Beet and potato chips
It all began with a review I read in Cook’s Illustrated for a way to make potato chips. It doesn’t require any oil, because they are microwaved. I’ve tried roasting chips and even fried them once but I hate deep frying – too many calories and too much mess. The trick is in the slicing. The Mastrad set includes a mandolin, which cuts the slices 1/32 of an inch. Once sliced, they are placed on a perforated silicone tray and zapped in the microwave for 3 minutes. It works. Especially for potato chips. I also tried beet, celeriac and plan to try carrots. Add salt, or cumin or coriander and you’re ready for a beer.
So now I had chips and I needed beer to go with them. I finally broke out the brew kit I brought home from Australia. It’s different from the ones in the states because the beer isn’t decanted into a second container but we’ll see how it goes. The most involved process in homebrew is sterilizing all the equipment and then all the bottles. The cooking process isn’t too complicated.
It’s clean up time
I bought a Munton Nut Brown Ale brew kit from my favorite store on Long Island, Karps. I bought all the ingredients and bottles last year and somehow never got around to making a batch of beer.
This beer is made with barley, chocolate and 3 types of malt and hops. I added a little extra malt extract to potentially boost the alcohol content a tad.
Wort bubbling away
After everything is mixed and yeast is added, it’s tucked away for about a week to ferment and convert the sugars to alcohol. I think that process ended, you confirm by measuring a stable specific gravity for a couple of days, and yesterday set myself to bottling. Always a bit of a mess and it was nice enough to do it outdoors. To my horror, when I went to open the bottles, I thought I had the wrong tops. I used the flip top grolsch style caps and at first only found long neck bottles. I called the store to explain my dilemma and the beer master remembered me and while we spoke I realized I bought two styles of bottles, the right ones for the caps and long necks. Phew. But I didn’t have enough. The long necks have a capper and I think I had planned to borrow my son’s but never got around to it. Luckily friends had given me some grolsch bottles when they heard I was into brewing. In the end I had 4 long necks I was unable to cap. I tried a hammer, clamps and vise grip but couldn’t get the right seal. I saved two and dumped two. We’ll see how they go. I think the last stage (the next 3 weeks) is mostly for carbonation and maybe aging. For now it’s chips.
I am a work in process. I have started physical therapy, actually put a sneaker on my foot and used an exercise machine! Yeah. I was given permission to throw my crutches in the Lake and am walking about on my own two feet, with the aid of a walking cast. This goes in the Lake in three weeks. My mobility has enabled me to tackle and almost complete a myriad of projects and now I can cook and bake in the kitchen without the aid of a chair in the middle of the kitchen. I am still not getting out too much due to the layer of ice over everything so all my recent adventures have taken place at home on the range.
On the knitting front, I am working on two Santa Cruz hoodies as an overdue gift for two young boys. One is taking up a ton of yarn and I ran out of one color on the sleeve so did a sleeve-sleeve transfusion. I used the yarn from the long sleeve as I ripped it out, to knit the short sleeve. So while one shrunk, the other grew until they were even, then I had to add a stripe. As soon as I finish them, I have given myself permission to begin work on a Aran sweater for my son. He has approved the pattern and yarn and if I can stick to the pattern and knit the gauge, all should go well. (ha ha ha)
Circle of Loki
On the quilting front, I finished the cat quilt and Loki spends a lot of time sleeping on it curled into a tight ball. Once that was finished, I tackled the machine quilting of my kaleidoscope quilt. I had to wrestle the queen size quilt through my sewing machine but now have only the borders left. I devised a quilting pattern that avoids dragging the whole thing through the machine again. I am having mild panic that the marker I am using – now like an artist’s paintbrush all over the quilt- won’t come out as easily as the manufacturer says it will. Why do I always ignore the suggestion to try a test patch first?
Weaving has had mixed results. I was able to use my walking cast to work the treadles of the floor loom but felt a bit like Herman Munster. So my twill scarves remain on it. I have been weaving with my rigid heddle loom and am trying to master a table runner for my daughter. The first was a disaster. I used rayon, which looked so pretty and shiny, but didn’t stretch – at all – and wasn’t able to hide my weaving errors. Now I am using recycled cotton and applying the lessons learned from the rayon disaster.
Weaving in progress
Baking is going well. I used my new crumpet rings with great success, make sandwich rolls regularly, have found a source of rennet to continue making mozzarella cheese and think I may have perfected the art of bagels. More about that later because it involves broiling, boiling and baking.
Tim sang with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra (VSO) this weekend in Burlington and Rutland, VT. I was his VSO groupie and traveled to both locations and enjoyed the performances.
I hobbled along Church Street in Burlington and shopped. There’s a great cooking store, where I found crumpet rings. Today I’ll make a batch of crumpets, which I had stopped making due to the pain of making little tin foil rings.
I had to move my seat 3 times in the theater: first I was in the wrong row; then I offered my seat to a couple who had been split up and finally I found a nice settee behind the seats where I could stretch out and set my crutch against the wall. During the first half of the performance I had to sit with my crutch propped between my legs where it could double as a chin rest.
I hit the jackpot in Rutland, though, and it rivals Andre’s plane seat. Although I had to climb three flights of stairs, when I arrived at the top of the theater, my seat had ample leg room and a spot to store my crutches, which freed my hands to knit. What more could I ask for? An elevator!
For those of you who have never needed crutches, I hope you stay that way. Whenever I meet someone who has already used them we are instantly bound by a common ground of resourcefulness. Everyone remembers how hard it is to carry a drink from one place to another. People have devised various bags and even carts to help them along. Ice is treacherous. I grow tired of being dependent so I am trying to do more and more on my own. I even went back to work yesterday for a day.
There’s an advantage to a small kitchen. I can cook by keeping a chair in the middle of the work area to rest ingredients or myself on, while I hop around using the counters on the perimeter as support. Oddly enough, I can’t clean up! So far I have tried two batches of mozzarella cheese, much easier than expected. The night nurse in the hospital shared his fascination with it and I found an easy recipe on the internet. Ingredients are simple: a gallon of milk; two teaspoons of citric acid; and a rennet tablet. You also need a thermometer and the whole process only takes about 90 minutes. Somehow both batches were eaten or used before I took a final picture, but the last step is magical. You heat and knead the lumpy mess a few times and it becomes silky, stretchy delicious mozzarella cheese. One gallon of milk makes about a softball size ball of cheese.
My view from the house has improved because Tim’s project to remove the overhead wires was completed this week. The wires are down, we still have phone service and electricity and all went well. I have a video of a very cool piece of machinery yanking the pole out of the ground and may include it at some point.
Getting ready to take down the pole
Our unobstructed view of Jay Mountain today. I hope the birds don’t mind in the spring.
We continue to eat well and colorfully. A couple of days ago, I made a batch of mashed potatoes from blue potatoes from the farm. They were very an interesting shade of blue but not as creamy as the white ones.
Tonight I made a chicken pot pie entirely with farm ingredients. This is the way to eat.
Chicken pot pie
Pot pie minus one
I’m knitting and weaving and plan a big adventure tonight – I’m going to go downstairs for the first time in almost a month to be near the wood stove, my weaving and quilting. The temperature is going to go below 0 degrees F tonight and it should be cozy there. If it wasn’t for the kitchen, I might never come back upstairs.
It’s all about priorities. Mine are clearly food and fiber. I am having minor orthopedic surgery and will be out of commission hopefully for no more than a week. I’m getting my affairs in order. I’ve loaded the freezer with easy meals and soup so we won’t be eating “Hungry Man”. In a pinch we have eggs. More importantly, I have had to think about what projects I want to work on. There are easy projects for the pain reliever induced hazy days, mildly challenging projects to combat boredom and ones in the design process, which will come together when my mobility improves.
Today there’s chile and beef stew bubbling in the kitchen. I’ve warped my rigid heddle loom for a simple scarf with beautiful boucle yarn from New Zealand, which will remind me of my travels while I am housebound. I have a second lining to knit for the pair of fiddlehead mittens, which will be fairly mindless because I can copy the first one. There are two slip stitch slouch hats I want to make and I have to finish Tim’s doubleknit mittens. Then I am thinking about starting an overshot project on the floor loom. Oh yes, I have to quilt my bedspread, and Christmas shop and bake cookies and….yikes!
I maintain the habit adopted on Deal Island of baking almost all our bread, english muffins and bagels. I’s a good thing since bread always gets crushed in the backpack and we still have to walk over the bridge. There’s actually very little hands-on time for bread baking and I use a fool proof recipe that for better or worse, tastes like Wonder bread. This is a far cry from my early days of bread baking in the ’80’s when failed loaves could kill the chipmunks that found them tossed outside the house.
It requires about 20 minutes of attention during a day when I’ll be around the house for at 3 hours. Ten minutes to mix it up, 10 minutes to knead, 1 minute to shape the loaves and that’s it. The rest of the time is spent hanging around and waiting for it to rise in the bowl, the pans and then to bake. The secret is to add the flour gradually because it’s much easier to add more flour, if the dough is too sticky, then to add water, if it’s too stiff. I found this bread recipe on the internet, which makes two large loaves and swear by it. I splurged on two bread pans from Williams Sonoma but the old, well-seasoned pans on Deal Island which worked just as well. They just need to be large with square corners.
After the dough has risen in the bowl, you divide it in two and pat each portion into a rectangle. Then roll it up, pinch the ends and put them in the oiled pans to let them rise. That’s it. Nothing beats the smell of fresh baked bread. Bread machines create the same fresh baked smell but the loaves are awkward and small. There’s something magical about working with your hands and yeast to create something so delicious.
Doubled in bowl
Shaping the loaf
In the pan before second rise