Thursday, January 29, 2015

Curds and Whey

Ever have an "Oops"? A kitchen Oops? An I-left-the-oven-on-now-a-gallon-of-yogurt-has-curdled Oops? Yea... let's take a page from Bob Ross, call is a happy mistake, and turn it into a bird. Well, not an actual bird, that would be weird.

I keep my yogurt at temperature in the oven by preheating it on the lowest temp and putting the warm packed jars on a tray in there with the oven off. Usually it's just enough heat to keep the fermentation going, this week it was enough heat to kill the culture, so a gallon of milk was made into not-yogurt.
 No panicking! First rule of cooking. So, I got on the Google, asked some fellow fermentors, and started looking for ways to salvage this. First, I strained the curds out from the whey. stirring the mess from time to time to let more liquid drain. I then placed a bowl and some weight (A jar of water) on the cheesy bit to force some water out. That whey, is of course being reserved for other uses.

In the morning the curds had formed a fairly firm cheesy mass. So firm, in fact, that I added some milk back to it to make it more mixable. Then I ate it with jam for breakfast - Fan-fucking-tastic!

 As for the rest, the majority of the mess had become whey. I used skim milk which has considerably higher percentages of water in it. I discovered that *gasp* one of my favorite cheeses is not in fact a real cheese! Brunost, which is sometimes sold as "Ski Queen" here in the states is made from boiled down whey with a little cream added. The color comes from the milk sugars caramelize, thus it's slightly sweet.

The history of this cheese is interesting, and much newer than one might think. In earlier periods whey was a valuable animal feed for the small farm cheese maker, and it was also commonly added to soups and the like. As dairy productions got bigger and bigger there was more whey than could be given back to animals (it's more often given to pigs and horses, not cows.) Nowadays, Whey is in fact a problematic waste product!

For my Whey cheese I boiled the whey for hours... and hours... and finally it went from a thin yellowish liquid to a thick brown substance the consistency of gravy. I took it off the heat, and added a little bit of cream. It has to be whisked several times while cooling to avoid the crystallizing of the sugars.
Not quite as solid and brown as the Gjetost, but quite good on crackers nonetheless!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

How-to - A Leather Sheath

Don't let leather work scare you, it's just sewing with tough materials. Plus hammers. Trust me, it's awesome!

 I've had this lovely hand forged knife for a few years now, using it for camping and cosplay alike. It's a very functional blade, comfortable in the hand, holding a good sharp edge.

I can't say that the sheath has lived up to the blade. Pictured is the second little sleeve I've made, just quick coverings made in a few minutes with a scrap of very thin leather. After a small bit of use the stitched become cut by the blade, and the tip pokes thru. Not a good way to carry it in your pocket!

I made some sketches of a simple one piece holster, and then took measurements. The whole item, sheath and belt loop are all one piece. Thus, the cover of the blade is the finished side of the leather, but the loop is sueded side out.
 I used rivets instead of stitching, to avoid the aforementioned cutting thru problem. The long post rivets let you try the item out before you commit with a whack! I was a bit generous on my measurements, so I brought in the bottom a bit. Notice the old holes near the edge of the leather, I simply cut a new shape after the riveting was done.
 The belt loop was a simple flip, and I made sure to measure it on the belt and give some room to slide. I then attached a little button strap, it loops thru the handle to secure the knife. Those snap sets are tricky to get thru the leather, I made marks with the prong halves and used an awl to poke all the way thru.

There was lots of hitting things with a hammer. A good kind of crafting violence!
 Perfect fit! Form and function, both in the knife and the holster. This knife has deserved better since I got it, now the world is right and good (For my belt anyway, still some other issues to work out.)

What is your favorite mix of beauty and everyday use?

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Curtains!

 Do you have an hour? A Yard or more of cute fabric? Make yourself some curtains, they will change your life room.

Before - Old scratchy lace curtains. Once they were white, but a layer of dust and food particulates has made them more "off-white". These are so boring I often forget I have curtains, only noticing when it's cold out and I want to cover the windows.

After - Holy shit, look at how cute that fabric is. I could have made a dress from it and ended up looking like Ms. Frizzle teaching food preservation. But for simply displaying an awesome print in all its glory, housewares are a sure bet.

Beehives overlooking the mead stash? Yes please! These curtains also offer a bit of shielding, like actually blocking one's view and darkening the room. Thus waaaay more useful than the fruu-fruu lace business.
  Each one took well under an hour, a bit more than a yard of the fabric, and the same cut of muslin. I ripped all my fabrics for square pieces. The three windows were slightly different dimensions, but I used the width of the fabric (44") as the horizontal measure. A little extra makes for some bunching and curling, not to mention good coverage. I ripped both fabrics straight down the center to split them.
 I measured the existing curtains, and the thickness of the rods. The lace curtains have a trim above the rod, about the same width as the rod space, which gives them a nice ruffle.

I marked double the rod thickness, and sewed the sides and bottom.  Line up the selvedge edges, it's easy to see thru the muslin and stitch right at the end of the print.

The last 2.5" of each fabric are rolled and stitched, this will be the rod holes. (Insert sex joke here.) Then the top is stitched, right sides together. The whole shebang is turned through either of the holes, just like a pillow or stuffy.
After turning, I top stitched the sides and bottom, stopping and starting at my rod holes. Two rows of stitching made across the top sandwich the rod and leave a little ruffle on top.

Out with the ineffective, boring, old curtains; In with some cute, colorful, functional pieces! Even my kitchen fairy seems to approve...

Such a small change, but it's impacted the kitchen in a big way! Much faster than a new coat of paint, but it's almost as big of an impact. I may end up with some spares to switch out, I do have enough fabric stashed away after all...

Go make stuff that brightens your life!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Turning Red

I'm preparing to do a teardown and rebuild of my spinning wheel this season. She put in a whole lot of hours for spinzilla, she deserves some pampering. In addition to the wood spa action, I was considering spiffying up the old girl. I intend to stain it a new color, and add some wood burning.

 First, is the making of the stain. (Of course I'm making it, that's how I roll.) I used alkanet as the dye stuff, alkanet it a root with a rich crimson color, but the dye particles are only soluble in oil or alcohol. Traditionally it has been used to dye wines a darker red,  color wood, and in cosmetics. So, basically for making stuff look like other stuff (buyer beware!).

I added the dried root to olive oil, and heated it in hot water. It sat overnight and then I strained it. The gentle heat helped the herb infuse without breaking down the oil. I then added beeswax, broken up and grated. Can I just say that grating wax is the smartest thing I ever saw in a Pinterest post...
After the mix cooled, it became a very soft paste. I found an object to test on - an old spoon that has never satisfactorily seasoned. I gave it a light sanding since it was already lacking in a good finish, and polished it with generous blobs of the oil/wax mixture. 

As you can see, the results were less than mindblowing. The polish has brought out the grain, and given the spoon a much needed protective layer. But it's not really all that red...

I did some more reading, and will try adding the rest of the alkanet, ground to a powder, to infuse into the polish. See, not even a Craft Bitch gets it right the first time!