Doing it old school

Ken Albala, food historian at University of the Pacific, writes the Food Rant blog ( and has an upcoming book about lost cooking techniques. I asked him about them.

“The easiest is making bread without commercial yeast. It’s very strong but basically has one note. Wild yeast is remarkably different in flavor and texture. It has a tangy flavor, the crust turns out better and the crumb is chewy. It’s very simple and worth it.

Curing meat is another one that no one does at home anymore. It’s just a matter of getting used to nitrates. I did a pancetta recently, and you can cure your own salami. Even wet brines for corned beef and pastrami are very easy.

Cheese making is also simple and doesn’t take a lot of equipment or know-how. You just need to buy rennet and it takes time. For people who want to know what goes into their food, home preserving is a great option.”