6 Wintertime Skills Everyone Should Know
Between the pandemic, shorter days, and frigid weather (at least in some parts of the country), chances are you’ve logged more hours inside your home in recent months than you ever thought possible. But just because you’re feeling a little more confined (and dare we suggest, claustrophobic) than usual, that doesn’t mean your only option is to while away the hours on the couch with your latest TV binge as your sole companion. In fact, the extra time indoors presents the perfect opportunity to learn new wintertime skills that are sure to impress your friends… that is, when it’s safe to meet up with them again. Plus, learning to brew the perfect coffee and knit a toasty blanket are only going to make you feel more cozy and comfortable when you do schedule your next movie marathon night.
When it’s frosty outside, there’s no better time to turn on your oven and warm your home with the smell of freshly baked bread. First, gather the right tools: Because measurements matter in baking, make sure you have a good set of measuring cups and spoons, or if you’re really serious about achieving the correct chemistry, purchase a digital scale. It’s also a good idea to use a silicone loaf pan, which makes it particularly easy to remove the bread without sticking. Start out with an easy recipe (no, you don’t need a sourdough starter), and opt for high-quality ingredients, like fine grain kosher salt or AA grass-fed butter, in place of the least expensive version you can buy at the grocery store to take your bread from “good, but average,” to “tastes like it’s from a professional bakery.” You may also find you have to adjust the temperature on your oven a bit to achieve the perfect texture, or move the pan around to get an even bake, particularly if your oven is older. Once you have your fresh loaf, put it to use to make another winter favorite, a grilled cheese served with Campbell’s® Tomato Soup.
Make perfect pour-over coffee
Those single-serve coffee pods have their place, sure, but they’re generally filed under “convenient coffee” rather than “really good coffee.” If you’re ready to take your caffeine fix to the next level, it’s time to learn how to make the perfect pour-over cuppa Joe. All you need to get started is a coffee dripper, an electric kettle to heat water in (for true precision in a pour-over, a gooseneck kettle is ideal), appropriate coffee filters, and your favorite bean (freshly ground in a coffee grinder, if you please). Start with a medium grind, and if you find your coffee is watery, test out a finer grind. The actual process of brewing pour-over coffee isn’t that different from using a coffee machine — the coffee grinds go in the coffee dripper, and the hot water is poured over the grinds. The trick is to pour slowly and evenly — you don’t want all the water to go straight through the coffee without evenly touching the grinds. You also may want to try your hand at different pours to see which style you like best. Or, to achieve a barista-level brew that always comes out perfectly, sign up for an online course.
Knit a blanket
When what you really want to do all winter is sit on the couch watching TV, but you don’t want to feel lazy or unproductive, learning to knit is the perfect solution. While knitting intricate patterns and stitches does take time and effort to learn, the basic knit stitch is simple to pick up, and you can start working on your first blanket (c’mon, a blanket is just a square or rectangle, right?) in a solid color without much practice. You’ll want a good set of knitting needles and yarn that has a “weight” between four and five (not too thin, not too bulky) to start. Once you learn the basic stitch, you might find that the repetition is a bit like meditation, allowing you to relax and set your other worries aside as you knit. And hey, if you don’t feel like investing in needles, you can always test out hand knitting using bulky yarn that creates the perfect, chunky blanket.
Carve a turkey
Beyond holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, cooking and serving a turkey is a fun way to elevate an otherwise ordinary wintertime dinner with your household. That’s why when it’s your turn to take on the cooking duties, you need to be ready to slice and dice the bird with confidence. Brian Casey, a chef and founder of KnifeGeeky, explains that it’s easy to do (and the technique also applies to other game birds, like geese and ducks), as long as you have the right tools. “I’d avoid those electric saw knives and instead go for a classic carving knife,” he tells Thrillist. Before you get to slicing and dicing, make sure it’s well-sharpened and start by cutting away the larger, obvious parts, like the legs and wings. Then it’s time to get to work, slicing against the grain of the muscle fibers. “Find the joints and slice through the thigh bone. Next, cut along the breast bone and ease the breast meat off the bone with long, smooth slicing motions — I recommend cutting off the entire breast at once, then cutting it into slices on a platter,” Casey says. “The remaining meat can be trimmed off with the knife or picked off the bones with clean hands.” All that extra meat (and usually there’s a lot of it) can be repurposed for leftovers, like this Turkey and Stuffing Casserole made with Campbell’s® Cream of Mushroom Soup.
Cook a pot roast
What’s a more winter-appropriate dish than a succulent pot roast served with all the trimmings? Sure, it takes a little planning — it’s not like you can whip up a pot roast in 30 minutes — but the savory smell of beef chuck, potatoes, and carrots wafting through your house is a reward of its own. First, it’s important to choose the right cut of meat. While you may be tempted to opt for a leaner chuck, brisket, or rump (and you can certainly choose these portions, if you want), the extra fat you’ll find in a top round or bottom round lends itself to a more tender roast. Traditional pot roast preparation calls for searing the meat on the stove top, then braising it in a covered dish in the oven for three to five hours. However, this Easy Slow Cooker Savory Pot Roast made with Campbell’s® Cream of Mushroom Soup protects you from overcooking or undercooking the meat, practically guaranteeing a dish that’s tender and moist. Whip it out the next time you want to surprise your roommate or family with a special meal and they will definitely assume you worked harder than you actually did to prepare it.
Weatherproof your home and car
Speaking from experience, you do not want to be the person learning to put chains on your tires for the first time in the middle of a snowstorm, in the dead of night, driving through the mountains. If you think there’s a fairly good chance you’ll need to put chains on your tires at some point (for instance, you take a ski trip a couple times a year) go ahead and buy them now and learn which tires you’re supposed to put them on — the rules vary depending on whether your car is front-, rear-, or all-wheel drive. Then, practice chaining up from the comfort of a garage or similarly dry location. Once you’ve mastered it a few times, “graduate” to a more real-life situation in cold, wet weather, or in the dark. These practice runs will give you the confidence you need to tackle the task with ease when you actually have to put on those bad boys. Also, compile a winter safety kit to keep with your chains in your car. At a minimum, include safety triangles, a flashlight, gloves, and a waterproof jacket in your kit.
It’s not just your car that needs to be prepared for sub-freezing weather conditions — protect your home against burst pipes and water damage by heading to the hardware store to pick up foam covers for your outdoor faucets and foam insulation covers (they look kinda like pool noodles) to wrap any exposed pipes inside and outside your home. These protective measures don’t cost very much and won’t take very long to implement, but could ultimately save you thousands of dollars by preventing major plumbing and flood damage.