You want to know what was one of the most painful parts about packing up the majority of our belongings and putting them into storage indefinitely while we build our new home?
Deciding which books will be going into storage for who knows how long. Suddenly, books I haven’t touched in months or years I am wishing I could reference but they’re buried in a pile of boxes miles away.
I think the worst of the worst is not having all of my cookbooks! I’m a total cookbook junky and while pinning recipes is great, for me there’s nothing like the joy of flipping through the pages of a real book!
It turns out that I’m also a bit of a cookbook snob.
To get a spot on my cookbook shelf, there are a few criteria it must meet. It wasn’t intentional, but I’ve realized these requirements I’ve had all along are serving me well as I cook for my large family in a (very) small kitchen.
4 Things I Want in a Cookbook for my Homestead Kitchen
First, it has to use real ingredients. No “can of” this or “jar of” that. I’m looking for truly scratch made recipes. Fresh ingredients are preferred but if I pop open a jar it is usually one I sealed myself in a canner. At least that’s the goal.
I want most of the ingredients to be ones I can grow on our homestead here in Ohio. I’ve got a great cookbook on loan from the library right now called Deep Run Roots, but awesome as the book is, the author’s criteria seems to be the same as mine so several sections are no good to me cause we can’t grow figs or oysters. Some obvious exceptions to my “local ingredients” criteria are ingredients like salt, pepper, and chocolate! I don’t stick to this all the time, but it is a goal so I can serve the freshest, most flavorful, nutrient-dense food possible.
Keeping it Simple
I want simple foods big on flavor, but without a lot of complexity or a long list of ingredients. This means the same few herbs, spices, vinegars, wines, oils, and baking ingredients are being used in new, creative combinations to make food taste great without taking up the valuable real estate space in my cupboards. If there is a recipe that uses say sesame oil or tandoori sauce, as tasty as that meal might be, I’m going to pass because it might sit on the shelf for months before I pick it up again. (The sesame oil is a great example cause I just moved the same bottle to this home as I moved to my last house over 4 years ago.) I won’t be buying it again.
So as delicious as Brown Butter Lobster with Kale Pesto Polenta and Cherry Tomato Bacon Pan Sauce sounds, I’m not ever going to make it because I can’t get fresh lobster here, I don’t stock polenta in my pantry, and I already know from the title I’d be making at least 5-6 different things (brown butter, lobster, kale pesto, polenta, frying bacon, and then a sauce) to bring together while who knows what chaos ensues around me with 8 kids to distract me enough to screw up a lobster dinner. (Plus lobster for 10= $$$$.)
You’d think this would make for boring meals, but when you eat seasonally changing the vegetables and fruits while using the same ingredients to build flavor make a big difference! There’s plenty of excitement and diversity for the palette when you eat that way!
Minimal Prep Work
As intrigued as I am by “real food” (think WA Price) and though I find myself using that term cause my food is made using real ingredients, I don’t actually follow the guidelines for food preparation laid out in that diet (or similar ones.) I really don’t soak or ferment anything. Lacto- or otherwise. I can barely remember to plan dinner for tonight. (Writing that made me panic- did I plan dinner for tonight? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. I can’t stop thinking about that fish I cooked in the Lemon & Dill Compound Butter, but I messed up the coating last time and I learned a new trick I want to try to make it stick.) I don’t want to be a slave to my kitchen and I put plenty of time and hard work, blood, sweat, & tears… and love into the food I serve my family. I’ve got to draw the line somewhere to preserve my endurance and sanity. One-pot meals, slow cooker meals, and sometimes pressure cooker meals are a bonus. (Though I find that a lot of meat made in the pressure cooker isn’t really that great. The heat is too hot, too fast and the collagen is getting so tight the meat is tougher than with other methods of cooking.)
Photos of the recipes are also a big bonus!
So which cookbooks have I read that meet that criteria? Which ones do I love the most and use in my homestead kitchen?
My Top Ten Simple Homesteader’s Cookbooks
What I Love: This book is a beast! There over a thousand great recipes to explore!
Can’t-Miss Recipes: Chicken and Andouille Sausage Ragu, Grilled Beef Salad with Corn Salsa & Chipotle Dressing, Golden Mashed Potatoes with Parsnips and Parsley Root, Pumpkin Apple Butter Pie with Gingersnap Crust, Peach Grunt with Caramel Sauce, Grilled Summer Vegetable Medley with Fresh Herbs
What I Love: This book was first recommended to me by a dear friend and it’s still my favorite. The rural nostalgia in the photos makes you want to go back 150 years and cook the way they used to.
What I Love: The ingredients in this book were bound to meet my ingredient criteria! And it didn’t disappoint! I can trust the recipes are all made with food I can grow in my own backyard.
Can’t-Miss Recipes: Caramelized Onion and Sage Fritatta, Crispy Maple Spareribs, Milk Braised Pork Loin, Raspberry Cream Custard, Pulled Pork with Vinegar & Onion Sauce
What I Love: The simplicity. And all of the recipes feature farm-fresh ingredients.
Can’t-Miss Recipes: Caramelized Apple Tart with Cinnamon Custard, Farmer’s Stew, Multigrain Apple Pecan Scones, Winter Squash Braised in Cider, Carrot Salad with Parsley Lovage and Mint
What I Love: The recipes are paired together for complete meals so you don’t have to figure out what would go well with a new dish. Plus, meat & potatoes? These are guaranteed man-pleasing meals!
Can’t-Miss Recipes: Beef Shortrib Sliders with Onion Bacon Jam, Spicy Italian Sausage Stew
What I Love: The recipes in Tender all highlight garden fresh produce prepared in a variety of ways.
Can’t-Miss Recipes: Potatoes with Dill & Chicken Stock, Young Parsnips & Sausages, Roast Beef with Tomato Gravy, Eggplant Bruschetta
Ripe (The fruity companion to Tender)
Cast Iron & Grilling
What I Love: My cast iron. So naturally the more ways I can find to use it the better they’ll be.
Can’t-Miss Recipes: Caramelized Apple Bacon French Toast, Beef & Bacon Hash, Garlic Topped Flank Steak Roulade, Farmers Market Ratatouille, Braised Kale with Bacon & Onions, Spicy Sausage and Cheddar Yeast Rolls
What I Love: I’m not much of a griller. I use the grill as an excuse to get out of cooking that night so there’s not a lot of diversity going on there. This book gave us lots of great new recipes to try so we could move beyond burgers.
Can’t-Miss Recipes: Grilled Apple & Romaine Salad, New York Strip Steaks with Parmesan Basil Crust & Garlic Butter, Spicy Drumsticks with Grilled Peaches, Honey & Lime Glazed Baby Back Ribs
What I Love: When you think of grilling, you think meat, right? This book has a ton of amazing ideas to grill your fresh garden produce.
Can’t-Miss Recipes: Kale Potato Chorizo Pizza, Skewered Chicken Saltimbocca, Stir Grilled Italian Sausage Peppers & Onions Hoagies, Mesquite Smoked Jalapeño Poppers
One Pot & Slow Cooker
What I Love: There isn’t a recipe in this book that hasn’t knocked my socks off with flavor! All of the recipes are scratch made which can be unusual for slow cooker meals.
Can’t-Miss Recipes: Rillettes, Bittersweet Chocolate Cremes, Herb Roasted Chicken with Garlic & Shallots, Pork with Mushrooms and Cream, Chicken Salad Parisienne
What I Love: Fewer dishes. Isn’t that enough?
Can’t-Miss Recipes: Nutty Sticky Rolls, Wilted Arugula & Sweet Pea Cheese Ravioli, Beef & Bean Chili with Warm Nacho Chips, Maple Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Potato Fries
What I Love: There is a lot of diversity in here so beyond the one-pot perks, I can count on this cookbook to turn out delicious recipes that I can rotate through the seasons.
Can’t-Miss Recipes: Black Bean & Almond Soup, Chicken Stir Fry with Bok Choy, Pork with Root Vegetables, Beef & Barley Stew, Rustic Apple Tart, Beer Braised Sausages with Potatoes
Baking & Desserts
What I Love: What don’t I love? I’ve got a crazy sweet tooth and a deep love of all things bread. Baking with whole grains assuages a touch of the guilt when I indulge.
Can’t-Miss Recipes: Whole Grain Double Fudge Brownies, Cornmeal Maple Biscuits, Frosted Ginger Apple Cookies, Pumpkin Bread Pudding, Whole Wheat Challah
What I Love: Cake. I love cake. And that baking a cake usually signifies a time of joy and celebration! This cookbook, which I happened to write, is a compilation of my favorite tried & true cake recipes that I bake on our family’s special days. Every recipe highlights different farm-fresh flavors so you can even eat your cakes in season!
Can’t-Miss Recipes: Toasted Coconut Pound Cake, Sweet Potato Molasses Cupcakes, Pear Gingerbread, Chocolate Kale Cake, Peach & Blueberry Bundt Cake
What I Love: Like King Arthur’s Whole Grain Baking, this cookbook features recipes using more natural ingredients and fresh whole grains.
Can’t-Miss Recipes: Double Chocolate Rye Muffins, Barley Buttermilk Biscuits, Seeded Breakfast Rolls, Pecan Oat & Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Herb Quiche with Rye Crust, Muesli Coffee Cake, Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread
Farmstead Pie (This is my Reformation Acres ebook of our family’s favorite pie recipes!)
What I Love: There is a lot of work that goes into milking a cow! I love knowing that when I have a surplus I can trust this cookbook to give me a quality recipe that walks me through all the steps to turn that precious milk into glorious cheese. But there are also many great recipes that showcase various cheeses too so don’t think this book isn’t for you if you don’t have a cow (yet.)
Can’t-Miss Recipes: Cream Cheese Chocolate Fudge, Ricotta Pancakes with Banana Pecan Syrup, Simple Provolone, Jalapeño Cheddar
What I Love: This is a collection of recipes that showcase Pomona’s Pectin which happens to be the best pectin I’ve ever tried. I’ve never had to re-batch a single recipe since the day I started using it. But what I really love about Pomona’s Pectin is that I can preserve fruit with less sugar or even natural sugars like honey and maple syrup and still have it turn out beautifully!
Can’t-Miss Recipes: Spiced Pear Cranberry Jam, Chocolate Cherry Preserves, Blackberry Wine Jelly, Honeyed Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
What I Love: Bacon. And capicola and prosciutto and pancetta. I also love the natural approach to curing meat because as it turns out, I’m not particularly scared of my food trying to kill me. Which is why I happen to have a one-year-old leg of pork curing in my bedroom right now that has nothing but sea salt, lard, and black pepper covering the exposed flesh. (It’s a prosciutto.) Over half the book is dedicated to all the details surrounding curing & smoking so you’re left with all your questions answered. And the second half is of course recipes.
Can’t-Miss Recipes: Dry Cured Bacon, Cider-Cured Ham, Spreadable Salami (Nduja), Smoked New Potato Salad
Want to be inspired by even more of my favorite cookbooks? Check out the Canning & Food Preservation section and the Farmstead Kitchen Cookbook section in our Homesteader’s Shop!