10 British and American Store-Bought Items You Can Make Yourself

Ever looked down at your shopping trolley and wondered if the packets, jars and bottles of processed deliciousness you’ve piled up could be manufactured in your kitchen? Guess what, they can! We’ve scoured the net for homemade versions of popular foodstuffs—five British and five American—that you’d normally buy readymade. (Also: to convert British gas mark and Celsius readings into U.S. Fahrenheit, here’s a handy guide.)

Digestive biscuits

(Photo: Fotolia)

(Photo: Fotolia)

This quintessential British cookie isn’t much to look at, but it’s buttery crumbliness is the perfect companion to a cuppa. Crushed, it’s the foundation for the best cheesecake base you ever tasted. Got a hankering to ditch the supermarket version and make your own? Here’s how via The Guardian. Their recipe includes oatmeal, whole wheat flour, and dark muscavado sugar, an artisanal sweetener with high molasses content.

Fish fingers

(Photo: Fotolia)

(Photo: Fotolia)

Rest assured, non-British readers: we’re not about to blow your mind with the news that some fish species dwelling in our chilly waters have dispensed with fins and are now sporting digits. Nope. Fish fingers are merely delicious lozenges of pollock (previously cod) cloaked in a uniformly orange crumb. You may know them as fish sticks. Call it a finger; call it a stick—here’s how to cut out the middleman via BBC Good Food.

Marmite

Marmite: an acquired taste. (Photo: Newscast Limited via AP Images)

Marmite: an acquired taste. (Photo: Newscast Limited via AP Images)

This sour-smelling, heavenly-tasting shiny brown gunk made from brewer’s yeast is, believe it or not, something you can whip up pretty easily at home, if you’re willing to be patient. (This process takes 10 days.) I vote this the Marmite recipe most likely to produce satisfactory results, and washing the yeast is said to remove any bitter, beery notes.

Fondant fancies

(Photo: Fotolia)

(Photo: Fotolia)

These candy-colored cube cakes with a fondant pustule on top have enchanted British children for decades. But Mr. Kipling’s packeted version isn’t the only way to go. Check out British food writer and Great British Bake Off judge Mary Berry’s fanciful take on these spongy squares. Note: the caster sugar she uses in her recipe is simply known as “superfine” sugar in the U.S.

HP Sauce

Is your fridge properly stocked with brown sauce? (Photo: AP/Sang Tan)

Is your fridge properly stocked with brown sauce? (Photo: AP/Sang Tan)

Also known as brown sauce, it’s pretty much compulsory to slaver this lightly spiced, vinegary gloop over a fry-up. In case you can’t find HP in the U.S.—or you just fancy trying a DIY version—check out this great looking recipe. Key ingredients include tomatoes, dates, apples, onions, mustard powder, and tamarind pulp, which are combined with seasonings and spices like cinnamon.

Graham crackers

(Photo: Fotolia)

(Photo: Fotolia)

Pronounced “gram crackers,” these rectangular cookies are a store cupboard essential in the U.S. While unremarkable on their own, they’re the foundation of some great desserts, like s’mores. They also make a great pie base. Think of them as America’s digestive biscuit. And much like our humble digestive, you can easily make graham crackers from scratch. As an FYI: there is a special kind of “graham flour” you’ll need for this recipe.

Tater Tots

(Photo: Fotolia)

(Photo: Fotolia)

Traditionally a side dish, these are deep-fried cylindrical nuggets of grated/smooshed potato. If you’ve not yet had the pleasure, they’re the best parts of a chip, latke, roast potato and a hash-brown. So pretty delicious. Dare to make them yourself, and they’re even better.

Twinkies

(Photo: Fotolia)

(Photo: Fotolia)

I first read about these sponge bars filled with white gunge as a British kid growing up in the 1980s. I was hooked on the very concept but, alas, had no way of actually trying them. Skip forward to my expat adulthood, and I’m no less obsessed. I can, I’m ashamed to admit, eat a whole pack in one sitting. Somehow, making them myself (disclaimer: I haven’t yet) will make my gorging a smidgen more wholesome. Right?

Black and white cookies
So many Brits I know are obsessed with this New York sweet treat, and not just because they’ve seen THAT Seinfeld episode. Although, Jerry does make a good point about how you should eat the cookie. Every mouthful should contain a bit of black and a bit of white. That’s all well and good when you’re eating down the middle, but what about the outer edges? May I propose making your own, but frosting with polka dots or stripes? Icing-to-mouth distribution problem solved! And if you fancy having a bash at reproducing that other type of all-American black and white cookie, here’s how to make Oreos.

Pretzels
A giant soft and fluffy knot of dough has to be one of the all time great snacks, especially when dipped in any kind of mustard or melted butter. But would you ever think to make a batch yourself? Probably not. Try this excellent recipe, and you’ll no longer want to head to the mall for your pretzel hit. (And boiling the pretzel in baking soda and water helps to achieve the signature golden brown color.)

Join @MindTheGap_BBCA and guest co-host The English Pork Pie Company (@EPPC) tomorrow (Wednesday, August 6) on Twitter at 2-3 pm ET for more great recipes. Tweet using hashtag #MindTheChat for a chance to win the National Trust Complete Country Cookbook courtesy of BBC Shop.

See more:
Food Memories: What Do You Miss From Britain?
Bye-bye M&S, Hello Whole Foods: U.S. Shop Substitutes for British Expats
10 Desserts That Brits Miss When They Leave the U.K.

Ruth Margolis

Ruth Margolis

Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.

See more posts by Ruth Margolis
  • Christina Conte

    What about homemade Bounty or Mounds? Better than store-bought http://christinascucina.com/2012/12/homemade-mounds-or-bounty-chocolates.html

    • Ken Harris

      “Bounty” over here is a paper towel. :-)

    • Jwb52z

      The closest thing in the US to a Bounty candy bar is a Mounds candy bar made by Hershey.

  • Miriam Marketos Parrott

    I can not find jammy dodgers here in Rhode Island. (coincidentally… in New England)

    • http://widescreen.org OAR_John

      Too bad you don’t have a Wegmans near you. They sell it in their International aisle. There’s always Amazon, though.

    • Lesley

      we find the following to be a yummy substitute http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/3467/red-nose-day-raspberry-cookies

    • red

      cream crackers are called cream crackers because they are made using the creaming method.

      graham crackers are THE kindergarten manna.

  • http://widescreen.org OAR_John

    Even though I live in Pennsylvania and can get pretzels any time I want (supposedly, over 80% of the world’s pretzels are made here), I do enjoy making my own from time to time. I have to agree with the link that they provided here. That’s the same recipe I’ve been using for a while to make my own. Definitely don’t skip the baking soda wash.

    I’ve also made my own Twinkies (when Hostess was temporarily gone). It’s actually pretty accurate to the real thing, although not necessarily as sweet. And I do love digestive biscuits. I buy a pack whenever I see one at a local grocer.

    What’s the brown sauce like? It that supposed to be a British version of our A1 (steak sauce)?

    • Jwb52z

      Do you not use that agricultural lime solution?

      • http://widescreen.org OAR_John

        Agricultural lime is baking soda but with other things added. I’d rather use plain baking soda without the extra chemicals. I wouldn’t be surprised if baking soda is cheaper, too.

    • ilSuperGattoNero

      brown sauce, it’s vinegary/tangy (the tamarinds come through for me) and it goads the saliva makers into action. i’ve found it great on things like hash browns, scrambly eggs, sausages, bacon. i don’t know about it going well with steak..

  • Jwb52z

    Is anyone else bothered by the word “pustule” in reference to food? When I see or hear that word, I can only think of those awful plague diseases from long ago.

    • Bobbie Jane McDaniel

      Yes, I had to stifle a gag and read the context, which was almost enough to overcome the revulsion. Almost.

  • welcometo1984

    A graham cracker appears to be some unholy splicing of a digestive biscuit and a cream cracker