Monday, November 4, 2013

Make Your Own Seasonings

Ever since I became interested in this whole self sufficiency thing, I've been wanting to try growing and making my own seasoning mixes and spice blends. Something about the glory of growing your own onions, garlic, herbs, spices and vegetables, drying them, and grinding them with the mortar and pestle into flakes or powders, blending them to a perfect mix to enhance your cooking, storing them in a perfect line up of jewel-like spice jars...

Seriously though. Why make your own seasoning mixes? Because it's awesome. And fun. And you can avoid things like over priced packets from the stores with anti-caking agents, and who knows what else in them. And it's the perfect use for the mortar and pestle your husband bought you when you got married, and then sat collecting dust for a long time because you didn't have anything to grind in it... okay, that might have just been me.

It almost means you control what goes into the mix. Fresh herbs and spices pack the most flavor punch but to be honest, if you don't want to grow the onions and garlic, you are perfectly justified in using store bought varieties (shop the sales baby). Same with bulk spices, or with hard to grow things (because who can grow black pepper or cumin in their yard? Actually... *cough* I'm going to try growing cumin... *cough*)

Where do you even begin though? Well, it helps to have a kitchen with some useful gadgets and tools.

A dehydrator is a biggie. I have the deluxe Fowlers-Vacola machine, but any machine would do fine. Or, alternatively, you can dehydrate things in your oven or in a solar dehydrator if you don't have humidity issues. Things like good knives, a garlic press, a mortar and pestle or a food processor, are all useful tools. Those little glass spice jars, washed and saved from store bought spices, are extremely helpful, but not strictly necessary. Patience, however, is a biggie. it takes time to dry things.

And, last but never least, some recipes you can try!

Garlic Powder/Flakes

Crush as much garlic as you want. I prefer doing at least two whole bulbs. Make sure they are fresh and mold free. Just peel and push through the garlic press, or grind to a paste in the food processor. Smear the garlic paste onto a fruit roll up sheet and dry on the "Fruit/Vegetable" setting of your dehydrator (generally about 135F/58C), for several hours, until you can flake the garlic off the sheet. It should be crispy, not tough.

If you want garlic flakes, break them up into flakes and leave as is. If you want powder, place the garlic flakes in the mortar or food processor and grind until you have a powder. Place in a jar, label and seal.

Onion Powder

Similar story to the garlic. Chop three or four onions into small pieces, then puree in the food processor (like making an onion smoothie). When it's very finely textured, smear it on a fruit roll up sheet and dry until crispy (it will take a little longer; onion has way more water than garlic does). Then you just flake the dried onion off, grind into a powder, label and store.

Onion Flakes

Slightly different procedure. Top, tail, peel and halve one kilo of onions, and slice each half into narrow slices. Break apart the layers and place in a large microwave safe bowl. Try not to hurt yourself with the knife while you're blinded with onion tears. Place a bit of water in the bottom and cover loosely with a spatter guard, and nuke those evil *expletive deleted* for three minutes on high. Wash your hands thoroughly. And your face. And your cutting board. Try not to cry some more.

When the time is up, toss them quickly with tongs and nuke again for another three minutes. They should be limp by this time. You definitely showed them who's boss. Drain the water off and place the onion slices on the dehydrator trays. Don't let them fall through, and dry until they are crispy and golden.

Finally, we can make our onion flakes: take however many of the dried slices you want, and crush them carefully to get more flakes and less powder. This is where a mortar and pestle come in handy: it's easier to control the processing time.

Store the flakes in a spice jar, and the onion slices in a larger jar.

Garlic/Onion Salt

Easy stuff. Garlic or Onion Salt can be made with 3 parts salt and 1 part garlic or onion powder. Just mix the two together and store in a clean jar.

Chili Powder/Paprika

Chilies and paprika are all peppers. If you are lucky enough to be able to grow either, you can dry them both and grind them to a powder for use in your cooking. (Paprika can be smoked as well, to give it a nice flavor). Try doing something fun, and making green chili powder for use in salsa verde type dishes.

Mexican Seasoning

Slightly more involved now, as we're using bulk spices from the spice section at the supermarket.

1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder (or 2 tsp onion flakes)
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp crushed black pepper

Mix well and store in an airtight jar.

Italian Seasoning

All your favorite herbs can be grown and used for Italian cooking. Make sure you include rosemary, basil, oregano, marjoram and thyme in your garden if you wish to make your own from scratch. If not, you can purchase them from the supermarket and make your own blend.

2T Rosemary
2T Basil
2T Thyme
2T Marjoram
2T Oregano

1T Chili Flakes
1T Onion Flakes
1T Garlic Flakes

Mix and store in a jar.

Seasoning Salt

I made this yesterday and had it on a roast chicken and it was fantastic. I think it would work great for any meat.

3 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried parsley flakes
1/2 tsp crushed black pepper

Store in a jar and enjoy.

I hope these have given you ideas on how to use both store bought and home grown herbs and spices in your seasoning mixes. May your cooking always be interesting and flavorful!

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