I read cookbooks the way others read novels. Nothing I like better than to curl up with a new cookbook and begin reading on page 1 and keep at it until the last page.
My friend Jane sent me Alice Water's new book, My Pantry, and yesterday as it poured down rain all day, I poured through the pages. The book was written with the help of Alice's daughter, Fanny Singer, and includes dozens of Fanny's lovely ink illustrations. The book is organized by category, beginning with spice mixtures and condiments and ending with sweet preserves. It includes essays and recipes for pantry staples that many people would not think to make – but ones that can turn a simple meal into something special.
Many of the items in Ms. Walters' pantry can also be found in mine. And, after reading this book, I plan to add a number of new ingredients, so I can cook like Alice! I'm so inspired I might even make Alice's apple peel cider vinegar, or almond milk, or homemade corn tortillas. She also makes a convincing argument for making your own ricotta, chevre, and yogurt. Gives me something to shoot for in 2016...
My pantry and spice drawer are much more robust than they were when I lived in the city. In my prior life, it was all to easy to just swing by Burger's, Doll's Market or Lotsa Pasta and pick up the odd ingredient or two that I was missing. Not so these days. It is at least 10 miles to the nearest Kroger and I find that if I stock my pantry well, harvest a big garden, and fill our basement freezer with frozen soups and meats, I can go a long time between grocery runs.
Apple Peel Cider Vinegar
Reprinted from "My Pantry," by Alice Waters with Fanny Singer.
Rather than throwing away the scraps after you make a pie or tart, freeze them, and when you have enough, make this mellow, fruity vinegar.
2 quarts apple cores and peels
2 quarts water
1/3 cup sugar
Put the apple cores and peels in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Dissolve the sugar in the water and pour over the cores and peels. Cover with a plate and weight down with something heavy to keep the solids submerged. Cover the entire bowl with cheesecloth or a kitchen towel and leave on the counter out of direct sunlight for 7 days.
Strain the cores and peels from the liquid and discard the solids. Put the liquid in jars or bottles and secure a piece of cheesecloth over the opening with a rubber band to allow airflow. Allow to age at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 6 to 8 weeks, until the desired flavor is achieved. A "mother" will begin to develop after about 2 weeks.
I'm assuming that after the aging period, you can cork the jars and place them in your pantry.