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It’s surprisingly easy — and tasty — to pickle your own vegetables at home.

Food Republic has partnered with Bridlewood Estate Winery to bring you some great entertaining and cooking posts. Next up is a piece on five tips to keep in mind when cooking at home during the holidays.

1. Pickling makes perfect
Most people would be surprised at how easy it is to make your own pickled bites. Take your veggies for a dip in white wine vinegar, garlic and seasonings of choice and show everyone the kind of culinary genius you really are. Some of the best pickled foods are things you already have lying around your kitchen such as green beans, roasted peppers, asparagus and radishes to name a few.

Opt for handcrafted bacon next time you’re cooking and see the difference — in lunch, dinner or dessert.

2. Everything goes better with bacon
A true culinary craftsman picks their pork carefully. There’s something about thick-cut, hand-cured and smoked artisan bacon that puts supermarket bacon strips to shame. Bacon is no longer what’s for breakfast — it’s what’s for lunch, dinner and dessert. The smoky, salty flavor of thick-cut artisan bacon is perfect in, well, anything. The cooking process behind well-crafted bacon is the real game-changer, as it’s where the flavor is perfected. Handcrafted bacon is typically smoked over real wood chips for a few hours or even days, whereas many supermarket bacons are doused in “smoke flavoring.” Appreciate the cooking process and your taste buds will thank you.

Go the extra mile and pair your fine meats and cheeses with quality wines this holiday season.

3. Take pride in your pairings
Why pair fine artisan butcher-cut meats and cheeses with a run-of-the-mill wine? A handcrafted white or red like those from Bridlewood Estate Winery can make all the difference when you’re pulling together a quality spread for friends and family. Regardless of what pairing is on the menu, take pride in knowing that the wine in your glass was crafted with passion and care.

Keep things classy when pairing artisan cheeses with quality wines for your guests.

4. Cheat on cheddar
Nothing says culinary craft like a dynamic selection of assorted artisan cheeses. A sharp cheddar is great for your everyday cracker pairing, but there is so much more to gain in the world of artisanal cheeses. That said, you don’t need to buy out your entire local cheese shop. A selection of four cheeses, paired with your favorite wine like Chardonnay, is really all you need to show your friends and guests what you can do in the kitchen:

  • An aged, hard rind cheese
  • A soft-ripened cheese
  • A blue cheese
  • A mild cow’s milk cheese
Sure, you can grill lettuce. But grilling lettuce that you grew yourself? That’s dedication. Photo: Elizabeth Stark.

5. Grow your own greens
When the cooking is done and the table is set, only a handful of kitchen cooks can say, “I grew that!”

You don’t necessarily need a green thumb to grow your own produce. Lettuce, carrots, radishes and plenty of other winter greens like onions and shallots are easier to grow than you might think. When you’re experimenting in the kitchen, whether it be summer or winter, nothing is better than having fresh picked veggies at your fingertips, ready to add into your next culinary stroke of genius.

           This post is brought to you by our friends at Bridlewood Estate Winery.