I love looking at cook books. Seeing all the pretty pictures of food. Thinking about what it would be like to eat that yummy food. But I rarely actually try a new recipe. We stick with our favorites and slight variations on them. If I do want to try a new recipe, I generally opt for the children's books! The recipes are easy to follow and I usually have all the ingredients on hand.
I've recently discovered a book entitiled "Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it" by Karen Solomon. The twelve chapters in this book will give you different methods of making your own foods and preserving them. Each recipe comes with very clear instructions, including the time involved for the project and prep ahead instructions. But not just recipes are included in this book. There are reference pages that will give you direction in how to can produce, how to smoke meat on your grill, and how to make your own cheese press!
The big question when starting on make it yourself project is if there is actually a cost savings. I've done some rough calculating before starting many projects and have discovered that the answer's not easy. Making something myself is generally less expensive than the comparable store-bought version, but more expensive than the cheaper products I tend to by. Bread for example. Making a yummy whole wheat bread myself is cheaper than purchasing a high-quality bread from store or bakery, but it is time consuming. However, I usually buy cheaper bread at a discount bread store, and that is much less expensive and less time consuming! Since the quality of that bread is fine, that's what I usually do! If you buy your products in bulk or on sale, that also reduces your home-making costs. Ultimately, I'll try just about anything once or twice, as long as there isn't a huge expense of equipment. And if it's fun and much better, we'll keep doing it!
Canning is a whole other ball-game. There's an initial expense in equipment (or you can try freecycle, which is how I got dozens of jars for free!) and using a large pasta pot will work for the water bath method while you're trying to figure it out. Canning produce from your garden or homemade jam is a great way to feed your garden goodies to your family throughout the year. It also makes great gifts. Think about it. Everyone would look at you funny if you gave your child's teacher a can of green beans as a Christmas gift. But if it's green beans you canned from your garden with a pretty bow on it, suddenly it's a great gift!
If you're looking for a book that will show you how to make marshmallows, or your own ravioli, I highly recommend "Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it." Let me know what you think!