Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Quarantine Cuisine: What's in Your Pantry?

Our parents, grandparents and their forebearers all kept pantries of food items that could be called upon to feed their families. Though modern times have lead to less filled pantry shelves, keeping one is a marvelous idea, especially for when you're stuck at home. Here are my thoughts on how and what to keep in yours.

In the house where we lived from the mid-1980s to the mid 1990s, there was the most marvelous cabinet. It was at the corner of the house at the end of the galley kitchen, a floor to ceiling divided cabinet with four doors. The top sections were divided into three shelves, while the bottom had shelves on the right and a place for the refuse can on the left. The bottom shelves were for cleaning products, non-food items, garbage bags and the like. The top shelves were my playground.

My parents were both the youngest children in their families, so what I picked up from my grandparents I mostly learned from watching, not from active teaching. Mom worked and was out of the house a lot (many of us Gen X kids understand how that works) so there were a lot of times when I was left to my own devices for cooking. Mom was really cool with me cooking, and over time I got into making meals. Those meals mostly came out of that pantry cabinet, augmented by eggs and milk and cheese from the fridge.

My paternal grandmother had a closet pantry, where canned goods were put up, as well as a building outside with more, years of put-back pickles, vegetables, soups, stocks, fruits, and all means of things in glass jars with metal lids. She also had two large chest freezers full of labeled wax paper wrapped and zip-top bag wrapped and aluminum foil wrapped packages - some of which were labeled, some which weren't. 

Pantries were just part of my life growing up, whether the more modern version packed with dry goods and canned fruits and vegetables and tuna like my mom's or the older version like my grandmother. When I moved out into the world, I started creating my own. And when I moved into my house in 2001, one of the first things I did was stock the shelves and obtain my own deep freeze. My layout isn't quite the neat one my Mom had, but it works. I store some pantry items in an overhead cabinet by the fridge, some in a cabinet over the washer, and my spices in a cabinet over the microwave. I also have jars of pasta (spaghetti, penne, orzo), sugar, and spices like my curry powder. I keep flour in the freezer.

Keeping a pantry has served me well - particularly in times of financial strain, and when I was first attempting this crazy, patchwork career of mine. Even as Grav has taken over most of the cooking responsibilities so I can get my work done when I am home and to feed himself and Hunter when I am on the road, I still shop for my pantry, checking from time to time to see what's needed and mentally adding it to my list. I shop sales and replenish when I find them. Sometimes I'll hit bargain stops around the state while I'm in the area, such as Chicken Mart in Russellville and Main Street Merchandise in Harrison, and bring home the bounty to store.

We self-quarantined on the 13th, with Grav going to pick up things for his art business from time to time and the occasional Kroger pick-up. My mom's dropped by a few essentials. But for the most part, we've been able to survive quite well on what we have here.

I've been asked about what I like to keep on-hand. So I'm sharing that here. Your needs may be different, and I can respect that.

Canned goods
Tomatoes (diced, whole, crushed, paste, sauce)
Green beans
Potatoes (whole and sliced)
Beans (light red, dark red, kidney, pinto, black, Great Northern, butter, Lima)
Refried beans (vegetarian and black bean)
Corn (white, yellow, creamed)
Mushrooms (usually just sliced, because you get more mushroom bits)
Tuna (packed in spring water)
Chicken (plain or lemon pepper)
Corned beef
Three bean salad (a great cold side)
Beef ravioli (can be eaten cold)
Spaghetti-Os or generic (Hunter is an addict, and they can be eaten cold)
Cream of mushroom soup
Cream of chicken soup
Tomato soup
Various cans of soup (I've been steering away from these in recent years because we tend to eat homemade soups more)
Mandarin Orange
Evaporated milk

Note: I generally don't keep canned carrots, because the flavor and texture seems very off to me. I do purchase fresh, and almost always have frozen.

Pickles (dill spears, bread and butter)
Several different jars of homemade jams and jellies from friends and from Grav's canning
House of Webster blackberry butter
Pamcake House apple butter
Stutzman's muscadine jelly
Panola candied jalapenos
Robbi's Salsa
Kroger mild chunky salsa
Olives (green with pimentos, Calvestrano, Ni├žoise, Manzanilla, Mission)
Spaghetti Sauce
Candied orange peel
Peanut butter

Honey (several local varieties)
Ghee (clarified cow butter)
Panola Worchestershire Sauce
Crystal Hot Sauce
Crystal Cayenne Garlic Sauce
Balsalmic vinegar
Balsamic vinaigrette
Crab boil
Maple syrup
Michiu (Chinese rice cooking wine)
Mirin (Japanese sweet white cooling wine)

Riceland Rice Bran Oil
Olive oil
Sesame oil

Salt (Iodized, Kosher, Fleur de Sel)
Pepper (ground black, ground white, whole peppercorns, whole long peppers)
Whole nutmeg
Turmeric (ground)
Cinnamon (ground and whole)
Green cardamom (ground and whole)
Black cardamom (whole)
Caraway seed
Celery seed
Mustard (whole and ground)
Paprika (ground and smoked ground)
Cotham's Hamburger seasoning
Joe's Stuff
Garlic (powder, dessicated and whole)
Ginger (powdered)
Onion (whole fresh, dessicated and powder)
Chives (dried)
Basil (dried)
Rosemary (dried)
Fennel seed
Mint (dried)
Parsley (dried)
Italian seasoning (dried not ground)
Grains of Paradise
Poppy seed
Sesame seed
Methi leaves
Bay leaves
Cloves (whole and ground)
Fenugreek (seeds and leaves)
Star anise
Cocoa powder

Dry goods
All purpose flour
Rice flour
Dry milk
Calumet baking powder
Baking soda
War Eagle Mill cornmeal
Rice (Riceland extra long grain, ParExcellence Garden Harvest, ParExcellence Yellow, Ralston Farms Nature's Blend
Dry beans (black, red, pinto)
Chicken bouillon
Beef bouillon
Kroger macaroni and cheese
Dry pastas (spaghetti, fettuccini, penne, orzo, bowtie, lasagna - most in whole wheat versions. Also vegetable spaghetti and vegetable elbows)
Ramen (Hunter has several favorites she gets at Sam's Oriental and Mr. Chen's)
Mushrooms (golden ear, King, oyster)
Dried apricots
Dried apples
Dried peaches
Dried peppers
Sundried tomatoes
Rice blend mixes
Stuffing in a box

Freezer goods
Flash frozen chicken breasts
Turkey ham
Meatballs (all-beef, turkey, chicken)
Beef bacon
Beef sausage (like sausage for breakfast, Kroger sells these in 2# chubs)
Lunchmeat (I buy on sale and immediately freeze)
Hard cheeses (asiago, Parmesan)
Flat iron steaks
Butter (at least four pounds reserve at any time)
Butter shapes (these are butters in which I have preserved herbs, currently have parsley, onion)
Bean and cheese frozen burritos
Tri-pepper and onion blend
Frozen onions
Brussels sprouts
PurpleHull peas
Lima beans
Various vegetable blends
Puff pastry crust
Pizza (Red Baron hamburger is my guilty favorite)
Michelano's pepperoni pizza rolls and Chicken Smiles (Hunter's snacks)
Lean Cuisine Asian Spring Rolls (Grav's snacks)
Lean Cuisine Mac and Cheese cups (my snacks)
Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies
Homemade chicken broth
Homemade turkey broth
Homemade chili
Homemade frozen soups, stews and the like
Frozen 2-liters of ice (for chilling Grav's laser equipment)
All-purpose flour
Toaster Streudel (Hunter's breakfast for school days)
Stale doughnuts in gallon size freezer bags (for bread pudding)

Counter goods
Tortillas (flour)
Oat bread

Fridge goods
Lime juice
Miracle Whip
Inglehoffer Sweet Hot Mustard (Grav's favorite)
Heinz Ketchup (no high fructose corn syrup)
Barbecue sauces (honey, brown sugar, honey mustard)
Blue cheese dressing, chunky
Cheeses (always at least five varieties - Colby Jack, cheddar, mozzarella, asiago, Brie or d'Affinois, gouda, provolone. NEVER sliced singles)
Cream cheese
Sour cream

So, what's in your pantry?

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