Cooking a fantastic meal is, well, fantastic. But somewhere along the way, even the best home cooks and wannabe chefs begin depending upon store-bought ingredients to save time. Of course, there's nothing wrong with getting a little help from the supermarket, but every now and then, you really want to Martha Stewart it.
Just imagine that your Sunday morning brunch features breakfast links, fresh fruit jam and sourdough bagels all handmade by you. Daunting? Yes, but not impossible—this is the Bay Area, after all, and there's a class for everything. Here, take eight lessons in cooking essentials that will bring your culinary game to the next level.
Pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi
For centuries people around the world have used fermentation to turn boring veggies into complex flavor explosions. At Workshop's fermentation classes ($60), you'll learn age-old methods for harnessing the magical microbial process. Over three hours you'll get to try your hand at pickling seasonal vegetables, make spicy kimchi or sauerkraut, and leave with a recipe book and the skills to pickle anything that gets in your way. // 1798 McAllister St (NoPa), workshopsf.org
Sausage and charcuterie
Once upon a time, in pre-refrigeration days, sausages and charcuterie were a utilitarian way to preserve meat. Today, the making of sausage and charcuterie has gone from functional to gourmet with an abundance of flavors and varieties. At Farmcurious' sausage making workshops ($125), you'll learn how to stuff sausage casings with meat and herbs to produce mouthwatering breakfast sausage and flavorful Thai links. In their three-hour charcuterie workshop ($150), you'll learn the basics of preparing salamis and rillettes. // 2323 Broadway (Oakland), farmcurious.com
Jams, sauce and juice
Extend spring's bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables at Oakland's Institute of Urban Homesteading's Canning Extravaganza, a four-hour class ($60-$90, sliding scale) where you'll learn how to preserve juicy fruits and prepare rich, low-sugar jams, can tomatoes and tomato sauce, and extract juices to enjoy all year long. At the workshop's end, you'll bring home three jars of deliciousness and a head full of canning knowledge. // Various locations (Oakland), iuhoakland.com
For years Sour Flour has been the San Francisco go-to for learning to bake incredible sourdough. Several days a week they offer a two-hour starter workshop ($80) dedicated, in part, to creating a naturally fermented wild yeast starter. Take care of it, feed it when it's hungry, and your starter will fill your freshly baked sourdough dreams forever; the original Boudin still uses a starter from the mid-1800s! And, of course, you'll learn how to put that starter to use in a sourdough flatbread. Other classes offered at Sour Flour's kitchen at La Victoria in the Mission include advanced bread making, bagel making and pizza dough making—all with a sourdough base. // 2937 24th St (Mission), sourflour.org
The Cheese School is the place to go if you want to learn about cheese origins and pairings ($60), but it's in their cheesemaking classes where you'll unlock the secrets of making mouthwatering burrata, mozzarella, gouda and ash-ripened goat cheese. If you're already a seasoned cheesemonger and want to take your skills to the next level (and possibly open your own shop), check out The Cheese School's three-day intensive workshop ($1,200). Classes sell out well in advance here, so check the online schedule. // 2124 Folsom St (Mission), thecheeseschool.com
If you've ever struggled to chop a vegetable to a recipe's specifications or debone a fish, Bernal Cutlery's lessons in knife skills are for you. During their two-hour Western knife skills workshop ($75), you'll learn techniques for slicing, dicing and mincing vegetables and herbs. The Japanese knife skills classes cover everything from fish to chicken to vegetable preparation. And if you've got a budding chef at home, check out the children's workshop ($50), where kids will learn knife safety, nutrition and simple cuts. // 593 Guerrero St (Mission), bernalcutlery.com
The beer never stops flowing when you know how to brew your own and Brew it Yourself's Jason Beck can help you get started. In their seven-hour beginners home-brewing class ($100), you'll learn the process from start to finish and end up with a six pack of 22 oz. bottles of your own creation. If you've already got some brewing knowledge under your belt, the advanced home-brewing class will introduce new techniques and take you for a deep dive into the science of beer making. // 726 15th St (Mission), brewityourselfsf.com
One of the city's favorite chocolate ateliers is now offering classes for budding chocolatiers of all ages. In Dandelion's four-hour Chocolate 201 ($150), you'll learn about varieties of chocolate nibs and create a pound of either single-origin or a dark blended chocolate. You'll also get to roast your own cacao into nibs and bring home a bag for future chocolate projects. Dandelion offers similar adult-only workshops and those for parents and children ages 7-13. // 740 Valencia St (Mission), dandelionchocolate.com