The October meeting of the Baltimore Homemade Trade Club

Today was a beautiful day for trading!

I explained the Baltimore Homemade Trade Club the other month, if you’d like the long story. The short one: we make (usually food-)stuff, we meet up at somebody’s house, and then we trade our stuff for everyone else’s stuff. Everybody gets to share something they’re proud of and go home with a varied assortment of edibles.

One of my favorite parts of trading is having an excuse to make adorable labels for my goods. (I may have been teased that the reason I started the Homemade Trade was as “a soft launch for [my] pickle company,” which is totally not true! Except for maybe in my dreams.)

I decided to trade eight jars of Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #1. I renamed it since I knew the Atwood reference would be lost on most of the people there… but that didn’t stop me from excitedly explaining to everyone that it was a recipe inspired by The Year of the Flood.

Martine's Marinated Mushroom MedleyThis month’s event was hosted by Ann Marie, who you may know from her blog Let’s Give Peas a Chance. She and her partner Anthony had us over to their beautiful rooftop deck for a sunny late-afternoon trade. She played perfect hostess with eats and drinks, and even had a raffle!

homemade trade club raffleAs everybody trickled in, the tables filled up with jars and bags of mouthwatering goodies.

homemade trade club spreadThe trading was fierce. I uttered the word “dangit!” more than once. Somehow I missed out on both the pumpkin butter and the apple butter, which makes my autumn-loving heart hurt.

That said, I can’t complain a lick about what I did bring home.

homemade trade club haulChai tea mix, grapefruit simple syrup, two jars of purple sauerkraut, harissa, P.H.A.T. (Pretty Healthy and Tasty) Pancake Mix, butterscotch sauce, and Pumpkin Pie Black IPA.

Yurrssssss.

Our next meeting is in December, and I. Can’t. Wait.

The August meeting of the Baltimore Homemade Trade Club

My friends and I have a Homemade Trade Club.

It started in May when I read about the From Scratch Club in Troy, NY. For about thirty seconds I thought, damn, I wish there was something like that around here. Then I realized: oh wait, there could be.

I have a lot of friends who are into making stuff. Cooking, baking, canning, dehydrating, brewing. We run the gamut of how we like to make and preserve food, and damn are we good at it. So I made a Facebook group, and invited people, and told them to invite people. The next thing I knew on a Sunday evening in June, a small group of people, some I knew, some I didn’t, were all trading goodies in my dining room.

Of course I didn’t take any photos because I am incapable of hosting and photographing things at the same time. But I traded away six jars of my hot pickled asparagus, and ended up with a pizza dough mix, kumquat liqueur, blood orange IPA, lemon coriander Hefeweizen, coconut granola, and cherry almond chocolate bark. Yum.

Last weekend we had our second meeting, hosted at the cozy little home of my friends Annie and Ian. As their dining room table filled up with jars, bottles, and bags, people (okay, mainly me) stalked around, scoping out the choices while munching on chips and hummus.

homemade trade club spreadThere were jams galore, an assortment of baked goods, vegan jerky, oh god so many delicious foodstuffs. Maybe an adorable chalkboard list would help you realize the incredible variety?

homemade trade club listMy mister and I went regional with our stuff. I made my briny bay pickled beans with a wee Maryland blue crab on the label. Being from Ohio, he made Cincinnati chili mix. I may have insisted on making him a label with a little chili pepper residing on Cincinnati.

briny bay beans and Cincinnati chili mixRather than having everyone conduct individual trades, our trade incorporates an element of chance. We choose a random order by drawing cards or numbers. Then we go around the room and each person selects one item at a time, round and round until everyone has as many items as they contributed to the pot.

We decided on this structure for the added bit of fun and excitement, a Yankee Swap flair instead of straight bartering. Will I get the thing I have my eye on, or will it be gone by the time my turn comes around? It forces us to strategize the order of our choices and try to discern what will get snapped up first. “This is the real Hunger Games,” according to my friend Liz.

With eleven choices between the mister and I, we came back with quite the haul.

homemade trade club haulFor the next few weeks I’ll be stuffing my face with lemon cookies, lemon-basil jelly, tomato jam, a single hop IPA, strawberry jam, vegan kimchi (made by Ann Marie!), T&A cookies, cinnamon-walnut mini muffins (admittedly, just one muffin left), vegan pepperoni slim jims, and smoked bourbon peach pie in a jar. Not pictured: the eclair that I ate before we even left. Whoops.

From-scratch chipotle mayonnaise, the best condiment

What’s the deal with everyone dipping everything in ranch dressing? I mean, I like ranch dressing, but when did it sneak in and become The Condiment?

I guess I understand; it’s creamy, it’s mild. It’s inoffensive enough to put on anything, and you get the extra fatty calories that make anything taste better.

Well, I am suggesting an update to The Condiment. Not to something healthier — of course not. But to something tastier. Something with a little bit of a kick to it. Something that still goes well with everything, but with an extra spicy boost.

Something like chipotle mayonnaise.

from-scratch chipotle mayonnaise

Who’s with me?

I’ll start off by saying, this recipe requires an immersion blender. I have this one, but they can be found for cheaper and they’re all pretty much the same. The price doesn’t even matter, because it will be worth it even if you only use it to make mayonnaise — it makes the process so much quicker. Seriously, the first time I made mayo from scratch, I figured it’d just be once for kicks. Lo and behold, I make it all the time. It’s so much better and it’s so quick and easy with a stick blender. Buy one. You won’t regret it. Also, you can use it to make pureed soups!

This recipe uses raw egg, which means two things:

Use fresh, local eggs if you can get ‘em. An excuse to go to the farmer’s market! The incidence of Salmonella poisoning from raw or undercooked eggs is very low (something like 1 in 30,000) but if you’re buying from a small farmer who cares about their chickens, you’re better off than buying from a factory farm. I’ve also seen the recommendation, since Salmonella usually lives on the shell rather than inside the egg, to put your egg in boiling water for five seconds before cracking it.

Children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems may want to avoid eating your amazing mayo. You should disclose the raw egg status and let people decide on their own whether they want to take the (really tiny!) risk.

From-Scratch Chipotle Mayonnaise

1 egg, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon mustard, room temperature
1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
a wedge of lime
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup canola oil
2 chipotle peppers from the can
1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the can the peppers were in)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Get yourself a clean and dry glass jar with a widemouth opening. I love the jars that roasted red peppers often come in — the head of my immersion blender fits perfectly. If you can’t find a jar that will accommodate yours, just make it in the beaker that came with your blender and transfer it when you’re done.

So throw your egg in there. Some people just use the yolk, I use the whole thing because I don’t have time for all this separating business — who does? Anyway, it works either way. Also, the finished product will look less yellow if you use the whole egg.

Add the mustard, vinegar, a couple squeezes of your lime wedge, salt, and oil. You can use up to a cup of oil if you want more mayonnaise. Unless I’m truly feeding a crowd, I make as little as possible to ensure I can get through it all. (If you use more oil, you’ll want to add more chipotles, adobo, garlic powder, and oregano to taste.)

An egg has a lot of water in it, and as we know, water and oil do not mix. So your oil will just sit there, separated, on top of everything else in the jar. Put your stick blender down to the very bottom of the jar. Turn that sucker on and watch the miracle of science right before your eyes.

The bottom of the contents of the jar will begun to emulsify, creating a thick, white, mayonnaise. Slowly raise the blender up out of the jar, bit by bit by bit and be amazed as the oil is incorporated and you’re left with a jar full of creamy mayo. You can obviously stop right here to have good old fashioned mayo (though I usually use lemon juice instead of lime for that).

But remember? Chipotle mayo!

Throw in the chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, garlic powder, and oregano, and go to town again with the immersion blender. Make sure you get the peppers finely chopped and everything is evenly distributed.

Now, this is the most important part. Taste it. Add freshly ground black pepper and/or more adobo sauce if you’d like to amp up the heat, and more of any of the seasonings if you feel they are underrepresented. Add more lime juice if you’d like to loosen up the consistency. Mix it all up and you’re good to go.

It really does taste the best if you give it at least 30 minutes to chill. Store it in your tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator. Use within 4 days ideally, but use your best judgment in how it looks and smells and sometimes you can get a week out of it if you’re lucky (or desperate). The good news is, it’s so easy to whip up a new batch that you don’t have to take the risk!

Serve as a dip with pretty much any kind of fried food. Spread on a sandwich. Use it to make egg or chickpea salad. Make my fabulous chipotle cheddar deviled eggs. Or just lick a little bit right off the spoon when nobody’s looking.

Homemade taco seasoning is good on everything

When I was growing up, my dad lacked two things: cooking skills and spare time. As a result, we ate a lot of tacos. A lot of tacos.

The pre-shredded cheese, salad mix, a jar of salsa, and tortillas were all ready to go out of the packages. Browning up a pound of cheap ground beef doesn’t take long, then toss the seasoning packet in and you’re good to go.

But that packet? What exactly is in that packet? Mostly maltodextrin and salt, instead of the spices that will actually give your food a real kick. A hearty amount of MSG. And something called ethoxyquin, an additive most commonly used in… pet food! And even for pets, there’s been speculation about the safety of it. It’s used in spices to prevent color loss, so the spices in your packet of taco seasoning could likely be older than they look.

Considering that a well stocked spice cabinet will already have most, if not all, of the spices needed to make your own… well, what are you waiting for?

This recipe will make quite a bit of seasoning, so you can always have it on hand. Save your spice bottle empties to put your own spice mixes in. You can drive your partner crazy just like I do!

“Hey, can I toss this empty spice bottle?”
“No!”
“But don’t you already have a bunch saved? Are you using those?”
“I might need more! You like my seasonings!”

Our kitchen may or may not be overrun with my things. I may or may not have an auxiliary shelf of kitchen junk in the basement.

You can use this on whatever protein you’d like — add to cubed tofu, beans, Quorn crumbles or “chicken” bits. Then add extra salt to taste — since the sodium content in whatever you’re putting it on can vary so much, I’ve cut it quite a bit in the mix so you can add it as you cook with it.

However, the way I usually end up using it is to make lentil taco filling. To me, they’re the best whole food for replicating the ground beef taco experience I recall from my childhood.

Aside from making tacos, this is also great sprinkled on fries or popcorn to give a bit of a kick, or my favorite quick and easy (and kind of shameful) party dip: spread a layer of cream cheese, a layer of your favorite jarred salsa (Safeway Select Southwest Salsa, surprisingly), and a layer of shredded cheddar cheese in a baking dish. Sprinkle liberally with taco seasoning, bake at 350 until cheese is melted, about 20 minutes.

homemade taco seasoning

Homemade Taco Seasoning
Adapted (barely!) from Homemade Taco Seasoning by Food Renegade

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 1/4 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/4 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked hot paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast

Stir all ingredients together. Store in a spice shaker jar. Put on all the things!