Sunday, December 26, 2010

Double Decker Bread Box

I found this adorable vintage bread box on Craigslist. It is made of tin, painted, and decorated with decals.

My plan is to store the butter dish in here, to keep it away from my butter licking cat. He's figured out how to knock the lid off the butter boat. This bread box has 2 levels. The bottom level, for the bread and butter.

And the top level for other baked goodies.

The second picture is closest to the actual color. We'll see if this thwarts my cat's evil plans. For $5 it was worth a try.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Regarding Laundry, I Led You Astray.

Not intentionally. Let me explain. Way back when I first began making my own laundry soap (about 9 months ago) I remember reading posts about how folks were winding up with dingy gray whites. At the time my whites were bright, so I didn't take much heed. Now, all these months later, guess what? My whites are getting progressively grayer. I used my friend, Google, to try to discern the cause. Many have opinions (not enough soap, too much soap, water not hot enough...) but no one really seems to know why this occurs. I suspected it was something in the homemade laundry soap, itself. I use the standard formula of grated soap, washing soda and borax. I had a nagging suspicion the washing soda was the culprit. I washed a big load of whites in just the grated ZOTE and instantly saw a huge improvement. After yet a second wash, even more of the gray is gone. I will now use only the ZOTE for my laundry, with a vinegar rinse.Today's task, wash the light colored clothes which also have taken on a gray cast. I'll let you know if the improvement continues.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Never Tire Of This

A vigorous ferment is a lovely thing to behold. Here is the mead fermenting away.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Attention All Vikings!

Or wannabe vikings. Ghetto Neck Brewery & Winery is adding Meadery to its repertoire. Due to my current fascination with honey bees, I couldn't help myself. Today I started my first gallon of Mead. This will be an apple cyser mead. I found the recipe on I followed the recipe, as given, except I tossed in 24 raisins.
Last night I heated the cider, then added the honey and everything except the campden tablet and the yeast. After it cooled in the pot I placed it in my small fermentation pail and added the crushed & dissolved campden tablet.

I loosely covered it and let it sit overnight. Actually until this afternoon. Then I poured the works into a 4 litre jug, using a funnel to pour and trying to get it all aerated. Then I dropped in the 24 raisins,

and pitched the yeast (which I had already acclimated by stirring it into 1/4 cup of very warm water).

Oops....I forgot to mention that before I pitched the yeast I used my hydrometer to check the specific gravity. This batch has started at 1.074, which means it has the potential for approx. 9.8% APV at completion.

I found this handy wine log PDF online, and am going to try my darnedest to be organized and keep track of my different batches. Just in case I hit on a great one, I want to be able to recreate it.

I am also chipping away at the huge task of delabeling and scrubbing all my empty beer bottles. Ugh! Will it never end? This is not even half of them. And once those are clean, I can attack the wine bottles. Groan.

Now for something completely off topic. I found this nifty old meat/cheese slicer on Craigslist (where else?) for a whole $10.

The guy was asking $20 but since this is a vintage slicer (late 70's or early 80's) I talked him down. And yes, it works. probably better than most of those on the market today. I want one in case I get a chance to make some beef jerky. But it will also come in handy for slicing lunch meats and cheeses.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Socks

I've been working on these for a while. Truth be told, when you own a yarn shop you get precious little time to knit. But I got them done in time to wear them a bit before Christmas. In fact, I'll be wearing them tomorrow.

The design is my own, made up as I went along. I like how the trees came out. The center stripes are a nod to the Christmas ribbon candies my grandparents used to have around when I was a child.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Check Out These Jugs!

Today it was time to rack the Ghetto Neck closet wine. Of course I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. Lucky for me, any idiot can make wine. Might not be good wine. But it'll get you drunk. Here we have, from left to right: Cranberry Blend, Grape, Apple Raspberry & White Grape Raspberry. I couldn't resist a bit of sampling. The snifters contain Cranberry Blend (left) and White Grape Raspberry (right). As of now, the cranberry is my favorite. They look much more official now that they're in proper glass jugs with bubblers. We'll be drinking one of them at Christmas. I still plan to get a "real" wine making kit very soon.

The husband and I sampled our first batch of home brew yesterday. As expected, it still has a ways to go before it's fully carbonated. But it was delicious. We are thrilled with our beer making prowess and have started a batch of Pale Ale as of this morning. I won't bore you with step by step details. But one thing we did differently from the first batch, was we used specialty grains. Here the grains are in 2 separate mesh straining bags, steeping in the hot water for 30 minutes.

Then we proceeded much the same as last time. We have rigged up a fermenting closet. We keep the house between 60 and 65 degrees. The wort needs to be kept between 65 and 70. Instead of heating the entire house, or even a whole room, we are heating a closet.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Non-Electric Yogurt

This is my first attempt at making yogurt without the aid of an electric incubator. In the past I have used an inverted Rubbermaid container, on top of a heating pad. That method produced a good tasting yogurt but was more labor intensive (filling lots of small containers) and required a space to set up the heating pad incubator. I read about using a cooler filled with hot water, instead, so decided to give it a try. First I assembled everything I'd need. 3 clean quart canning jars, with lids and a candy thermometer; the cooler (mine is a bit larger than needed); Milk, yogurt, a pot and a spoon. You'll also need a measuring cup and a measuring tablespoon.

Now we're ready to begin. You can make as a big a batch as you'd like. For every pint of milk you'll need 1 Tbs. of plain yogurt to use as a starter. Measure out your starter and place in a bowl, on your counter, so it can warm up while you're preparing your milk.

Next put your milk into a pan and heat it over high heat, stirring constantly. You want to heat it to between 180 and 185 degrees in order to sterilize your milk. A candy thermometer comes in very handy.

Once you reach the correct temperature, remove the pan from the heat and stir and cool until the milk is below 120 degrees (but don't let it get below 90 degrees). To speed the cooling I like to place the pan in a sink holding cold water.

The above is the standard way to make yogurt. Usually at this point you would place your yogurt into an electric yogurt incubator of some kind. But what if you don't have electricity? Can you still make yogurt? Yes. All you need is an insulated container large enough to hold your jars and some hot water. Here I have divided my yogurt between the 3 clean mason jars.

And now into the cooler they go, along with enough hot water (I used hot tap water) to fill the cooler to just below the lids of the jars.

I then placed the top on the cooler and waited. I did drain and refill the water a couple of times during the 24 hours. And this morning I was rewarded with some finished yogurt.