TOP PICKS In DIY Food & Beverage Kits For 2013

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on December 4, 2013

Top Pick, Average Joe Artisan Bread Kit, www.goodfoodgourmet.com When I attended the Summer Fancy Food Show in NYC this past June, one of the hottest trends at the show were DIY (do-it-yourself) food and beverage kits. We’ve all come across the more commonly seen beer, wine and pizza making kits, but there were some companies offering similar products with a bit of a twist.
Once I got back home, I was really curious to see what other types of kits were out there so I did a little research and came across a few others with some very unique offerings. I selected some of the more interesting ones to evaluate for the article, and contacted the companies who were very generous in providing a sample or two for us to whip up.

These types of products offer so many benefits to a wide audience— For example, many of us love the flavor of homemade foods, but only have a limited amount of time to cook and experiment with new things. Many of these items are small enough to use as interesting stocking stuffers or economical gifts for co-workers. The larger ones would make fun and delicious gifts for those friends who are always hard to shop for. And lastly, some of these kits would make great projects to cook up with the kids over the holidays or when bad weather has them cooped up at home and looking for something fun to do.

All of these items can be purchased online or at local specialty food stores. If you are interested in any items, make sure to check their website for more information.

Each product was tested in my kitchen simply by following the instructions provided. Each item was evaluated using a scale of Satisfactory, Good, Very Good and Excellent in 4 different categories, and a comments section with some extra suggestions on how to make your experience even better.

So, without waiting having to wait any longer, here are my Top Picks for food and beverage kits for the 2013 Holiday season…

COMPANY NAME: Make Your Own At Home, www.makeyourownathome.com
This company is truly exceptional in the number of DIY kits they provide on their website. You name it and they’ve got it. A sample of the types of kits they offer are things like cheese, beef jerky and even bubble gum—but there is so much more. They also sell beer, wine, baking, cheese and soap making supplies. When you have a free minute, you must check them out.

Packaging for gift giving: Good
Package directions & Ease of use: Excellent
Quality of completed product: Excellent
Price of Kit: $21.99

Top Picks, Make Your Own At Home Hot Sauce Kit, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Top Picks, Make Your Own At Home Hot Sauce Kit, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

COMMENTS: Most recently, they had received a good bit of press on their Hot Sauce DIY kit, so that is the one they sent me to try.  Their kit provides you with 3 bottles and 6 recipes (including pre-printed labels of each hot sauce). The ingredients provided will make all 6 recipes, so if you want to make all 6 recipes at once, you will need to purchase another 3 hot sauce bottles or simply wait until you run out of another one.

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COMPANY NAME: Oregon Kombucha, www.oregonkombucha.com
When you visit places like Whole Foods these days, they offer all kinds of healthy drinks in their refrigerated section. One of these items called kombucha (pronounced kom-boo-ka) is something I became addicted to early on. It’s an all natural drink made from a starter of live kombucha culture. This symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (also called SCOBY) is a delicately bubbly fermented drink of sweetened black tea. There is some special handling required to produce this tea, but once you get the hang of it, it’s quite simple to produce at home. Your little sack will provide you with everything you need to make your own homemade batches of kombucha. Their kits come with different flavors of teas, so make sure to check out their products page and choose the tea you prefer.

Packaging for gift giving: Good
Package directions & Ease of use: Excellent
Quality of completed product: Excellent
Price of Kit: $13.99

Top Pick, Oregon Kombucha, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Top Pick, Oregon Kombucha, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

COMMENTS: This all natural drink is free of preservatives and artificial flavors—t is slightly sweet with very little natural carbonation and I know that you will love it as much as I do- did you know that kombucha is considered a nutritious functional food?

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COMPANY NAME: Urban Cheesecraft,www.urbancheesecraft.com
If you want to find a great assortment of cheese kits, then you have to check out these folks on line. They offer just about everything you can think of such as burrata (mozzarella), mascarpone, goat cheese, feta cheese, yogurt cream cheese, ricotta, paneer and queso blanco.The cheeses are both easy and fun to make. The only thing you need to find is a good quality milk and you are set for an afternoon of cheese making.

Packaging for gift giving: Excellent
Package directions & Ease of use: Excellent
Quality of completed product: Excellent
Price of Kit: $25.00

Top Pick, Urban Cheesecraft, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Top Pick,Urban Cheesecraft, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

COMMENTS: These adorable little cheese kit packages come in a variety of sizes. The smaller size would be perfect as a stocking stuffer. All you need is right in the box, all you have to provide is the milk and some free time to have fun. I received both the farmer’s cheese kit and the mozzarella and ricotta kit. They were both very easy to make and I would recommend them highly as activities you can do with the kids. They will love seeing the chemical reactions created in the milk once the citric acid and rennet are added, and then they can tell their friends they made their own cheese.

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COMPANY NAME: Old World Gourmet, www.owgshoponline.com
I ran into these folks at the Fancy Food Show in NYC, and I must say that they have a wide variety of kits that are geared mostly for adults, but one in particular that I tried would be great for both big and little kids alike. Their top item is a really fun, frozen adult drink mix they call Vino Freeze. The triple pack has different flavors and all you have to do is add a bottle of your favorite wine along with some water and then freeze it. Because of the alcohol, it doesn’t freeze all the way and becomes a slushy granita type of drink. If you don’t have the time to wait for it to freeze, no problems—add the wine, water and ice to a blender and you have an instant party. I made the blueberry pomegranate flavor for my friends over the holiday weekend and everyone simply loved it. The triple package would make a great assortment gift for a family or you can give each individual flavor as a gift too. These were such fun to make and one kit goes a long way.

Packaging for gift giving: Excellent
Package directions & Ease of use: Excellent
Quality of completed product: Excellent
Price of Kit: Triple Pack $23.95 or Individual Pack $9.95

Old World Gourmet, Vino Freeze, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Old World Gourmet, Vino Freeze, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

COMMENTS: Other items I tried from OWG is a product they call Cake That! It’s actually a cake that is quickly baked in a cup in the microwave and who doesn’t just LOVE satisfying a chocolate cake craving in minutes. These would be great to have around the house for the kids or offer them as stocking stuffers for friends and co-workers—it’s also not a bad idea to keep some at work and whip up some chocolate cake when you need a little extra pick-me-up in the afternoon.

Old World Gourmet, Cake That!, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Old World Gourmet, Cake That!, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

I also tried one of their products called Cracker Smack, which is a spice blend that is tossed with a sleeve of plain crackers. I actually chose to use this on some freshly made popcorn, so if you are going to try them my way, make sure to drizzle a little oil on the popcorn first and then spoon on the spice and toss. Add a little spice at a time because it has a really good kick.

Old World Gourmet, Cracker Smack,. Vino By The Slice Gourmet Bread Kit,  www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Old World Gourmet, Cracker Smack,. Vino By The Slice Gourmet Bread Kit,  www.goodfoodgourmet.com

They also included a sample of a product called Vino By The Slice, Gourmet Bread Mix that uses wine for the liquid along with some melted butter.

Old World Gourmet, Cracker Smack,. Vino By The Slice Gourmet Bread Kit,  www.goodfoodgourmet.com

The side of the package offers a few different flavor suggestions to create depending on whether you use white or red wine. I used red wine for mine and added some chopped black olives to the batter. It had a good texture for a savory quick bread but a really strong wine flavor—almost yeasty. I would recommend that you use 6 oz of wine and 6 oz of water instead of 12 ounces of wine. If you choose to add only wine, I would heat the wine before adding it to the batter– this will help to evaporate some of the alcohol. Wait until it cools and then add it to the mix.

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COMPANY NAME: Average Joe Artisan Bread Kit, www.breadkit.com
One of the most fun and truly delicious kits I received, was the Gift Edition Bread Kit that was filled with everything you needed to make 3 artisan loaves of delicious, crusty bread—it even came with its own baking pot! The company also has a Cook’s Edition ($39) that includes everything but the pot, and it also offers refills of everything as you run out of items and want to make more. This kit makes a wonderful gift for just about any occasion. I have baked bread for many years from scratch, and this kit makes it so easy to bake delicious bread that would otherwise take hours to make. Not only do the loaves look exactly as they do in the pictures, they are absolutely delicious—I was truly impressed!

Packaging for gift giving: Excellent
Package directions & Ease of use: Excellent
Quality of completed product: Excellent
Price of Kit: Gift Edition is $99.00

Top Pick, Average Joe Artisan Bread Kit, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Top Pick, Average Joe Artisan Bread Kit, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

COMMENTS: The dough is versatile enough to turn into just about any flavor you want. You can make sourdough bread (use your own starter), whole wheat bread, raisin bread or even use the dough to make a crispy and authentic pizza crust.

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COMPANY NAME: Lost Creek Mushroom Farm, www.shiitakemushroomlog.com
This is one of the most unique items I received, and one that I never even knew existed. This is not only a delicious item to buy for your food loving friends, but could also be great for kids to participate in for interesting school projects. Who would have ever thought that harvesting your own mushrooms would be this easy to do—All you have to do is soak your log in cold water for 24 hours and you will begin to see mushroom growth in 6-10 days. Continue the process and the log will produce mushrooms for up to 4 years. The company uses specially inoculated logs, so there is no fear of poisonous mushrooms!

Packaging for gift giving : Good
Package directions & Ease of use: Excellent
Quality of completed product: Excellent
Price of Kit: $34.95 for single log kit

Top Pick, Lost Creek Mushroom Farm, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Top Pick, Lost Creek Mushroom Farm, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

COMMENTS: This is the most unique idea I have ever seen and simply had to experience it myself. The great thing about this company is that they donate a portion of their sales to a project that is building mushroom farms in Africa. I love to highlight and support businesses with a social conscious in addition to a great product. When my log kit arrived, it already had a few mushrooms (as you can see in the picture above), and I look forward to falling into a bountiful growing cycle. Their packaging information comes with great recipes on how to use your mushrooms along with complete instructions on how to keep your log sprouting. This is also a great idea that I will share with parents who are looking for great gifts for their inquisitive kids.

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