We love DIY at Edible San Diego (see back page), especially when it comes to food. These are delicious and nutritious things you can make at home, often for a fraction of market price. They require little specialized equipment and taste all the better when you make it yourself.
Here are 10 things you're crazy for not making yourself.
Sorbet is gorgeous and a great way to preserve fruit. Simmer 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water and the juice of half a lemon until syrupy. Mix with 2 cups fruit purée (strained, if you wish), chill and then run through an ice cream machine for 25 minutes.
Let it set in the freezer for 2–3 hours before eating. For pure juice (say, orange or Jamaica, etc.) make the syrup with juice instead of water.
Creamy, nutritious and often expensive, nut butter is easy to make in a food processor. Roast 2 cups of raw nuts at 400° for 15 minutes. Then take them from the oven to the food processor, add a pinch of salt and grind until creamy smooth, about 10 minutes. Serve with crisp, juicy apples.
The Mexican drink we all love, it's a special kind of hibiscus (h. sabdariffa); you can buy dried flowers at a Mexican market or online. Boil 6 cups of water, add 1 cup Jamaica, ½ cup sugar and simmer 2 minutes. Let stand 1 hour, strain and add another 2–4 cup cold water and up to ½ cup sugar, both to taste. Serve chilled or with rum.
Rice is the easiest thing to make. Ever. You don't even need a rice cooker. Rinse well (using a strainer) and add to a pot with equal parts water, if using white rice. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. For brown rice use 2 parts water to 1 part rice and simmer 45 minutes. Let it rest 10 minutes with the heat off, then fluff with a fork. If desired, fold in ghee, cilantro and lime juice or toasted coconut.
Cooking a bird for the holidays? Reserve the meaty trimmings (neck, wing tips, etc.). After dinner, remove the useable meat and put the remaining carcass and trimmings in a huge pot. Add 1 quartered onion, 2 carrot sticks, 2 celery stalks, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 quartered lemon, 3 bay leaves, a handful of dried mushrooms, 1–2 tablespoons salt and 10 peppercorns. Fill the pot with water; simmer for 2 hours and then strain. Freeze or can the broth. For vegetable stock, omit the bird.
Dried beans are cheap, healthy and much tastier than their canned counterparts. Soak pinto or black beans for 4 hours (more is OK) in lots of water. Drain, rinse, add to a pot and cover with 1 inch water. Boil hard for 10 minutes, skimming the scum off the surface, then simmer 45 minutes with 2 bay leaves and 1 teaspoon each of cumin, paprika and garlic powder. Check that a bean mashes easily between your fingers, then add 1½ teaspoons salt, mash and cook until they approach desired consistency; they will thicken significantly once cooled. Two cups dried beans yields about 6 cups cooked.
Avocados grow extremely well in San Diego and will give you the most bang-for-buck of any garden plant. Buy a 5-gallon-size avocado tree and dig a hole 2–3 times as wide and as deep as the pot. Mix the native dirt 1:1 with some good garden soil and plant tree so the top of the root ball is flush with ground. Water deeply once a week and apply good fertilizer 2–3 times per year. In a few years you'll be swimming in guacamole.
Figs don't ship or store well, and must be picked ripe. But they grow readily all over San Diego. Plant and grow them just like the avocado.
Marmalade is a great use for extra citrus. It's excellent on toast or on grilled fish when mixed with soy sauce. Quarter and thinly slice 1½ pounds of citrus, removing seeds and ends. Soak in 3 cups water overnight. Next day, add 3 cups sugar and 1 tablespoon butter. Boil hard until it reaches 220° on a candy thermometer. Can or freeze.
This is a pet peeve of mine. People spend hundreds of dollars each year on coffee at shops that use drip machines. My Cuisinart drip machine and Mr. Coffee burr grinder (about $110 total) make excellent coffee for about 25 cents a cup. Experiment to find the ideal ratio. For me it's 1½ ounces coffee to 3 cups water.