useful herbs growing on your kitchen windowsill.

 

Blueberry bush, can’t get much fresher than this…
Blueberry bush, can’t get much fresher than this…

 

Eating natural foods will certainly improve your health. You may well find that you have more energy due to consuming ‘clean ’foodstuffs. Once you get used to using natural, fresh foodstuffs you will no longer need to purchase all those processed foods and processed ingredients, thereby saving yourself quite a bit of money as well. Furthermore, not using packaged, processed foodstuffs means you are actually doing your bit towards helping the environment, by no longer adding food packaging waste to landfill sites.

As you see, there are a number of advantages to learning to be a scratch cook – so, how about getting started?

 

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