In recent years we have seen a surge of interest in specific ingredients such as quinoa and cauliflower, but current trends are less about latching onto hip ingredients and more about relearning techniques from our past. From home-churned ice cream to finally planting a vegetable garden, home cooks are trying their hand at a new skill or two, reconnecting us with how food is made.
Here are 10 food trends that hearken the past:
There's no doubt about it, pickles are 2015's It Girl in a jar. Sour is the flavour of the moment and pickling hits the mark with a vinegar-soaked crunch. Home cooks are trying out canning, fermenting and fridge pickles with everything from radishes to cabbage and even kohlrabi, using a variety of vinegars such as cider, red wine and malt. Everything old is new again, and jars of no-nonsense pickles bring nostalgia and fashionable flavour to the table.
Using what you have is undoubtedly the theme underpinning the Maker movement, and preserving fresh food that's in season and at best prices makes perfect sense. Home-canned jams, jellies and chutneys are one way to preserve. But home cooks are also experimenting with preserving through sun-drying, curing and making better use of their freezers. Waste not, want not is an old mantra but one that still rings true today.
3. Cheese making
Enjoying the realization you can just make cheese, more and more home cooks are trying their hand at playing the milkmaid. Cheeses such as chèvre, made with goat's milk, and fresh mozzarella can be made at home with just a few tools. Classes are popping up, allowing home cooks to try out the art of cheese making with a skilled instructor before trying it on their own at home. We're making all those beautiful preserves, we might as well enjoy them with some cheese.
4. Loving lard again
Fat is unabashedly back in our kitchens. Recent news that eating a low-fat diet isn't necessarily healthier has opened the fat flood-gates for home cooks. Butter is back, but so is the go-to fat of our great-grandmothers - lard. This rendered pig fat was used by home cooks for hundreds of years for everything from making soap to pie crust, but fell out of fashion when government agencies recommended low-fat eating in the 1980s. The new research means home cooks are getting over a general squeamishness about animal fats and rediscovering lard in pastries, roasted potatoes and sautéed dishes.
5. Pressure cooking
Knowing how to cook from scratch is important, but we want it to fit into our busy lives. With a pressure cooker, tender stewed meats don't have to wait until Sunday dinner. Once common in home kitchens, a pressure cooker can get a beef pot roast on the table, with gravy, in 30 to 40 minutes. Handy for quick-cooking everything from rice to lentils, today's pressure cookers also have modern safety features such as an interlocking lid to prevent a sudden release of steam.
6. Buying ugly vegetables
Reducing food waste, once a tenet for home cooks, is a tune we're starting to sing again. One way food retailers are making it easier for us is by offering "ugly" vegetables for sale in stores, sometimes at a discount. Consumers are getting a chance to get over their hang-ups about oddly-shaped and imperfect veggies. As a result, farmers are able to sell off more of their crops, meaning food that would have gone to waste is ending up on our tables instead.
7. Home-churning ice cream
Some of the best treats can come from just a handful of ingredients. Making ice cream at home is poised to be a big trend this summer, with several brands having introduced ice cream makers to the market over the last couple years. Think: cold, creamy scoops of vanilla bean ice cream with streaks of homemade strawberry jam through it. Perfection.
8. Hand-making pasta and gnocchi
This is one of those skills that home cooks want to learn for years and never get around to it. Fresh pasta is big in restaurants and grocery stores, and people are increasingly making it at home too. And why not? Using just a few basic ingredients, pasta and gnocchi are surprisingly simple to make. It doesn't take a trip to Tuscany to learn how, just grab a how-to book and channel your inner nonna.
9. Vegetable gardening
This is the year to stop talking and start planting. Years of black and white rules about food politics and "good" versus "bad" ingredients has left a lot of home cooks fed up, confused and looking to simplify the role of food in their life. The truth is it's hard to get gardening wrong. Even when a plant fails to grow, you have grown knowledge within yourself about what works and what doesn't in your own veggie patch. Get some seeds or buy some plant starts and get them in the dirt.
Tree fruit is a timeless favourite in any kitchen. Pears, apples, peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, cherries and more are classic joys our great-granparents loved as much as we do. In recent years, home cooks have been getting back in touch with growing cycles and rediscovering the tradition of picking locally-grown tree fruit. With the popularity of tree fruit wines and vinegars, home cooks are increasingly visiting u-pick orchards and planting community orchards in shared public spaces.
Which of these food trends have you tried? Are there any you'd still like to try?